Lice vs Dandruff: A Detailed Comparison

lice vs dandruff

Lice and dandruff are two common scalp problems that appear somewhat similar and are often mistaken for each other. However, there exist a lot of differences between the two that set them apart. In this detailed blog, we have tried our best to distinguish lice vs dandruff on the basis of various factors discussed below. So, without delaying further, let’s get started.

Lice vs Dandruff: What’s the Difference?

Some of the points of differences between lice and dandruff are listed below.

  • Meaning

Lice are tiny parasitic insects found on people’s heads and scalps. These parasitic insects reside and lay eggs on the scalp. The hard-to-remove lice eggs or white nits get stuck on the strands of hair and feed on human blood. They can be transferred from one person to another via head-to-head contact.

While dandruff is a common scalp issue in which small pieces of dry skin come out of the scalp and fall off easily. 

  • Signs And Symptoms

One of the most common early signs of both lice and dandruff is itching. Both lice and dandruff cause itching. However, the former is more problematic than the latter. 

For instance, lice can cause severe, intense, and hard-to-resist itching. The bite of adult lice results in an allergic reaction, which further causes itching. Moreover, you may feel like an insect crawling on your scalp. In the case of young kids, they may feel a tickling sensation in their heads. Further, you may feel trouble while sleeping at night as these smaller insects are most active during the night. And due to frequent and intense scratching, your scalp may turn red and bleed.

On the contrary, dandruff can be itchy too but not as intense as the itching caused by lice. People having drier scalps have major dandruff issues.

The symptoms of dandruff get worse at low temperatures or in the winter season.

  • Color & Location

At the first glance, you may find lice and dandruff the same thing. However, if you look closely, lice appear in a tan, black, or brown color while dandruff appears in white or yellow color.

Talking about the location, lice eggs are stuck on the hair strands while adult lice are found in the scalp and hair around the neckline and behind the ears. 

On the other hand, dandruff can be found on your hair, scalp, and shoulders.

  • Causes

Lice are generally caused by the infestation of parasitic insects, while dandruff is due to inflammation and Malassezia—a yeast that grows on your skin.

Lice are highly communicable and can transfer from one person to another while hugging or sleeping. These tiny insects can easily crawl from your head to the person who comes in head-to-head contact with you.

Even lice can be transmitted while sharing hats or hair combs. Unlike adults, young children are more prone to getting lice as they often have hair-to-hair contact with other students in their school.

Also sometimes called Seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff is a chronic condition that makes the dry skin on the scalp fall off quickly.

  • Treatment: Lice vs Dandruff

Whether lice or dandruff, the best thing is it is easy to treat both scalp conditions effectively at home.


You can use over-the-counter medicated oil or shampoo to get rid of lice effectively. After shampooing and washing your hair, make sure to comb your wet hair to remove extra white eggs carefully.

In the case of kids, make sure to consult the pediatrician first to buy the best and safest hair products for your little ones. There are also some home remedies to get rid of lice. This includes massaging your hair with coconut oil or coating your hair with mayonnaise.

Please note that it is not feasible to control lice, but you can lower your chances of getting them by following proper hair care tips and precautions. 


Just like lice, it is easy to treat dandruff by using over-the-counter hair products. For instance, you can use anti-hair shampoo and conditioner for effective results.

However, some autoimmune conditions like eczema can appear as dandruff that requires different treatment. In case of severe dandruff issues, get in touch with an expert medical professional.

Dandruff vs Lice: How to Check for Difference

To check whether you have lice or dandruff issues, divide your hair into two halves and examine your scalp.

In case, you have very oily or dry skin and the skin flakes are falling from the scalp, you are most likely to have dandruff.

On the contrary, if you find white nits stuck to your hair that cannot be brushed away or brown adult insects on the scalp, they are most likely to be lice.

Above all, if you are constantly scratching your head, make sure to find out the real cause to seek the proper treatment at the right time.