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How to tell the difference between lice and dandruff


As a parent, you may have occasion to notice anything unusual in your child’s hair. Two common afflictions that both produce out-of-place specks in hair are dandruff and head lice. It’s important to be able to tell these apart since the remedies for each are completely different. First, let’s discuss some basic differences between them.


Dandruff is a chronic skin condition that produces dry, flaky bits of skin. Head lice are small, parasitic insects that feed off the blood under your scalp. They go through a couple of growth stages. They start out as eggs, or nits, that are attached to the base of hair follicles by a glue-like substance. They are then referred to as nymphs in their juvenile stage and then become full grown lice. These two problems are readily confused by people because they both have the major symptom of an itchy scalp. The following are a few ways to tell lice and dandruff apart.

  • Location: It is the lice nits that will typically look most like dandruff flakes. There are clues provided by where they are exactly on your child’s head. Since the nits are attached to the base of the hair, you won’t find them on the scalp whereas you will find dandruff actually on the scalp. Since dandruff is just flaky skin, it will also fall off easily as you brush your hair, but nits are actually a challenge to remove.
  • Contagion: The skin condition of dandruff is not contagious. The dry skin flakes can get all over someone else, but they won’t develop dandruff from them. Head lice, on the other hand, can readily spread from person to person either through direct head-to-head contact or by wearing a hat, helmet or other headgear of an infested person.
  • How Your Scalp Feels: Both of these problems cause an itchy scalp. One difference, though, is that dandruff is more likely to itch when your scalp is dry. Also, if you notice or if your child tells you they feel a crawling sensation on their scalp, this is definitely a sign of lice.
  • Color: Dandruff flakes are typically straight forward when it comes to color. They are white or perhaps a little yellowish. Nits are generally darker in color than dandruff flakes, and the lice themselves look like bugs as opposed to just flecks of skin. You may need a magnifying glass to make out their bug-like appearance.


There are some tell-tale signs of which one of these problems you or a loved one may have. The first thing to keep in mind is who is more or less susceptible to lice versus dandruff. Being a skin condition, almost anyone of any age can get dandruff. Head lice, on the other hand, are typically spread from an infested person to other people through direct contact or shared articles of clothing.

Kids tend to physically interact more frequently than adults. By playing contact sports, squeezing together for that perfect selfie with friends, sharing helmets and uniforms for practice, lice are easily spread between children, which is why they make up most of the cases of head lice.

Another major giveaway between lice and dandruff lies in the nature of dandruff. Remember that dandruff produces loose, flaky skin, so it readily falls off. This is responsible for the traditional sign of dandruff of seeing white flakes on a shirt or jacket being worn by someone with dandruff. Nits are an entirely different matter. They not only don’t readily flake off but they’re hard to remove when you’re deliberately trying to do so.


Shampooing with an anti-dandruff shampoo a couple of times a week is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology. If doing this does not relieve the symptoms, then the condition may be due to a yeast infection, an autoimmune condition, eczema or something else. In this case, you should see a dermatologist in order to uncover the cause and a workable remedy for the issue.


While there may be effective over-the-counter treatments for dandruff, the situation is not as simple for head lice removal. Because the toxins in most lice shampoos have been used for a long time, many lice have grown immune to them.

Fortunately for you, there are professional head lice removal salons that specialize in helping parents just like you rid their children of these annoying pests. Lice Lifters is an excellent example of such a company. We have locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

When you bring any loved ones you believe may have lice into one of our professional salons, the first thing we do is a lice head check to determine if this is the problem. If lice are found, we employ 100 percent safe and all-natural products that are 99.9 percent effective at killing lice and their nits to free your family of these pests once and for all. Best of all, we can treat all of your family members at once, and a single visit is all that’s required! Please contact your nearest Lice Lifters today, and we’ll perform a lice head check and then use our proven head lice treatment process to make this problem a distant memory for your family.

Contact Lice Lifters Today: ‪(484) 368-3383 - One Quick Treatment And Done!