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Lice vs Dandruff (How To Tell What You Have?)

Unlike checkers or chess, "lice vs. dandruff" is not a fun game to play.

Unfortunately for you and your loved ones, the two conditions share some of the same symptoms.

If you need to figure out if you have a lice infestation or a simple case of dandruff, the following signs can help.


First and foremost, remember to treat each problem using verified materials, and try not to panic.

First and foremost, remember to treat each problem using verified materials, and try not to panic.

Both issues are treatable and you can be back to your regular life in no time!

What Are Lice?

To put it simply, lice are parasites.

They are true insects with three body segments and use their their hook-like feet to cling to strands of hair on the human head.

Lice need to live close to the scalps of humans because they feed on blood.

Read Also: What are the best shampoos for lice?

They are an extremely common pest in the United States with 6-12 million infestations every year.

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Girls are slightly more likely to get lice than boys, and children also get them more frequently than adults.

They are spread by hair to hair contact, which can often occur when kids are playing or when in public spaces.

A louse can only live for 1 or 2 days when it falls off of a human.


What Do Lice Look Like?

Lice have three different life stages and will look different at each step.

The first stage is the nits or egg phase.

Nits are difficult to see and might require a magnifying glass to examine.

They are white or yellow in color and extremely small, being only 0.3 to 0.8 mm. Nits take between 6-9 days to hatch and are laid less than half an inch away from the scalp.

Read More: What do lice and their eggs look like exactly?

The next main life stage is the nymph.

You can consider the nymph stage to be a louse's childhood and teenage years.

Nymphs look like smaller versions of adults and are roughly the size of a pinhead. They have six legs, hooks on the ends of their feet, and small bodies.

The final louse life stage is its adulthood.

Adult lice have segmented bodies and vary in color from black to grey to white. Sometimes lice will match the hair color of their hosts.

Think you might have lice? Check out this article.

At this stage, lice are focused on reproduction and feeding. An adult female louse produces six eggs a day and can live for 30 days on a person's head.

What Is Dandruff?

When people refer to dandruff, they usually mean the skin flakes that peel off of the scalp. Dandruff is not contagious and is usually not a serious condition, but it can be irritating.


What Does Dandruff Look Like?

Dandruff usually appears as small, thin white flakes which show up in the first few inches of hair. These flakes are easier to detect for people with dark hair, and can vary in severity.

Dandruff can appear at any age and in any person, even babies

There is no one cause for dandruff. People might experience it if they have a dry scalp, a buildup of oils on the skin flakes, or an allergic reaction to certain brands of shampoo and conditioner. 

What Are The Similarities And Differences Between Lice And Dandruff?

While it might seem simple to tell the difference between lice and dandruff, but it actually isn't.

Because of their microscopic size, both scalp conditions can look the same to untrained eyes.

lice vs dandruff in hair

Below are some of the basic similarities and differences which can help you determine what problem you are suffering from.

Common Similarities

  • Small, white specks, which can be nits, lice, or the skin flakes of dandruff.
  • An itchy scalp caused by louse bites or dry skin.
  • An allergic reaction on the scalp.

Common Differences

  • Lice are a living creature and will move around.
  • If your scalp is bleeding, that is a symptom of lice bites and not dandruff.
  • Lice are contagious while dandruff is not. 
  • Dandruff can be washed out of hair while lice cannot.
  • Dandruff will cause a scaly scalp while lice do not.

Watch this video to learn how to treat and get rid of dandruff:


Whether you have lice or dandruff, one of the best courses of action is to use a professional or scientifically approved treatment to resolve the problem.

There are a lot of products on the market designed to help you overcome your pest or scalp issues.

You can win this game; you just need to make the right moves.

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