Hair salons are big business and in recent years, at least one type of salon is booming. Lice removal salons are popping up everywhere, with more than a dozen such salons now operating in the metro area.
In January, Hair Fairies , will join the increasingly competitive field of lice removal salons with a location in Dunwoody. The Los-Angeles based company established in 1999 and was one of the first salons to specialize in ridding families of their lice troubles.
Maria Botham, CEO and founder of Hair Fairies, recalls reading a story in the Wall Street Journal about how lice had become increasingly resistant to over-the-counter treatments. She pioneered a method for manually removing the critters while also working with chemists to develop a line of non-toxic, plant-based preventative products.
For a while, they were the only game in town, Botham said. Now she says, lice removal salons are growing exponentially each year.
"It is an industry now where you actually have to compete which is good because it protects the public a little bit more," she said. "It is not a fancy industry. If you work in your own company, you are removing lice all day and if you don’t do it right you get angry people coming to your door and saying,"I paid what? and I still have lice?"
In metro Atlanta, companies with names like Head Hunters, Elimilice, Lice Happens, Lice Ladies, Happy Heads and more are the places parents turn to when they need to take care of a lice problem.
Hair Fairies has 13 stores nationwide and an infrastructure that allows them offer long operating hours, inviting interiors, a product line, walk-in appointments and a mobile service, Botham said.
Employees go through a 90-day training program to learn how to identify and treat lice. Staffers also know the details of billing eligible clients to make sure the treatments are at least partially covered by insurance.
The salon offers free screenings on location, in schools and via email for parents who send in a picture of the possible nits.
Treatments cost $100 per hour with the average appointment lasting for two hours. A mild case can be remedied with a single treatment. A severe case requires at least two treatments.
Each service comes with a 14 day guarantee. Clients are encouraged to come back as many times as they can during that time period for free treatment in case they are exposed again, Botham said.
While the lice problem seems to surface more in August and September when kids return to school, Botham said lice are always present. Schools have a three percent incidence of lice at any given time. "We are never going to eradicate head lice, but we will get you lice free in our salon," she said.
During the holiday season, when children are going to camps or playing with friends and family, there are some preventative measures you can take, Botham said:
Take the time for a preventative screening. Catch lice sooner rather than later so it doesn't manifest into a big problem. Early diagnosis can prevent lice from spreading through the entire household.
Use natural and preventative products. Help reduce your chances of a holiday head lice outbreak by using products that discourage lice from nesting. Hair Fairies has a branded line of products. Also consider styling methods such as buns which also discourage lice.
Understand your child is as likely to get head lice in school as out of school. "You don’t have a protective veil if you are on vacation," Botham said. "Use the holiday to catch it early and keep an eye on things. Hopefully you are lucky enough to escape the problem."