It’s More Than Dandruff: How to Identify Head Lice

graphic image of Sherlock Holmes silhouette looking through a magnifying glass

By LiceDoctors Technician, Nikki Palmer

It’s important to be able to recognize nits in order to get rid of them. Very often people mistaken other debris in my hair for lice eggs (nits).

One of the most common occurrences when parents perform lice checks is mistaking nits (lice eggs) for a bad case of dandruff.  Many of our customers tell us that they feel bad because they assumed that their child’s scratching was a result of dry itchy scalp. We understand that. After all, we do this all day, but you have other things on your mind and often time itchy scalp is a result of dryness...but not always.

So how can we identify lice in the hair sooner to avoid a mild case transitioning into an unbearable one?


Weekly Checkups

It is recommended that everyone susceptible to contracting head lice have a weekly checkup, which can be done by mom or dad or any adult with decent vision. This can be done simply by examining the hair while standing in natural sunlight (lice and nits are spotted much more effectively this way) or by using a bright flashlight or lamp. Improper house lighting can cause the host or examiner to easily overlook nits, so bright sunlight is preferable. You need someone who is willing to part the hair strand by strand, or in small sections in search of anything that may resemble the culprits.


What to Look For

While on the hunt, it is important to know what to look for. Dandruff can resemble lice to the amateur eye, but when examined closely they are easily distinguishable. Here are some characteristics of

Head lice and their nits:

  • Nits are tiny microscopic eggs that stick to the hair shaft near the scalp.
  • Nits are oval in appearance with a pointed front.closeup of head lice adults and eggs or nits
  • Nits are not easily removable with manipulation
  • Lice have 6 legs and 2 antennas.
  • Lice and nits are brownish and translucent in appearance.
  • Adult lice may become more active when the examiner disrupts their territory.
  • Full adults are about the size of a sesame seed.


  •  is a common chronic scalp condition marked by flaking of the skin on your scalp. Like head lice, it can cause itchiness when left untreated. Some key attributes concerning dandruff are:
  • White flakes that can reside on the hair, but mainly on the scalp.
  • The flakes fall off the hair easily with manipulation.

Once you have trained your eyes to differentiate between these two despised irritants, performing your weekly checks will become less of a hassle. To ensure that you protect yourself from getting head lice, you can wear a shower cap or there are over the counter lice prevention treatments available for purchase. Click the link to find out more about LiceDoctors Lice Treatment Products

If you are still unsure as to whether you are looking at nits or dandruff, call LiceDoctors at 415-578-1245 . Your lice technician will be able to tell you in a minute if you have nits or dandruff. If you have a active infestation, she will eradicate the lice so that you will be free of the problem and no longer contagious. That’s our promise!