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Delousing salon Hair Fairies debuts in La Jolla

“It was just one little bug on her hair.”

That was the problem that brought Renee Stecker and her two daughters to La Jolla’s Hair Fairies, a clinical salon specializing in the treatment and removal of head lice.

“I was completely horrified,” the Point Loma mom said. “My head started itching when I found out.”

“People come in very emotional and angry and upset,” said Maria Botham, the salon’s chief executive officer and founder. “They’re yelling at us as they enter and hugging us as they leave. People are grateful when you help them with something like this.”

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Grateful, and amazed that the salon even exists, Stecker’s reaction is typical of most clients.

Claudia Alvarez is the salon manager.

La Jolla marks the fifth location of the nationwide chain that boasts locations in upscale neighborhoods of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York.

An entrepreneur from early on, Botham said the idea for a salon was inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal about the lack of effective treatment for head lice.

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Radar goes off

“It wasn’t the sexiest concept, but my business radar went off,” she said.

For the next three years, Botham consulted with physicians, conducted clinical trials and worked on lice-infested heads to develop a proprietary combing method and line of products. The Nit Zapping system is now used in the salons and sold for home application.

The trademarked system is 100 percent guaranteed, a claim that, when combined with her extensively trained Hair Fairies technicians, offers parents an effective resolution to a buggy problem.

A visit to the salon begins with a visual inspection of all family members, followed by manual removal of the nits and lice by the technician and application of the organic, nontoxic Nit Zapping cream. The process typically takes between 1 1/2 and three hours.

“The child or adult will require three treatments within a week and a half, unless they are severely infested, in which case they will need an additional treatment within two weeks,” Alvarez said.

Feeling comfortable

The salon is designed to make parents and children comfortable during their visit.

Children are kept entertained and distracted with DVD players, video game systems, a play area, books and other activities.

Stecker said: “There was no crying. There was no drama. She was very comfortable.”

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The upscale location is intentional, said Botham, partly as a convenience to parents but also as a means of eliminating the embarrassment factor.

“We make sure we put ourselves right in the center of town, in a centrally located, attractive, high-end neighborhood,” she said.

Botham said she considers her corporate mission to be education and community service.

One of the first things she tells clients is to check with their medical insurance provider to see if lice-removal treatment is covered. Many people are surprised to learn that they can obtain a physician referral for the treatment, and that they can pay it from a flex spending program.

To assist underserved communities, Botham has created a nonprofit organization that provides mobile units and technicians to service children on location to get them back into the classroom.

Hair Fairies is at 5727 La Jolla Blvd. For more information, visit

www.hairfairies.com< /> or call (858) 459-5423.