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Woman Offers Creepy Crawly Care
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The tiny tines on a lice removal comb don’t faze Melanie Steele as it’s just one of the tools of her unique trade but for many people, the idea of combing through their hair with one of these combs is too tedious to consider so they place a phone call to Steele instead. - photo by Kim Van Meter/The Leader

Even mention the word “lice” and people start scratching their heads and shuddering at the thought of the creepy crawly nuisances doing the mambo in their children’s hair but for Oakdale resident Melanie Steele, the critters don’t bother her at all — which is a good thing seeing as people pay Steele for her delousing skills.

In a day and age where the future is now and technology is moving along at top speed, it’s hard to believe that something as simple and evolutionarily simple as a louse can still make people’s lives miserable with all the itching and scratching — not to mention highly contagious nature — but lice are still around and they’re still a pain to get rid of.

Especially if you aren’t even sure how to effectively rid your child and house of the tiny irritants.

That’s where Steele comes in.

“It started out as a favor for friends and it doesn’t really bother me at all so I thought why not open a business,” Steele said of her 4-month-old Creepy Critter Hair Care business.

Steele uses an all-natural product called Lice Killer and the essential ingredients are as innocuous as tea tree oil, Eucalyptus oil, and coconut oil (just to name a few) and according to Steele, not only are they more effective than the harsh chemicals sold over the counter, they don’t smell so bad and they’re safe enough to use on babies.

Steele spends the time to comb out the hair with the specialized nit comb as well as uses a magnifying glass to ensure the hair is nit-free and then sends the client home with a special spray that can be used on furniture and bedding to deter further infestation.

The key, said Steele, is the follow-through, which most people don’t do because it’s tedious and time-consuming.

“Education on the house is important,” Steele said. “If they don’t clean the house it’ll start all over again. Once they start laying eggs they can lay eight eggs per louse per day. In a month’s time, that’s a lot of nasty little critters.”

Typically, parents mistake lice for dandruff until the itching starts in earnest. By that time, the child is infested.

Since opening her business, Steele has seen all kinds of home remedies — some quite dangerous and caustic — and varying levels of infestation.

“One woman put kerosene on the head of her little girl, trying to get rid of the lice,” Steele shared. “One treatment with the product I use and the lice is gone.”

Steele, a bakery worker for Costco for the past 20 years, said while she never got lice as a child growing up in Oakdale and Waterford, she did catch them as an adult when she volunteered in the kids center at her church.

Steele laughs about the experience but she understands that no one likes to admit that they’ve had lice so she maintains confidentiality with her clients.

“You don’t think anything about mosquitoes or ticks but for some reason there’s a stigma to lice and people get embarrassed,” Steele said.

But Steele finds the whole process interesting and while others may grimace, she just laughs and sets to work, saying she enjoys helping people.

“I can’t imagine these kids sleeping with those things in their hair,” Steele said. “Lice become active at night and that’s when they really itch. I’m sure it’s miserable.”

Steele said winter seems to have more outbreaks as people are in close quarters due to the weather and wearing more clothing, which offers more of an opportunity for the transference of the creepy crawlies.

While some places in the Los Angeles area charge upwards of $150 an hour, Steele is far more reasonable in her pricing.

“I just enjoy helping children,” she said.

For more information, call Melanie Steele at 534-5224.