Often our mobile lice salon service gets texts and photos from past and prospective clients asking us to identify nits or lice. Most of the time, it’s just dandruff or other debris found on the scalp. Confusing the two is understandable, but preventable with a little education.
When our hair becomes itchy and dirty, we often mistake it for dandruff or dry scalp that’s has been causing the itch. But. if we’ve recently had lice or heard that it’s going around it’s easy to think this itch is lice infestation or re-infestation. While dandruff can appear similar to nits and cause an itchy scalp, you can distinguish between dandruff and head lice. Read further to find out about a few key differences between the two.
Meaning: Head Lice vs. Dandruff
Head lice are parasites that live and multiply on the scalp and suck human blood. An infestation of lice on your head can cause intense itching. If left untreated, the lice in your scalp will give birth to eggs resulting in a growth of such infestation.
Whereas, dandruff refers to a common inflammatory skin condition that affects our scalp. It is also known as seborrheic dermatitis that causes the top layer of the skin to shed too quickly. Due to this shedding, we get a dry, itchy, and flaky scalp.
Both these conditions are usually treatable at home, and a differentiation between the two can help a person choose the right lice treatment option. While Head lice can spread from person to person who comes in close contact, dandruff isn’t going to spread.
Symptoms: Head Lice vs. Dandruff
Lice are more common among young children and people who are in close contact with children such as parents, teachers, daycare workers, and babysitters.
Some common signs and symptoms of head lice include:
● Extreme itching on the scalp
● Scratching your head constantly
● Red spots on the scalp from excessive scratching
● Swollen lymph nodes
● Black tiny spots on the scalp or in the hair
● Teardrop-shaped lice eggs on the hair
Dandruff, on the other hand, may also develop on different parts of the body. Due to this, a person may notice scaly skin on the chest, neck, face, or ears. These areas may become dry, itchy, red, and painful.
Symptoms of Dandruff include:
● Itchy scalp
● Flaky skin either very oily or very dry
● White or yellow colored flakes on clothes
● Red-colored patches on the scalp
● These symptoms might worsen during winter or dry weather
Causes: Head Lice vs. Dandruff
Head Lice are contagious, and you can get head lice when these parasites crawl onto your head. Different ways in which you may get head lice to include:
● Head to head contact with a person who already has a lice infestation
● Sharing your personal belongings such as a comb with someone who has had head lice
● Using any fabric items such as clothing, pillows, towels of an infected person.
Dandruff can also have many causes, but unlike lice, they are not contagious; that is they do not pass from one person to another on contact.
You may get dandruff due to:
● Irritated, oily skin
● A yeast-like fungus (the Malassezia fungus)
● Dry Skin
● Not shampooing your head often enough
● Sensitivity to hair care products
● Stress and fatigue
● Extreme weather conditions
Treatment Options: Head Lice vs. Dandruff
There can be different options for treatment that can be adapted to treat both these conditions. While dandruff can be treated with the help of OTC shampoos, it becomes hard to kill lice if an infestation is severe and you might need to consult a professional head lice removal salon.
Treatments of Head Lice involve:
● Combing the nits out of the hair
● Chemical shampoos
● Dehydration by way of an FDA approved machine known as AirAlle
● Over the counter products
Whereas, dandruff is treated with the help of:
● Pyrithione zinc shampoos (such as Head and Shoulders)
● Tar-based shampoos
● Shampoos having salicylic acid
● Selenium Sulfide shampoos
Lice Salon Insights: The Takeaway
Whether you have lice or dandruff, we would suggest you get it treated immediately. Lice if left untreated can multiply in number and make the situation worse. Dandruff can also make your scalp dirty and can come back if left untreated.
If home treatments do not work, call a lice salon before the situation becomes too challenging to handle and even more expensive.