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A Louse-y Market

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | July 9, 2010

The lice prevention segment benefits from parental fears and their interest in natural remedies.

Lice. The word alone can cause utter panic among moms on the school playground. And as summer camp season heats up, parents are keeping their fingers crossed that those pesky critters don’t infest their kids while they are away at Camp Granada.

According to studies, 6-12 million people a year suffer from head lice infestation, and it is estimated that more than $100 million is spent annually to combat this problem. To make matters worse, there’s concern among parents that lice are becoming more resistant to traditional OTC treatments. To help avoid an infestation, parents, school officials and camp counselors are told to remind kids not to share combs, brushes, hats, barrettes or any other personal care items, regardless of whether they have lice or not.

But in reality, some experts contend lice are no more prevalent or potent today than in years past here in the U.S.

And sales haven’t been growing either. According to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, lice treatment sales at supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers (excluding Walmart) for the 52 weeks ended May 16, 2010 were $67.9 million, down 2.73%. Those figures, however, do not include sales of products purchased at salons or other methods of treatment, such as the professional nitpicker who can charge upwards of $200 to rid one child’s head of lice and even more to treat the entire home after an outbreak occurs. It is more likely that piqued interest in lice products stems more from fear and a willingness to do anything to avoid lice entirely—like require every 5-year old to purchase his own $50 t-ball helmet or have kids to put their backpacks, coats and hats into black garbage bags at the start of each school day.

Lice Shield reportedly keeps lice away.
Whether it’s fiction- or reality-driven, concern over lice has parents on the lookout for effective, but gentle products that promise to prevent lice, and as such, the market’s been crawling with news.“It totally freaks people out,” admitted Dr. Lisa A. Garner, a Garland, TX dermatologist who is currently president of the Women's Dermatologic Society.

For example, Lornamead recently rolled out Lice Shield, a line of hair care products that help repel lice while gently cleansing and conditioning hair. Lice Shield Shampoo & Conditioner in 1 and Leave-In Spray have been formulated with a blend of essential oils such as citronella, eucalyptus and rosemary which have been demonstrated to help repel lice, providing more than 80% repellency, according to Lornamead. The products are easy to substitute into a child's daily hair care routine during a period of infestation and were designed with kids' finer hair and sensitive scalps in mind. Lice Shield products are available in CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Walmart for $9.99 each.

Laurus Enterprises’ Zippity Doo's range, which reached the market in November, has recently expanded its distribution to include in addition to, Akin's Natural Foods and Chamberlin's Natural Foods, Value Drugs in New York and beauty supply stores. The Zippity-Doo line, which includes shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, detangler and a surface spray that parents can use on their children's scalp and items they frequently touch, is pediatrician-approved and paraben/sulfate-free.

And there’s Larada Sciences’ LouseBuster, a device that reportedly offers a chemical-free way to kill head lice and their eggs using heated air. According to Larada, clinical studies show that the device provides a safe, fast and highly effective method to kill all stages of head lice on adults and children 4 years of age and older. It works by dehydrating lice and their eggs, driving off water that is essential to sustaining life, according to the company, which is based in Salt Lake City, UT.

According Garner, while there can be tough cases, it is more likely that a reappearance of lice—or what some parents might consider resistance—can be traced back to patient compliance.

“They are usually inadequately treating it; they don’t repeat it or they don’t use adequate amounts of it. That’s the reason most treatments fail,” she said.


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