Almost everyone has a head lice story. Whether it was getting them along with your best friend in elementary school, or the hours spent combing through your own child’s hair, it is never pleasant. That’s why Jessica Fleming and Kelly Merriman opened The Lice Lounge in downtown White Bear Lake.
“My own children have had lice nine times,” Fleming says. With three kids in elementary school, it was not an easy few years. “The last three times I was carting them out to Edina to get treated out there,” she says, and each time they’d have to go back for follow-ups. The last time she went, she met up with Merriman, who was having her daughter treated, and they realized a salon was needed in the east metro.
So the two jumped in with both feet. They enrolled in the next available certification class at the Shepherd Institute in Florida, run by Katie Shepherd. “She’s the international head lice expert,” Fleming says. After a little more than a week, “we learned more than we ever wanted to know—ever thought there was to know—about head lice,” she says.
They quickly found the perfect location downtown, and a little more than two months after they got the bright idea, the doors of The Lice Lounge opened last January. “We wanted to create an environment that felt warm and welcoming, almost spa-like, very relaxing, and kind of take care of the moms while we treat the kids,” Fleming says. “It’s a really stressful thing for a parent to go through.” Parents come in with a look of panic on their faces, she says, “so we wanted to just create a space where Mom can relax or sip on some tea, and we’ll take care of the kids.”
The salon provides treatment and head-checks, and has a big focus on education. And they’d like to reduce the stigma sometimes associated with the little bugs. “People sometimes don’t want other families to know their child has lice. Well, you know what? Your child got it from somebody, and they probably shared it with somebody, too,” Fleming says. “The more we talk about it, the easier it’s going to get. It’s not a hygiene issue, it’s not a health issue; it’s just a pesky little problem.”
The Lice Lounge uses the Shepherd method of strand-by-strand nit and lice removal. “It’s a mouthful,” Fleming says, “But it’s very effective and very methodical.” The process involves washing the hair thoroughly and going through the hair strand by strand twice, to make sure everything is removed; no harsh chemicals involved. “The first hour [of treatment] is $90, every hour after that is $80, and we charge by the quarter hour,” Fleming says. The price includes two follow-up visits to make sure nothing has returned.
Since September is Head Lice Awareness Month, it’s important to remember that prevention is key, and Fleming suggests that girls with long hair keep it in a tight braid or bun. Peppermint spray is also effective; it’s the one scent that still discourages the bug from settling down. “Combing once a week with a very good quality lice comb is going to be your best bet” for catching it early, Fleming says. “We give one to every client we treat, and every client we do a head check on, because we want them to be empowered.”
That empowerment has had a greater impact than the two expected. “It is really rewarding to help somebody when they’re scared and vulnerable and stressed and say, ‘Relax, we’ll take it from here.’”
• Have six legs.
• Have a lifespan of 30 days.
• Spread through head-to-head contact.
• Procreate quickly.
• Leave eggs (nits) on hair strands.
• Do not jump.