What Do Lice Look Like? (Lice Pictures and Their Eggs)

Curious to know what lice look like up close?

If you start to have an itchy head, then you might be worried about head lice.

...and for good reason!

Head lice are a common problem in the United States with between 6,000,000-12,000,000 cases per year.

Sometimes people can easily tell that they have a problem because all of their hair seems to move, but most individuals have a harder time determining if lice are there because lice tends to resemble other stuff (like dandruff).

If you think you have lice, the information below can help you determine if you have an infestation and what you can do to treat it and prevent a future problem. 

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What Lice Look Like at Each Stage of their life cycle

For those who don't already know, lice is the plural form of louse (some people think they're entirely different things).

A louse is a tiny, bloodsucking parasite which lives on the scalps of humans and feed on people. Each louse is roughly the size of a single sesame seed and ranges in color from white to tan to gray.

When trying to figure out what your lice looks like, remember that there are 3 stages a louse will undergo and they all look different​​​​: Nits, Nymphs, and Adult.

what a lice egg looks like

Nits: Nit is another term for a louse egg. Nits are roughly the size of a knot in a strand of hair and are difficult to see. They latch onto hair follicles and can be difficult to remove without proper treatment.

what a lice nymph looks like

Nymphs: Nymphs are the next stage of than adults and look like smaller versions of a full-grown louse. They range from 1-2 mm in length, which is smaller than the size of the tip of your pencil.

what a adult lice looks like

Adult Lice: Lice have six legs with feet like hooks that grip onto single strands of hair. Their "hook grip" allows them to move through your hair easily.

Take a look at the below video to get a sense of how they move and what to look out for.

How Long Do Lice Live?

Thankfully, lice have short lifespans.

An adult louse only lives roughly a month, or 30 days, while on a human head. If the lice fall out or are somehow removed, then they can only last 1-2 days away from the scalp. Nits take roughly 8-9 days to hatch and aren't a problem until the lice emerge.

Lice Reproduction

Lice reproduce quickly and have a lot of young. Each female louse can have between 50-150 nits during their lifetime. This means that a single pair of lice can have 150 children, which can then reproduce as well. Nits are attached to hair using a special, sticky, glue-like substance and are roughly only 1/4 inch away from the scalp.

lice life cycle

How To Tell If You Have Lice

It should be pretty easy to tell if you or a loved one have a lice infestation. Below are some of the most common signs that a lice problem exists.

  1. You can see movement from the lice on your head.
  2. You start to suffer from an itchy scalp, dandruff, or have dried blood under your hair.
  3. Using a magnifying glass, you can see the lice in your hair.
  4. You find nits on your pillow or brush.

The only way to truly tell if someone has lice is to see the infestation. If you have trouble identifying lice, use a magnifying glass.

You should be able to see small, six-legged bugs moving around close to the scalp. If you have an itchy scalp and flaking without seeing any pests, you might just have dry skin and should consider a dandruff shampoo. 

How To Treat Lice

Now that you know what lice look like and some of the most common signs, you should learn how to treat the infestation.

Below are some highlights and tips, but you can check out our full "get rid of lice" guide here.

Lice have been around humans for a long time, with some artifacts from Ancient Egypt including lice combs. Scientists and professionals developed many ways to treat head lice over the centuries, leaving you with many different options. 

Lice Treatment

Head lice treatments are topical products that can usually be bought for pharmacies.

These treatments often use pesticides such as pyrethrins. Pyrethrins attack the nervous system of pests and kill them quickly. Most treatments use strong chemicals and should be thoroughly rinsed out of your hair after use. Keep the product away from your eyes and face, and be careful when using them on children. Lice treatments are the strongest way to eliminate lice and can usually be completed after one session.

Lice Shampoo

Lice shampoos are a gentler way to target lice and are often used on children.

Many lice shampoos also use pyrethrins but have a softer composition. Like treatments, they should be kept away from the face and can be bought at pharmacies or general stores. Most lice shampoos require more than one session to eliminate an infestation.

Lice and Nit Combs

No matter what kind of lice treatment or shampoo you use, you will almost always need a lice or nit comb.

As mentioned earlier, nits are attached to strands of hair by a glue that prevents them from falling out. While some treatments and shampoos can dissolve its bonds, most can't. The combs physically pull lice and nits out of your hair so you can dispose of them in the sink or garbage can.

Most combs are cheap and reusable, making them an effective and affordable solution to a lice problem. 

Want to find one of the best combs? Check out our guide here.

Lice Prevention

There are lots of ways to prevent lice, but none of them are a guaranteed method. Even if you have a clean home and lifestyle, it's still possible to have a lice infestation on you or your loved ones. Some of the straightforward ways to avoid a lice problem are:

  1. Keep your hair away from other people by tying it back or up.
  2. Do not hug or touch strangers.
  3. Check your children's hair regularly after going to public parks, schools, or playgrounds.
  4. Do not share hats, scarves, or other clothes.
  5. Use a lice repelling shampoo on a regular basis. 


Now you know what like look like and some of the common signs and symptoms of an infestation. Using the information in this article, you should be able to tell if you have a problem and can treat it safely and effectively. If you're unsure of home treatments, you can always go to a special lice salon.

The professionals at these salons can remove lice for a fee and help you get back to your everyday life. There's no reason to fear lice because now you know how to protect yourself and your loved ones from future infestations.

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