Brandi Bottalico//December 12, 2016
//December 12, 2016
URBANA — Cathlyn Lynch is nitpicky when it comes to lice.
While there’s no harm in smothering someone’s hair in mayonnaise, Listerine, tea tree oil or other strange lice solutions recommended online, she said the fix is in picking out every last one of the nits — lice eggs found in human hair.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the nit combs,” she said.
Lynch, an Urbana resident, opened NIT Emergency, a lice-removal business, in April and has seen about 30 clients since. As a certified lice-removal specialist, she goes to people’s homes and removes the lice from their scalps, which usually takes about two hours, although it varies depending on hair length and thickness.
Her primary clientele is children between age 4 and 12, but she also works with adults, often teachers and mothers.
She said she practices a specific method of lice removal that she learned from a mentor, Katie Shepherd, which includes separating the hair into four sections, combing them and going through in paper thin layers removing remaining lice with her hands.
Shepherd teaches lice removal in Florida with a weeklong hands-on training, Lynch said.
“It’s really just about being vigilant doing the combing,” she said.
She carries her lice-removal kit in a black suitcase that includes detangling brushes, nit combs with 2-inch metal teeth, and three spray bottles, one with water, another with watered-down mint concentrate, and liquid shampoo. She sprays the mint on herself and after removing lice from clients because she said the small parasites don’t like strong smells.
“I smell like a peppermint most of the time,” Lynch said.
She also has a magnifier with a light that goes on her head that she uses to help her see the freshly laid white-to-opaque nits.
Lynch, a single mother, has a son of 19 who has never had lice. She had the idea to start the business after reading an article about a lice-removal specialist.
Lynch wanted to start the business to help other people, she said. When she arrives on a job, she said parents are usually panicking and anxious. She said she is able to give them answers on what they need to do, such as clean sheets, towels and clothes, as well as vacuum.
She doesn’t know of any other lice-removal businesses based in Frederick County. While she considered franchising a lice-removal business, she liked the flexibility of starting her own. She said most of the franchising options required that she open a brick-and-mortar store and hire employees right away, making the initial investment much greater.
Working the business part time gives her the ability to build a reputation and client base first, she said. She hopes that five years from now she might be able to open a store and expand into outside counties.
“It’s hit or miss with my weeks,” she said. “It’s probably keeping me busy about half of the time.”
She said it seems there are more occurrences of lice between October and February because children are staying inside and are coming into contact with one another more often. But lice don’t have a season per se, she said; they just look for a warm host to incubate their eggs.
“Your head is warm 365 days a year,” she said.
Lynch also said that many people think they have lice but it’s really dandruff or hair product buildup.
“I know exactly what I’m looking for,” she said.
Parents need to be involved, Lynch said, so they know what to look for and what to avoid so that the lice don’t return. Once a client pays her for lice removal she is there until the lice are completely gone. While the process usually takes only one visit, one girl with thick and curly hair required four trips, she said.
Lynch has been marketing her business by going anywhere children and their parents might be, such as YMCA health fairs and parent groups. She said there’s a stigma around lice, making word-of-mouth marketing less common.
But Lynch is realistic: Her tagline is “lice happens.”