The itching. The combing. The sterilizing.
Getting rid of lice is never fun, and getting them to abandon ship is a daunting task. Lice are the stuff of teachers’ nightmares. So imagine the horror Jennifer Herbert experienced when she received a call from the school nurse saying her daughter had head lice. On picture day, no less.
Immediately Herbert’s mind started racing. her other daughter probably has lice, too! Which would mean she had them as well. Of course, her fears were correct: every member of her family had lice, marking “Picture Day 2013” as a memorable day for the family.
“Looking at their school pictures could bring back memories such as horror, shame, fear, panic, or doom,” Herbert says. “Instead, looking at their pictures makes me giggle. Yes; we all had lice. Yes; I am a 41-year-old dentist, mother, and wife, and I got head lice. And I’m OK! I survived!”
Sure, looking back is a chuckle waiting to happen. But, in the moment, everything was certainly not cotton candy and Ferris wheels. “When I first heard the news I absolutely flipped out,” Herbert says. “And that’s putting it mildly. I tried tackling this project myself using toxic over-the-counter shampoos and failed miserably. They simply didn’t work. I then sought out the help of a certified lice professional, and my life changed. No more lice! No more shame! No more panic!”
And that’s how it all started.
Now, a little more than a year later, Herbert and her dental partner, Dr. Jennifer DeChant, deal with lice on a daily basis. The two have owned and operated J&D Dental in Minneapolis for more than 15 years, and they opened a second venture, Sugar & Spice & No More Lice, a certified lice removal business, in Blaine in 2014.
“This was a completely unnatural step,” DeChant says. “Never in a million years did I think I would open a head lice removal clinic. However, once I was informed and educated, I became passionate about lice and the growing need for this business. People are busy and stressed, and an outbreak of lice can throw families into a tailspin!”
DeChant, who says she had never combed another person’s hair before this new venture, travelled with her business parter to Florida to train at the Shepherd Institute, becoming certified in lice removal.
“We didn’t have to become certified,” Herbert says, “but felt strongly that the only way to be successful and excel at our new venture was to educate, educate, educate. We come from a medical background, so education is key. Knowledge is power. And we chose Katie Shepherd, a world-renowned lice expert. Her technique is proven to be 100 percent successful and she has the research to back it up.”
Getting into lice removal is sure to raise eyebrows, but DeChant’s partner Regina was supportive and excited about the new endeavor. Her parents and friends? A little less enthusiastic. “[They] paused when I told them. They were most likely waiting to hear ‘just kidding!’ Nope! Not kidding!”
Herbert got a similar reaction. She says, “My family had the same reaction they had when they found out I was becoming a dentist: ‘Why on Earth would you want to do that?'”
Despite the question marks looming over friends and family members’ heads, the business partners have gone on to create a welcoming environment, creating a space that resembles a candy store so that children feel more at ease.
“This is so much like dentistry,” Herbert says. “Nobody wants to be here. People are scared.”
Unlike a visit to the dentist, however, people leave Sugar & Spice & No More Lice relieved and thankful. The environment is very bright, clean, friendly, and laid back. People enter the clinic visibly stressed, but leave much more relaxed. Not only does the staff eradicate head lice, but also educates clients on the proper way to efficiently combat lice, including how to treat their homes. According to DeChant, most websites are completely outdated and instruct people to do things that are absolutely unnecessary. The process is not as cumbersome as people are lead to believe. During treatment, clients are also provided movies, (disposable) headphones, and DVD players, if interested, to calm nerves and focus attention away from the treatment.
“Speaking from experience, lice is an overwhelming situation to any parent—especially those who are dealing with it for the first time,” Herbert says. “To be able to educate parents and simplify what they need to be doing at home definitely calms nerves. Parents are the ones bringing the children into our clinic, so we do market to them. We also market our services to daycares and schools so they can provide their students and families with updated, accurate facts about lice and treatment.”
If someone believes they have lice, the educated staff at Sugar & Spice & No More Lice will see them and conduct a head check to verify that they do, in fact, have lice. If it is a confirmed case, then staff eradicate the lice by going through the hair strand-by-strand to remove nits (eggs) and any live bugs. This safe, non-toxic method is very detail-oriented, so severe cases could take up to several hours. If a person is treated, Herbert and DeChant request that they return to the clinic in 5-7 days for a re-check. In addition, the location features products available for purchase to aid in lice prevention.
With such a thorough process, it’s no wonder treatment comes with a guarantee that upon leaving the clinic, you will be lice-free!
“Our staff is intensely trained, first on mannequins, then on each other, and finally on live patients,” Herbert says. “To ensure proper training, we usually ask the education community for nominations for families in need who have been struggling with lice, but have no means to get rid of it once and for all. These families are treated for free in our clinic as a way to expose our staff to all degrees of lice infestations. Our staff gets great experience and we get to give back to the community. It’s a win-win situation.”
In educating clients, the staff addresses myths surrounding head lice. To begin with, head lice cannot jump or fly. They are contracted generally by head-to-head contact. They also prefer clean hair—the cleaner the better!
An estimated 6 million to 12 million people in the United States contract head lice annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only about half of those develop the telltale itch, so many cases go undiagnosed and head lice spreads.
But the reality remains: children are more likely to contract head lice than adults. “Children have fewer boundaries than adults and are more likely to sit closely together, hug, etc.,” DeChant says. “This gives lice a chance to run from one source to the next. But with the invention of ‘selfies,’ lice are spreading like wildflowers even through older children and adults.”
Thankfully, these women and their staff have gotten over the “heebie-jeebies” of the issue. “Most people itch at the mere mention of the word, ‘lice,'” Herbert says. “As time goes on, it is happening less and less. You become desensitized to the bug issue and focus more on helping the families through what can be a very stressful ordeal. Like our slogan states, ‘Relax, we’ve got this!'”
Sugar & Spice & No More Lice
1351 113th Ave NE, Suite 100
Blaine, MN 55434