Updated on August 5, 2020
By Lice Technician, Sean McGee
Updated By Tierna Moser
One of the hardest things for first time lice battling parents is telling the difference between nits (lice eggs) vs dandruff. However, it isn’t that hard once you know a few simple tricks.
Difference Between Lice and Dandruff
A common problem that many run into when checking for a head lice infestation is telling the difference between lice and lice eggs vs dandruff. Since the bugs are mobile and you probably won’t see one until an infestation has been present for some time, it is best to skip the search for bugs and look for eggs (nits). While they do look similar to the untrained eye, telling the difference is easy. Dandruff is a flake that has come from the scalp and can be easily flicked off the hair. Lice eggs will be attached to the strand of hair. You’ll have to look closely because they do camouflage themselves quite well, but when you try to move lice eggs off the hair strand, they will not budge as they are glued to the hair strand.
What Does Lice Look Like Vs. Dandruff?
Does lice look like dandruff? Lice and their eggs couldn’t be more different in appearance from dandruff, especially once you know what you are looking for. A lice infestation consists of bugs and their eggs. The bugs are not easy to spot because they hide from light and movement of the hair. They are small, 6 legged wingless creatures on the head about the size of a sesame seed. They appear grayish, brownish or even reddish depending on how long ago they had their last meal.
Lice eggs (nits) blend in with the strands of hair. They are uniform in size, curved on one end with a tiny antenna on the other end. Usually they are found within ¼ of an inch from the scalp if they are still viable and can appear white, clear, brown, or tan on the hair strand. Removed from the hair and placed against a white background they will appear brown.
Simply put, dandruff is white, flat, flaky and easily removed from the hair. Usually dandruff flakes are larger than lice eggs. Unlike lice eggs, if you place dandruff flakes against a white background, they will blend right in.
How To Know If You Have Lice Or Dandruff?
Even if you know what you are looking for, a little more information can help you determine if you have lice or dandruff.
Aside from the obvious presence of something living on your head, one of the first things people take note of when they have lice is itching. Most people have had dandruff at some point in their life, so the itching from lice can feel somewhat different. It may be caused by feeling the lice crawl around, or from a reaction to the saliva from the lice biting you. The good news is that the itching will go away once the infestation is properly treated. Some people do not feel a thing, so be sure to keep a close eye out for nits and/or bugs which will be present with an infestation.
Like a case of head lice, in many people dandruff causes itching. However, this type of itching will be more persistent and long term. People have bouts with dandruff that may be seasonal, and some people just may be more prone to having dandruff. In either case, you may notice itching when you have dandruff. Accompanying the itching will be dandruff flakes. It is a seborrheic dermatitis that causes the skin on the scalp to peel off in dry and flaky small patches. Dandruff flakes are irregular in size and shape and fall off of the hair quite easily. In addition, with dandruff, there will be nothing alive on your head.
IF YOU FIND NITS, THEN LICE HAVE BEEN AND PROBABLY STILL ARE IN THE HAIR. This is definitely the time to seek out a treatment option that works because of this very simple truth: each female louse can lay up to 70 eggs in a week and these nits hatch in a matter of days. So they exponentially expand in number in a very short period of time. The best lice treatment is manually removing nits and lice from the hair. The National Pediculosis Association, a national watchdog organization corroborates this. Headlice.org
At LiceDoctors, your technician will do a lice and nit check on family members and she will not use any chemical lice treatments. She will be able to definitively diagnose lice vs dandruff. She will apply oil, thoroughly comb, and if you have lice and/or nits, she will then meticulously remove all remaining, visible ones. The last step involves nitpicking by hand and requires a lot of expertise in order to get out all of the nits. This is the key step to eliminating lice permanently. She will go over a basic aftercare plan that makes sure that the lice do not return. We have a 99.6% success rate of getting rid of lice and nits, and all-natural nit picking means no side-effects, either short-term or long-term.
When you discover lice in your family, that is the best time to call LiceDoctors at 800-224-2537. Whenever you have lice, you have to get out all signs of nits to prevent your case from recurring. LiceDoctors will take care of your problem for you and will do so right in the security and privacy of your own home. There is no need to subject yourself to the risks of a lice salon or lice clinic. And LiceDoctors lice treatment is less expensive than most other lice centers, as we do not have the overhead of a lice place.