by Sue Ann Rybak
Michele Barrack, 39, of Plymouth Meeting, had a problem that was just itching to be solved. Pediculosis humanis capitis. Better known as head lice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between six to 12 million infestations occur in the U.S. among children 3 to 11 years of age.
Barrack, president of Lice Lifters, a lice treatment center and retail store in Lafayette Hill, recently recalled her “hair-raising” experience during the “Awkward Hall of Shame” segment of Dr. Oz’s highly-rated TV show. She recalled how five years ago after going out to dinner on a Saturday night with several good friends, she discovered she had gotten head lice from her children, Samara and Jessica.
“I was getting ready for bed, and I looked into the mirror and saw all these brown nits in my hair,” Barrack said. “I was mortified. I was like ‘Oh, my God! Now, I have to deal with this.’ I had to call all my friends and tell the whole street, the PTA and everyone at school. It was a horrifying experience.”
After a month of attempting to delouse her house of the tenacious bugs and spending hundreds of dollars on over-the-counter anti-lice shampoos and other hair products, Barrack was still not making any headway against the blood-sucking critters. “My husband was cutting the nits (lice eggs about the size of a knot in thread) out of my hair,” Barrack said. “I thought there has to be a better way.”
That’s when Barrack decided to go online and find a head lice removal service. The closest one was in North Jersey. Barrack said after paying a large traveling fee and sitting for hours while he combed out everyone’s hair, they contracted it again the following year. “There was no killing agent,” Barrack said. “After getting it again and paying him to come out two more times. I learned how to do it. I became the go-to person in my neighborhood. I was getting two to three calls a week. That’s when I decided to take this opportunity and start my own business.”
The result was Lice Lifters, one of the largest lice removal franchises in the country. Barrack opened the Lafayette Hill site, which is now Lice Lifters headquarters, in September 2010.
While most lice-removal franchises provide in-home louse-combing and nit-picking services, Lice Lifters provides its two-fold treatment at centers that resemble hair salons. They combine their own Nit Nanny Lice Solution and the FDA-cleared AirAlle’, a device that looks like a vacuum cleaner with a brush-like nozzle. Barrack said the AirAlle’ device kills lice and eggs through dehydration.
According to www.airalle.com/airalle, recent clinical studies published in Pediatrics and Journal of Medical Entomology found that the AirAlle’ device and treatment effectively and safely kills live lice and their eggs.
Barrack said one of the problems with using over-the-counter anti-lice shampoos and other hair products such as NIX and RID is that they are only about 40 percent effective after two treatments.
According to a study published earlier this year in the “Journal of Medical Entomology,” researchers found that head lice, thanks to the “TI mutation,” are becoming immune to pyrethrins and pyrethroids, insecticides used in most over-the-counter anti-lice shampoos.
Lice Lifters treatment is 100 percent pesticide-free, however. The average treatment takes about an hour and a half. “We really use that time to educate parents on head lice,” Barrack said. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there. We encourage parents to tell people they have lice. You don’t want to get it back.”
The AirAlle’ treatment costs about $225 per head and includes a head check and 30-minute comb out. (Prices vary by region between $175 and $225.) If you are not sure whether you have head lice, you can get a head check for $35.
Lice Lifters also sell their do-it-yourself Nit Nanny Lice Kits. The small kit is $39, and the large kit, which is triple the product, is $75. Their lice-treatment solution, nit-removal mousse and preventive mint detangler spray cost about $20 each.
To watch Michele Barrack talk about her first-hand experience with Lice on Dr. Oz, visit www.doctoroz.com/episode/dr-ozs-awkward-hall-shame-your-most-humiliating-health-disasters?video_id=3547276504001. For more information about Lice Lifters, visit www.licelifters.com or call 484-685-1095.