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Head Lice vs. Dandruff – How to Tell the Difference if its Lice or Dandruff

By June 28, 2018October 17th, 2019No Comments

An itchy scalp can be indicative of a lot of things. It may be due to a skin condition such as dandruff or it may be due to unwelcome guests that have decided to take up residence in your scalp. By this we mean head lice. The difference between the two is not always easy to detect. However, it is vitally important to know the difference between the two sources of itching since knowing this difference can help the host know how to treat these conditions.


Dandruff, or seborrhea dermatitis as it is known by dermatologist, occurs in nearly half of the population. Dead skins cells cause the appearance of white flakes on the scalp and on clothing. The itching itself is caused by the skin’s allergic reaction to oleic acid. This acid is the by-product of the malassezia microbe which naturally resides on our scalps. Unlike head lice, dandruff is not known to be capable of spreading itself to others.

Head Lice

Head lice, on the other hand, are living organisms. They are small parasitic creatures that feast on human blood. The saliva they secrete is what actually irritates the skin and causes itching and even sores. These in turn can lead to infection if scratched excessively. As we have already said, dandruff cannot be transmitted to one person to another; lice can be. Head lice spread quickly and it is estimated that between 6-12 million US children between the ages of 3-11 get lice each year.

How to Tell them Apart

A quick way to tell the two apart is that head lice are not as easy to dislodge as dandruff is. Head lice adhere to the hair follicles and require more effort to remove. A lice comb is good for this purpose. Another difference between the two is appearance. Lice eggs are teardrop shaped whereas dandruff is shaped like flakes. Another way to distinguish the two is that with extreme magnification you can actually see the head lice for the living creatures they are. Dandruff, in contrast, is not alive.

Those are the main differences between these two conditions that are commonly confused with each other. If you believe that you or your child has head lice you should consult us. We provide natural head lice removal solutions that are every bit as effective as the harsh chemicals that are sold commercially.