How To Differentiate Between Lice And Dandruff? Know About Symptoms And Determining Factors

Dandruff and Lice are very common hair problems that occur to majority of people. Know how to differentiate between these two conditions.

Puru Bansal
Written by: Puru BansalPublished at: Sep 08, 2021Updated at: Sep 08, 2021
How To Differentiate Between Lice And Dandruff? Know About Symptoms And Determining Factors

There are some skin conditions that are so common that most of the people do not even consider it as a major problem. One example for this is dandruff; it is a very common chronic skin condition which occurs to a huge variety of people across the globe. Lice on the other hand are temporary infestations that occur in the hair and damage them. Both lice and dandruff are quite common but not much people know the difference between these two problems. Therefore today we will discuss about symptoms, causes and factors differentiating these two conditions.

Is it Lice or Dandruff?

Well, it is not easy to determine between lice and dandruff without understanding about them in depth. To understand both conditions we have dermatologist Dr. K. Swaroop from B.N.K Hospital, Kanpur to explain each problem. He says that dandruff is a chronic skin condition that usually occurs in dry temperature. It involves shedding of the top layer of the skin, mostly during winter season. Dandruff usually has tiny flakes of skin that are visible in between the hairs and the skin. It causes slight itchiness and irritation in the skin and you may feel like scratching your hairs most of the time while having dandruff. 


Lice are parasites that live on the scalp and eats human blood. This can be particularly more problematic condition for you than dandruff. Reason for this is that lice are contagious and it affects your hair growth as well as the quality of your hair. Even though it does not spread any other disease or problem, it can cause serious itching in your hairs. It can spread through following reasons-

  • Using same hairbrush as others
  • Using same towel as of others
  • While giving warm hugs to one another
  • Sleeping on the same pillow that has lice on it

Difference Between Lice and Dandruff

Lice and dandruff can be differentiated with help of the these factors-

1. Location

Dandruff causes flaky skin whereas lice lays eggs called nits. These nits stick to the hair while the dandruff falls off from the hair. Dandruff is easily visible from the scalp and is easy to remove them. Lice cannot be seen easily and requires much more concentration and strength to remove lice from hairs. Lice are present on the hairs rather than on scalp as in case of dandruff.


2. Contagion

Dandruff is not contagious whereas a louse is highly contagious. Lice can affect different people coming in close contact with the person and even with the things used by another person for hairs. Lice could also be a major reason for a person to develop itchy hairs. Dandruff remains on the hairs and keeps falling. It creates slight itchiness that does not affect the skin.

Also Read- Long For A Clean And Fresh Scalp? Try These 5 Home Remedies For Desired Results

3. Lymph Nodes

This is an important factor to consider. Lice can actually cause bacterial infections to occur on the head and other areas where lice are present. When a person scratches his scalp regularly, it can cause bleeding. In some situation people also notice lymph nodes on their neck or behind their ears. It can create swelling in the ears. Dandruff does not have any of these problems, itchiness also does not last for long and it does not cause infections on the skin. 

4. Colour

It is very hard to notice colour difference between the two as both of them are so small. However watching carefully under magnifying glass, you will notice that lice are tiny brown spots or bugs on the hair and scalp, these are lice. In case of dandruff, there are white flakes on hair and scalp that can easily fall when you touch your hairs.


What are Symptoms of Dandruff?

Seborrheic dermatitis is one of the conditions that are developed because of dandruff. This is a chronic skin problem that leaves flakes from the top of the scalp. In case of seborrheic dermatitis you might notice scaly white skin on face, chest, neck or ears. It can turn into painful or itchy sensation.

Most people with dandruff have these symptoms-

  • White or yellow flakes on clothes
  • Itchy scalp
  • Red patches on scalp
  • Flaky skin that is dry or very oily
  • Increased hair fall

Also Read- Struggling With Hair Loss This Monsoon? Try These Home Remedies For Healthy Locks

What are Symptoms of Lice?

Lice are a more common problem in children hence it spreads more often as well. Since it is contagious, you might notice these symptoms-

  • Constant scratching of head
  • Redness or blood spots on the scalp
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lice eggs on hairs that are of teardrop shape
  • Severe itching in the scalp
  • Black spots on the scalp and hair

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