It is safe to assume that few people aspire to careers in lice removal. Renee Bento is no exception — in fact, the stay-at-home Brookfield mother never gave much thought to the subject until her youngest child developed a headful of lice.
But when trying to find the right treatment for her daughter’s lice infestation, Bento was overwhelmed with a surplus of incorrect strategies. “There was a lot of misinformation and a lot of failing products, so I found a way to do it better,” she recalled. “I thought it was a good idea to share that knowledge and teach others how to do it as well.”
Bento, who earlier worked in medical billing before becoming a full-time, stay-at-home parent, studied lice eradication with Dale Longworth. a professional lice technician in Dobbs Ferry, New York, — this line of work does not require special educational licensing — and in 2012 she opened All Natural Lice Removal Studio, converting the basement of her home into a mini-clinic devoted to the removal of this unwanted hair-borne intruder.
“Lice is a human parasite,” Bento explained. “A louse can live up to 32 days and they can lay about 10 eggs a day. It doesn’t go on anything else. It is the second-most communicable ailment among children — the first is the common cold. No one wants to talk about it and there is a stigma, but we’re trying to get rid of it.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 6 million and 12 million lice infestations occur annually among children 3 to 11 years of age. But Bento noted that today’s lice have set their sights on a more mature victim.
“It used to be just a kid’s thing, but it is now becoming more prevalent on teenagers and adults,” she stated.
Bento added that many people are not aware they have lice until weeks after the initial infestation. “Seventy percent of people with head lice don’t even itch — it’s not a telltale sign,” she said. “The weird thing about lice is that it doesn’t go away on its own. You have to eradicate it.”
So, how does Bento remove the lice from her clients? “We physically remove it by combing it out,” she said, pointing out her examination stations with oversized magnifying glasses and special haircare instruments. “That’s the best way to remove it. Products sold with chemicals have been overused and the lice have grown a resistance to it. I then teach my clients how to do this, what products and instruments to use, how to check and what to look for.”
Bento also informs her clients about the myths related to lice eradication. “Washing machines don’t kill lice, but 30 minutes in the drier kills lice,” she stated. “And you do not have to throw out pillows or hairbrushes.”
When Bento began All Natural Lice Removal Studio, she alerted local pediatricians to her service. This offered an initial wave of referrals, and she now gains recommendations from local school nurses and the state’s Department of Child and Family Services. She also opted to focus solely on head lice and not work on removing body lice, adding with a laugh that “head lice are more than enough.”
Client volume varies by season — she noted the winter tends to be slower while the period where the end of summer transitions into the start of a school semester is usually the busiest time; an assistant clinician is available to provide an extra set of hands if her client flow becomes heavy.
Bento charges $89.99 per hour for her service, with hours by appointment on all seven days of the week. And while she is not a medical professional, her service can be covered by Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts, as well as some health insurance providers, and she added that the removal treatment can also be deductible on a personal income tax return.
As for the future, Bento has no plans for widening her business. “Right now, I am very happy with what I’m doing and I’m very busy,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to do an expansion or franchise. I’m not thinking along those lines — yet.”