Lice are tiny, wingless insects that live on the human scalp and feed on blood. They are a common problem, especially among children. Lice spread through direct head-to-head contact and are not a sign of poor hygiene or dirtiness. Getting a lice infestation can be annoying and cause itchiness, but lice do not transmit disease. Treatment involves medicated shampoos, combs, and cleaning to get rid of the lice and nits (lice eggs). A common question many bald or shaved-head people have is whether they can get lice if they have no hair. Here is a look at the answer.
Can You Get Lice If You Have No Hair?
The short answer is yes, it is possible for bald people to get head lice, though less common. Lice can crawl from one head to another, so direct head contact can transfer lice. They can also be spread via brushes, hats, helmets, bedding, furniture, and other objects that have been in contact with a lice-infested person or object. So even without hair for the lice to cling to, lice can still crawl onto a bald head and attempt to feed. However, lice survival depends on attaching to hair shafts close to the scalp for feeding, laying eggs, and shelter. So on a bald head, lice will have difficulty surviving for long without access to hair follicles. But they can still bite, feed, and transfer in the short term before dying off.
Bald people may be at lower risk of getting lice, but they are not immune. Risk factors include:
- Having direct head contact with someone who has lice.
- Sharing personal items like brushes, towels, bedding with someone who has lice.
- Trying on clothes, costumes, or hats previously worn by a lice-infested person.
- Lying on carpets, furniture, pillows, etc. where someone with lice has been.
- Attending child care, school, sports activities, or other locations where lice are common.
So while lack of hair reduces risk, any situation involving close personal contact or shared personal items can potentially transmit lice.
Where Lice Can Hide and Bite on Bald Heads
While a bald scalp lacks hair for lice to cling to, they can still find places to temporarily hide and bite:
- Eyebrows and eyelashes – Lice can cling to other body hair like eyebrows and eyelashes to survive for a period of time.
- Behind the ears – The area behind the ears often has some hair and provides shelter for lice.
- Base of the neck – Lice may be able to cling to hair at the base of the neck.
- Nose and facial hair – For those with thick facial hair, lice may find temporary refuge in beards, mustaches, sideburns, and nose hairs.
- Body hair – If body hair is thick enough, lice may survive on chest hair, underarm hair, or pubic hair long enough to bite and transfer.
So while lice cannot attach to a bald scalp for long, they can briefly hide on eyebrows, eyelashes, ear hair, facial hair, and body hair to bite before dying off or dispersing.
Signs of Lice on a Bald Head
The main sign that a bald person may have picked up lice is itching and irritation on the scalp or other areas where lice may bite. Other symptoms include:
- Tiny red bumps on areas where lice are biting, like around eyebrows, sideburns, neck, etc.
- Sores or scabs from excessive scratching due to itching.
- A tickling sensation that feels like something is crawling on the scalp or face.
- Seeing live lice – small tan/gray insects about the size of a sesame seed.
- Feeling like something is moving in eyebrows or facial hair.
Lice tend to cause more itching than fleas or mosquitoes because they remain attached to one spot and feed continuously. Any itching of the scalp or face, especially accompanied by signs of bites or pink bumps, may indicate a lice issue. Carefully inspecting areas around eyebrows, ears, and facial hair with a magnifying glass or comb can help spot lice. Seeing nits (lice eggs) attached at the base of hairs is another giveaway.
Treating Lice on Bald Heads
Getting rid of lice on bald heads requires a multi-pronged approach:
Specialized lice treatment shampoos, creams, or lotions can help kill live lice on bald scalps or other infested areas:
- Pyrethrin-based treatments like Rid, Pronto, A-200, or R&C kill lice through insecticidal compounds.
- Permethrin-based treatments like Nix also kill lice chemically.
- Non-insecticidal suffocation treatments like Cetaphil or mayonnaise can smother lice.
- Prescription topical steroid creams can reduce itching and inflammation from bites.
Follow product instructions carefully and repeat treatments as recommended to kill any newly hatched lice.
It is vital to remove nits (lice eggs) attached to any remaining hair using a fine-tooth lice comb, tweezers, or your fingernails. Nits left behind can hatch new lice.
Wash or disinfect any clothing, bedding, brushes, helmets, towels, or other objects that may have been infested. Lice can only survive 1-2 days off a human host.
Daily Head Checks
Check bald/shaved areas and any hair on eyebrows, ears, neck, or face daily for the next 7-10 days. Spot treat any additional live lice or nits found.
Avoid Direct Contact
Avoid any direct head contact with others until fully cleared to prevent reinfestation.
Notify Close Contacts
Let close friends, family members, schools/daycares know of lice exposure so they can check themselves and their children as well. Lice spread quickly through communities when left unchecked.
With diligence using these methods, lice can be eradicated even on bald heads within 1-2 weeks. See a doctor if rashes, sores, or severe itching develop.
Preventing Lice on Bald Heads
While less risky, bald heads can still take some precautions against lice:
- Avoid head-to-head contact during lice outbreaks.
- Do not share personal items like helmets, headphones, hats, towels with others.
- Check children and family members periodically for lice.
- Wash bedding, brushes, and clothes regularly in hot water.
- Apply tea tree, lavender, or eucalyptus oil – lice dislike the smell.
- Check your own head frequently for signs of lice like itching or bumps.
While not foolproof, being cautious about head contact, hygiene, and early detection can help reduce lice risk even without hair.
So in summary:
- Yes, bald and shaved heads can still get head lice, though less commonly.
- Lice can crawl from head to head or be transferred via shared items.
- Lice can hide and bite temporarily in facial hair, neck hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes on bald heads.
- Itching, bumps, irritation, and seeing live lice are signs of potential infestation.
- Medicated shampoos, nit combing, cleaning, and avoiding contact can treat lice.
- Precautions like avoiding head contact, not sharing items, and good hygiene can reduce risk.
So while being bald is not a guaranteed protection against lice, it does significantly lower the risk. But lice may still occasionally occur on shaved heads through close personal contact or shared items. Taking proper precautions and acting quickly at the first signs of infestation can help deal with lice even on the baldest head.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Head lice information for schools. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/lice/head/schools.html
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). Head lice. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Updates-Treatments-for-Head-Lice.aspx
- Burkhart, C. N. & Burkhart, C. G. (2006). Head lice: scientific assessment of the nit sheath with clinical ramifications and therapeutic options. J Am Acad Dermatol, 55(1), 129-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2005.05.662
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- Mixa, E. (2022). Can you get lice if you shave your head? Lice Clinics of America. https://liceclinicsamerica.com/can-you-get-lice-if-you-shave-your-head/