Quirky work: 'Nitpicking' is her day job
Everyone knows Dalya Harel as a nitpicker, and, so far, that title has put six of her nine children through college.
Harel, 48, actually has been combing nits, a.k.a. lice eggs, from people’s heads at her home for 25 years. Her technique involves combing conditioner-laden hair—to keep the bugs and eggs in place — with an ultra-fine lice comb imported from Germany.
She started going into the schools, checking children’s heads and having the children who were infested sent to her home. Ups and downs
The Borough Park woman got into the lice business when her two eldest daughters’ school had continuous bouts with lice.
Fortunately, this unusual career has given the mother-of-nine the ability to work from home.
“It’s an ideal job for a mother because I can be here, and if I can’t handle it I just say no,” she said. But being a professional nitpicker is not without its drawbacks. Harel has gotten lice twice.
And a parent once gave her grief for cutting a child’s long hair so she could get the comb through more easily — even though she was given permission. After that, she never cut hair again.
To be a nitpicker, you must have good eyes and hands. You also need to have a lot of patience to comb each head until it’s clean — which on average takes 30 to 40 minutes — and to gently deal with clients. Career arc
Nitpicking is still an unusual business, but it’s become popular amongst Orthodox Jewish women in Brooklyn. It began with a couple of women who, in accordance with kosher laws, were adept at picking small bugs out of grain and vegetables. Now, there are several lice picking businesses, including Harel’s Lice Busters and Licenders. The payout
Harel charges between $100 and $200 a head, depending on the case. She charges more formore difficult cases, such as lice that originates from Israel or Europe, because those are tougher strains. One client said the price is right, especially when other lice-ridding products didn’t work.
“I probably spent more money on products and dyeing my hair than on her $200,” said Emmanuelle D., 14, who got lice during a recent camping trip in France.
Harel won’t say how much she earns in a year, only offering that it is putting her kids through college, and “It’s enough to support my whole family nicely.”