Twelve years ago, Annemieke Eichelberger received a phone call from a friend that turned her life upside down.
“My daughter had been at her house in Wilmington for a sleepover two nights before, and she called to tell me her daughter now had lice. And I went bananas. I totally panicked,” she said.
Eichelberger went to the drug store and bought everything she could get her hands on, and she applied over-the-counter products to her daughter’s head as well as to her own and her husband’s. Because this occurred over the holidays, the Eichelbergers had gone out of town on a trip, staying in a hotel. “Essentially I fumigated them – we couldn’t breathe because the hotel room was small and the chemicals were so strong. Funny enough, it turns out none of us ever got the lice.”
This scare and its effect on her family got Eichelberger thinking about the entire process and wondering if there might be a better, less stressful, easier and environmentally-friendly way for families to manage lice.
“It’s not just that the children have it. It’s the fear that the entire family will have it plus the entire house. People go crazy in their house because you start Googling things and they do everything they read,” said Eichelberger, who lives in West Chester.
And cases of head lice always jump when kids return to school after the holidays. It is estimated that 10 to 12 million head lice infestations occur in the US each year, and it’s pretty evenly spread throughout the country.
After months of research and evaluating market opportunities, Eichelberger took the plunge and decided to open lice treatment centers in Chadds Ford and the Philadelphia area. She opened her first franchise in 2013.
Her business is called HeadLice 9-1-1. (headlice911.com).
While growing her business, Eichelberger started to focus more on all-natural head lice removal products. Raised in Amsterdam – where she jokingly says ‘just about everything is legal’ – Eichelberger says the active chemical ingredient in RIT and NIX (two popular over-the-counter lice removal products in the US) is illegal in Europe. And she says pregnant moms and babies (they get lice too) worry about the effects of bug-killing chemicals.
After a few years, Eichelberger sold her PA franchises to their then business partner and decided to start their own business adding more steps to the process and going 100% natural. They also opened new treatment centers near Washington DC and Baltimore area.
She recently launched in-home services in southern PA and Delaware, using her own 4-step, 100% guaranteed treatment procedure. The process is anonymous (no signs on her vehicles and no running into people you might know at a clinic) and convenient.
While there is no quick fix when it comes to head lice removal, Eichelberger says experienced professionals can tackle and eradicate the problem much more quickly than well-intentioned parents going at it on their own.
And the entire treatment takes place over just one visit.
The length of the treatment depends on the thickness of the hair, length of the hair, and the severity of the case. But a visit generally lasts one to 1.5 hours, and there are no extra charges if it takes longer. “We keep going until it’s gone,” says Eichelberger.
Eichelberger has a staff of 3 – all with 5+ years of experience in lice treatment removal – which assist with the in-home services, which cost $195 total.
HeadLice 9-1-1’s in-home treatment procedure:
- Head checks and showing parents and children what they find.
- Drying the hair with heat for two reasons: it dehydrates a large percentage of the nits, and the enzyme is best applied to very dry hair.
- Applying the enzyme, which is a vegetable-based digestive that breaks down the exoskeleton of live activity.
- The comb out and mousse application with HL911 mousse – an all-natural beeswax/ jojoba oil based oil, which acts as a suffocant that the client washes out after 10 minutes.
Using a professional head lice comb, the staff at HeadLice 9-1-1 will touch the hair strands 8 to 12 times at least. “We comb out until there is literally nothing we can find on our own comb anymore,” said Eichelberger.
The company uses their own HL911 mousse to loosen the glue of the nits. The mousse contains the same enzyme that’s used in the first application plus dimethicone – a natural silicone – which acts as a suffocant.
Eichelberger also has solid advice about the other aspects of lice infestation, which parents typically find overwhelming. “Only about 10% of the things that they think need to be done really need to be done,” she says.
She recommends that bed linens be placed in the drier on high for 30 minutes, same for the clothes they wore that day. Brushes, combs and hair ties need to be put in a plastic bag and placed in a freezer overnight, she says.
She also says people don’t have to vacuum their entire house. “They don’t want to come off your head. If anything comes off your head, they will start withering away immediately and dying. They do not start running around your house trying to find another host.”
On their in-home visits, representatives at HeadLice 9-1-1 will also educate their clients and their children on steps they can take a school and with friends to reduce the chance that they will get lice again.
“We really help people relieve the anxiety surrounding head lice. The entire process can be stress-free,” she says.