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Lice Vs Dandruff – What Is The Difference?

lice vs dandruff

We have all experienced our fair share of head lice vs dandruff.  But do you have confusion in distinguishing between the two? I can see why some people might confuse the both as the itching happens for both of them.

But in reality, both of them cannot be more different types of conditions. If you ask me what lice look like vs dandruff looks like, lice are parasite infestations that are temporary. Dandruff, on the other hand, is a skin condition that affects the scalp.

Let’s dig a little deeper and scratch that itch about dandruff and lice! 

Dandruff vs Lice

Dandruff, also called seborrheic dermatitis, is like small flakes or pieces of dried-up skin on the scalp. When this happens on an infant’s head, it is called a cradle cap.

Lice also called pediculus humanus capitis, is a type of parasitic infestation on our head. Here they lay eggs and drink human blood, and due to their severe biting, itching occurs. 

LocationDandruff is flakes of the scalp skinLice lay their eggs on the hair and not on the scalp
ContagionDandruff is not at all contagiousLice are highly contagious and spread from person to person very easily
ItchingExcess dandruff causes itchingThe crawling sensation of lice on the head causes severe itching
Lymph NodesDandruff doesn’t have any effect on the lymph nodesLice can cause infection if due to scratching your head causes bleeding. For some, the lymph nodes get swollen.
ColorDandruff is either yellow or white in colorLice are usually either black or brown in color 
SmellDandruff has a stinky smell to it.Lice vs dandruff can be identified as lice having no smell.

Symptoms Of Dandruff

Symptoms Of Dandruff

Dandruff is the flaky dried skin of the scalp that causes itchiness on our heads. Dandruff happens because of the dryness of the scalp. The dryer the scalp, the more the amount of dandruff in your head.

When you have dandruff, it feels either feel very dry or very oily. Dandruff happens more when the moisture content in the air is less in the colder months.

  • The flakiness of the skin, which is either extremely dry or oily.
  • Either yellow or white in color
  • Itchiness on the scalp
  • Tiny red spots on the scalp due to bleeding
  • Severity increases during the winter months.

Symptoms Of Lice

Symptoms Of Lice

Lice are most common in school children and the ones close to them. For instance, classmates, parents, teachers, babysitters, and daycare workers are at high risk of infestation.

They can easily be identified by carefully examining the symptoms. 

  • Severe head-scratching
  • Continued itchiness and scratching on the head
  • Bloody red patches on the scalp due to scratching
  • Lice eggs on the hair follicles
  • Small black spots of lice on the hair

Lice Vs Dandruff: What Are The Causes?

Lice Vs Dandruff What Are The Causes

Lice eggs vs dandruff are caused by different reasons. It is a parasitic insect, whereas dandruff is pieces of dried-up skin; they are not the same. 


Lice is a highly contagious parasitic infestation on the head. They cannot fly, nor can they jump, so they spread from close contact. These are most common among children. 

Lice vs dandruff close contact with someone with lice by sharing a hat or a comb can cause lice to spread. Even hugging someone with lice can also cause it to spread. Lice eggs vs dandruff are very different as dandruff affects the scalp, and lice eggs stick on the hair.

They normally spread when someone is unhygienic and or lives in an unclean environment. It is most common among children, so someone in close contact with them can also get infected. Like teachers, parents, and babysitters.


One of the main reasons that cause of dandruff is dry skin. It is a severe skin condition called Seborrheic dermatitis. This condition causes your skin to be flaky and fall into pieces. Smelly scalp causes as a result of unwashed hair.

 Dandruff has a stinky smell to it other than lice.

Dandruff can clearly be seen on the hair and shoulders of your clothes. They are either white or yellow in color. Dandruff vs lice eggs looks a lot different as well. Dandruff is skin cells, while lice eggs look like white teardrops.

Treatment For Lice Vs Dandruff

Treatment For Lice Vs Dandruff

Most times, cases of lice vs dandruff are treated at home, and they are successful as well. 


Parasitic infections like lice are successfully treated at home with certain medicated shampoos that are available everywhere. After shampooing your hair properly, you need to comb your hair properly to get rid of all the nits. 

You will find the nits near the scalp, one-quarter inch above. The nits or the eggs need to be removed properly so that more lice can’t grow. 

While the head is not totally clear of lice, do not use conditioner. The conditioner might act as a barrier between the shampoo and hair follicles

These lice shampoos are all over the counter and are very effective, But you might wanna use the shampoo more than once for better results. 


Dandruff has certain over-the-counter shampoos that are very effective in hydrating the scalp and helping get rid of dandruff. You should keep the shampoo in your hair for about 10 minutes before washing it off. Lice vs Dandruff both have special medicated shampoos.

You should consider washing your hair more often for the shampoo to clear dandruff totally. If your shampoo is proving ineffective after longtime use, consult a dermatologist for the skin condition. 

There are cases when certain other skin conditions, such as psoriasis or even eczema, look like dandruff. Then it requires a special consultation and treatment. 

Interesting Facts About Dandruff and Lice 

Here are some interesting facts that you may not know about:


1. Natural Scalp Microbiome: The human scalp is home to a diverse microbiome, hosting various microorganisms. Dandruff is often associated with an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia. This fungus feeds on the natural oils produced by the scalp and can lead to flaking.

2. Not Just Dry Scalp: Contrary to common belief, dandruff is not solely caused by dry skin. It can result from a combination of factors, including the aforementioned fungal overgrowth, sensitivity to hair care products, or an inflammatory response.

3. Common Condition: Dandruff is a prevalent condition, affecting people of all ages. While it is often a chronic issue, it can be effectively managed with proper hygiene practices and the use of anti-dandruff shampoos containing active ingredients like pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide.

4. No Link to Poor Hygiene: Despite the misconception, dandruff is not indicative of poor hygiene. It is a complex interplay of biological factors, and even individuals with meticulous hygiene routines can experience dandruff.


1. Human-Specific Parasites: Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are human-specific parasites, meaning they only infest humans and cannot survive on other animals. The lice have adapted specifically to the temperature and conditions of the human scalp.

2. Transmission Methods: Lice are typically spread through direct head-to-head contact. Contrary to popular belief, they cannot jump or fly but crawl from one person’s hair to another’s during close interactions

3. Itchiness is an Allergic Reaction: The itching sensation associated with lice is not caused by their bites but is, in fact, an allergic reaction to their saliva. Some individuals may not experience significant itching even with a lice infestation

4. Lice Cannot Live Long Off the Scalp: Once detached from the scalp, lice have a limited lifespan. They cannot survive for more than a day or two away from a human host. This characteristic makes them less likely to be spread through inanimate objects like combs or hatsUnderstanding these facts about dandruff and lice can contribute to effective prevention and management strategies, promoting scalp health and hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions! 

Q1. Can Dandruff Turn Into Lice?

Ans: No, lice are a parasitic infestation, while dandruff is flakes of dry skin

What Are The Hard White Bits In My Hair?

Ans: The hard white bits in your hair are lice eggs; they are white in color with a teardrop shape to them.

What Keeps Lice Away From Hair?

Ans: Coconut, lavender scent, tea tress oil, eucalyptus oil, and medicated shampoo helps the spread of lice.

Wrapping Up!

It is true that lice vs dandruff can be very much treated at home. But with dandruff, if you are facing a long-time problem, then you should consult your dermatologist. Not all dandruff is something serious, but it can be some kind of serious skin condition. 

But for lice, at-home treatments are enough to deal with; additional doctor’s consultation is not needed in that case.

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