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Best Nitpicker: Hair Whisperer Amy Goldreyer

They’re about the creepiest four words a parent can hear during the school (or possibly, anytime) of the year: “Your child has lice.”

Calm yourself and remember: It’s not about your child’s hygiene, or your home. Which is where Brentwood mom Amy Goldreyer comes in — literally. After her son had a case of head lice in kindergarten, and school officials failed to alert parents (so that soon, every kid in his class became infected), Goldreyer realized an opportunity when she, unfortunately, saw one. “I had to schlep my son to someone who did the picking, had to get daycare for my other child, and I thought, ‘I’ve always been a picker, I have great close vision, I’m thorough, and I’d certainly have preferred that someone could have come to me. This could be my perfect job.’”

She began the art of lice-detection part-time, but in six months, word-of-mouth including referrals from school nurses helped to make The Hair Whisperers a full-time gig, with a team of 10 part-timers.

“No doctor will comb through your child’s head,” says Goldreyer. You really have to know what lice and their eggs look like, and then have the patience to go after them. I see more lice in one day than a pediatrician does in a lifetime of their practice.”

Telltale signs that your little one has uninvited guests? Itching, especially behind the ears or at the nape of their necks. But sometimes, your child won’t exhibit any symptoms. You have to be vigilant — and have keen close-up vision. “Nits, or lice eggs, are very small and very hard to see, but they’re pearly white, almost like sesame seeds, and sit on the underside of the hair shaft,” Goldreyer explains. “Lice, which are clear and then turn dark, run from the light. People often mistake lice for dandruff. To find either, you have to pull the strand of hair and look up into it.”

Goldreyer is on-call seven days a week, and she or one of her staff arrives at your house, armed with what she calls her most effective tool: the Terminator comb. Steel teeth track through the hair almost like a vise, pulling eggs and bugs from the hair shaft. “The plastic combs that come in the lice kits are completely usless,” she warns.

A Hair Whisperer returns for a second head check, and once your child (and likely you) are clean, Goldreyer suggests, as a preventive measure, a Terminator routine every two weeks. “Get the bugs out before they turn into an infestation,” she says. “In the shower, shampoo and condition, and then comb through using the Terminator.”

The stigma of lice sometimes prevents schools, camps or parents from looking too closely, but Goldreyer reminds us: “Lice are a fact of life. You can’t pretend they don’t exist. You have to go after them!”

Business is so good, Goldreyer has expanded to San Diego County. Rates begin at $85 per hour; $95 in San Diego.

(800) 319-8751 or www.hairwhisperers.com.

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