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Lice risk in wigs minor but not impossible

The perk of wearing a wig versus sew-in weave or glued-in weave is a wig can come off immediately. Feel like cutting your hair but don't want to deal with the growing-back process? Shop around. Find some you like. Have it cut to fit your head. And voila! New hairdo while your real hair is still protected. Don't feel like constantly maintaining thousands of dollars worth of hair connected to your head? As long as a wig stays sanitized, it can come on and off as you please. However, there is a low lice risk that consumers should be aware of before their first purchase.

A man dusts shop mannequins displaying wigs in a hair and beauty store in Brixton on February 2, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The good news is, according to CDC, "In the United States, infestation with head lice is much less common among African-Americans than among persons of other races, possibly because the claws of the head louse found most frequently in the United States are better adapted for grasping the shape and width of the hair shaft of other races."

The bad news is there's still a possibility. Head lice feet are made to attach to human hair so if a wig is made that way it can attach. Head lice is spread by direct contact from one person's head to another. They cannot hop or crawl, only fly.

So before a consumer purchases a wig, check out the facility where the wigs are being purchased. See how often other consumers can also put the same wigs on their heads. Check the wig out to make sure nothing seems a bit odd, especially in beauty supply stores.

Head lice eggs (often called nits) are mistaken for dandruff, hair spray droplets and dirt particles so there is a mild possibility that nits can go unnoticed. Pay attention to the inside of a wig's netting, not just the outside of the wig. Lice cannot attach themselves to slippery items, such as plastic, metal and polished synthetic leathers.

However, the CDC confirms that nymphs (young head lice) only live for several hours without feeding on a human's blood. And they eat blood several times a day so human contact must be consistent. Nits die within a week if they're away from a human head. They also cannot hatch at a temperature lower than a human heads so if the wig is wrapped in any form of plastic or in a cool area this is a good sign.

While some consumers choose to wash hats, clothes, undergarments and even shoes before they wear them, the same rules should apply with wigs. And even with more sophisticated wigs, such as the SmartWig (video above) that is currently not available for sale, the trickier the wig the more upkeep it'll need.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest black hair & hair health entries, or subscribe to her Chicago Black Hair & Health channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews.

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