A woman’s viral videos in which she “pops” and kills invasive head lice has sparked a debate online about whether her videos are soothing to watch or cruel to the bugs.
Rachel, also known as @trashywashyy on TikTok, posted her most recent viral video to the platform over the weekend. A head lice removal specialist based in Australia, she begins her video, which has been viewed nearly 3 million times since posting, with a content warning for those squeamish around bugs and blood.
“Hey you guys, welcome back to the lice clinic!” she begins. “I promise you if there is any video of mine that you should watch it will be this one. I did not hold back for you guys.”
Rachel introduces her anonymous client suffering from a severe head lice infestation, and shows how she combs through the woman’s hair to scrape up the living and dead bugs.
“After the comb through this is the WHOLE colony of lice found in her hair,” Rachel shares in a text overlay on the video. She zooms in to show how many nits she was able to remove in one sitting.
Rachel then concludes the video with close-up footage of her “popping” the lice, or killing the live bugs left after the treatment. Viewers can clearly hear and see the lice getting squashed under a glass cup.
As indicated by Rachel in the video, viewers of her content have taken issue with her removal method and some have even deemed the “popping” of lice “animal abuse.”
“A lice is an INSECT,” one concerned viewer wrote in the comments. “*This is not animal abuse* squashes bug,” another criticized. One person even boldly proclaimed that as a member of the “animal kingdom” the lice should not be “abused” in this way.
According to a report from the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, however, lice are categorized as a parasite. “Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp,” the CDC noted.
Lice eggs, nymphs and adults also vary in size and are highly contagious. “Head lice are spread by direct contact with the hair of an infested person,” the CDC reported on their website. “Anyone who comes in head-to-head contact with someone who already has head lice is at greatest risk.”
Rachel reminds viewers twice in the video that it is part of the lice removal protocol at her place of work. “TIKTOK THIS IS MY JOB AS PEST CONTROL NOT ANIMAL ABUSE,” she even writes in text overlay at the beginning of the video.
“Just to clarify for TikTok, this is not animal abuse this is my job as a head lice technician. I professionally remove head lice,” she reassures viewers later in the video.
According to the CDC, in order to remove lice, a patient usually needs a pediculicide, or medication applied to the hair that specifically targets and kills lice to prevent breeding. In less severe cases, natural or non-chemical alternatives combined with high levels of heat from a hair dryer may prove effective. The use of nit combs is also encouraged to rake out both living and dead bugs two to three times a day during treatment.
The CDC does not, however, give guidance on whether or not live lice picked from the hair should be killed in the manner Rachel’s clinic does.
Regardless of her critics, Rachel’s top comments felt she was justified in killing the lice. “Oh Lordy those claiming animal abuse are REACHING!” one claimed. “How is this animal abuse? Like what would the people say this is animal abuse [to] get ride of a parasite?? Lol,” another added.
Newsweek reached out to Rachel for additional comment on the viral video, but did not hear back in time for publication.
In May, two children suffered from lice infestations that were so severe that one of them was near death when she finally received treatment at a local hospital. Police officers reported that the girl could have died from the amount of blood she lost from the parasites. In 2018, a woman was arrested on child neglect charges after six children in her care were found with “some of the worst” cases of lice officers had ever seen.