Advertising executive finds a hairy new career in nit-picking
PUBLISHED: 13:11 11 July 2007 | UPDATED: 14:35 07 September 2010
With the help of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, lice assassin Dee Wright has become a hairforce to be reckoned with, writes Bridget Galton DEE Wright has abandoned a high-powered career in advertising to set up a business picking nits out of childre
With the help of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, lice assassin Dee Wright has become a hairforce to be reckoned with, writes Bridget Galton
DEE Wright has abandoned a high-powered career in advertising to set up a business picking nits out of children's hair.
Seven days a week, the former dining room of her immaculately decorated Primrose Hill house is given over to "lice assassins" who hoover and comb out the parasites under specialist lamps.
If that sounds like an odd career choice then Wright will tell you otherwise.
Her extensive research revealed an increased immunity to traditional nit shampoos, leading to an epidemic - predominantly among primary school aged children.
Based in St Mark's Crescent, The Hairforce is a guaranteed service that takes the misery out of headlice with funky purple treatment chairs, space-age uniforms and a wealth of books, DVDs and games to play while the nits are zapped.
The mum of two says: "I had wanted to set up a business for a while when I saw an article about a nit and lice removal service in New York. There has been a lot in the media about the problem accelerating in the last five to 10 years, but no-one was really solving it. It was very much something that mums were struggling with on their own at home, often desperately fighting a losing battle because 80 per cent of the products do not work."
The Hairforce staff are sensitive to their clients' feelings and try to normalise nit infestations by presenting the service as; "a pampering spa treatment for children".
"Children have talked about how eroding the stigma is for them. One child sat at the back of the class so no-one could see anything crawling out of her plait; another didn't take a part in a school play because she didn't want any focus on her, and another had been bullied over it."
Sporting medical magnifying goggles and white suits bearing the slogan "Comb to Kill", Wright's lice assassins clear infestations over three 90-minute sessions costing £30 each.
The hair is divided into controlled areas, hoovered; then slathered with organic Aveda leave in conditioner; combed with a nit comb; then picked through with tweezers under specialist lighting.
"It is a very thorough process and has to be repeated three times at four day intervals to break the developmental life cycle of lice, who each lay 10 eggs a day that take seven to 10 days to mature," says Wright, who admits a deep respect for the highly evolved parasites.
"They feed off the blood from the scalp but can live for up to 48 hours off the head. The female only mates once then stores the sperm in a special sac to keep fertilising their eggs. They are genetically programmed to get off the head so they don't breed with their siblings, but they don't fly or jump, they crawl - up to 23cm in a minute."
Wright, who is mentored by Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, has been bedding in the business for the past year, but now hopes to franchise it nationally.
"Anita is great to talk to. She's a real encourager of ideas and an enormous supporter of this. She thinks it's one of the most innovative ideas she has seen for years."
Wright laughs that Roddick was unsurprised to see her running the business from her dining room.
When the Body Shop was in its infancy, she made soap in her kitchen and distributed it from her car.
"My family have been incredibly tolerant. This is a good way of testing the business to see if it works, but I will be pleased to get my house back."
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