Nits Vs Dandruff

Nits vs dandruff.

Nits are eggs laid by lice. Lice is a type of wingless insect that finds warmth close to the scalp of the head and lives off the blood of humans. Nits are not harmful but are highly contagious and difficult to get rid of. Meanwhile, dandruff, also known as seborrhea dermatitis, is a common skin condition that causes the skin of the scalp to flake.

Both nits and dandruff cause a common discomfort to people who have them like itching and they may look alike, therefore are easily mistaken for each other regardless of their differences. No one enjoys an itchy scalp, but to treat or prevent such, it would help to know what exactly you’re dealing with. This article will help you with the different features of nits and dandruff, how they come about, and their symptoms so you’ll know how to treat the condition once you’ve identified it.


A major difference between nits and dandruff is that nits are contagious while dandruff isn’t. Nits are potential lives of lice and generations of the insect, so if you have a nit infestation, there is a great chance there are live lice in your hair also. They usually accumulate in numbers in the area of the head known as “the hot spots of the head”, these are the crown of the head, behind the ears, and on the nape of the neck.

A nit infestation usually comes about from direct head-to-head contact with a person who has been infested by the insect. You could also contract it when you have contact with objects that have louse on them. Whereas, as we’ve said, dandruff is a skin condition and it is non-contagious. It is caused by either the accumulation of oil on the scalp, drying of the skin, or sometimes an allergic reaction.

Accumulation of oil on the scalp is the most common cause of dandruff and it is often due to failure to wash the hair frequently, to cleanse the scalp of oils and debris. Drying of the skin could be a result of less humidity in the air, which is more prevalent in dry winter months. Allergic reactions that could cause dandruff could be the effect of switching hair care products.

Dandruff could also be a hereditary problem or caused by yeast. Dandruff caused by yeast tends to be particularly itchy. Some other important differences between nits and dandruff are seen in their appearance, symptoms the cause, and how they are treated.

Nits Vs Dandruff
Nits Vs Dandruff


Nits are seen in the hair as minute white specs usually close to the roots of the hair. They stick firmly to one side of the strands of your hair and look like tiny grains of sand. If they are occupied, nits are brown colored and symmetrically oval, and when they are hatched they turn white. Because of how tiny they are you may need a magnifying glass to see clearly what they look like or use a white paper towel.

Dandruff is the dead remnant of skin that looks white, flak, and flat and can be shaken off the hair easily. Dandruff flakes are larger than nits.


A common symptom of nits or dandruff infestation is itchiness.

Symptoms of dandruff include:

  • Flaky skin that is either oily or dry
  • Red patches on the scalp due to constant scratching
  • White or yellowish flakes on clothes
  • Some people may notice temporary hair loss

Signs and symptoms of nit infestation:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Red or bloody spots on the scalp from scratching
  • Intense itching on the scalp
  • A feeling of something crawling in your hair
  • Difficulty sleeping due to the itching and crawling sensation
  • Irritability


Now you know what nits and dandruff look like, you know their different symptoms so you can tell which of them is causing the constant itch on your scalp. It is always best to treat any condition immediately after it has been identified, and there are many ways you could go about getting rid of nits or dandruff, whichever the case may be.

Nit Treatment

The most recommended treatment by NHS for getting rid of nits is wet combing, although other methods could be helpful, it is best to try wet combing first. Wet combing requires the use of a special nit detecting comb that you can get at a pharmacy. To wet comb, first shampoo the hair then apply a generous amount of conditioner to help the easy and smooth movement of the nit-detecting comb through the hair.

You can part your hair into sections before combing it out, to achieve a more effective result easily. Finally, rinse off the nits that have been combed out and the conditioner. Repeat this severally until you are certain your hair is free of nits.

Other methods you could try to treat nit infestation are:

  • Brushing Hair With Hot Air: This is another efficient way of treating nit infestation. All it requires is 15 minutes of using a special electric device on your hair. This method ensures the complete removal of nits from your hair.
  • Nitpicking: This is a taskful way of treating nit infestation and requires a lot of expertise. First, any type of essential oil is applied to the hair, followed by a thorough combing of the hair, then nitpicking meticulously with the hands.
  • Use Of Sprays And Lotion: Different insecticidal lotions and sprays are available that can kill lice, thereby stopping further nit infestation.
  • Medication: When you’ve tried any of the methods and after several repeated treatments, the infestation continues, go to your local pharmacist. You may be prescribed some medications to help.

Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend washing clothes, bed sheets, and any other items that may have been infested with lice or nits in water of 130°F. 

Dandruff Treatment

To treat dandruff, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends shampooing with an anti-dandruff shampoo at least twice a week, depending on the nature of the hair. For instance, African-Americans tend to have drier hair and scalps, so it may be better to shampoo only once a week. For dry scalp, it is best to find a shampoo that provides more moisture, for oily scalp you can use a shampoo that is formulated for oily scalp.

If the dandruff is a result of an allergy, find a hair care treatment that suits your scalp. In any case where you notice that the dandruff is not getting better even with ant-dandruff shampoo, then it may due to a yeast infection on the scalp, autoimmune condition, eczema, or a severe case of dandruff. In such a case, you could visit a dermatologist to help identify the underlying cause, as well as any triggers, and prescribe special anti-dandruff shampoo.

Home remedies for treating dandruff include the use of tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, and neem oil.

  • Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is a famous dandruff remedy and has several ways you could use it. You could mix about 10 drops of the oil with 8 ounces of your regular shampoo and wash as usual. Alternatively, you could get a shampoo that already contains tea tree oil as an active ingredient.

Another way of using tea tree oil is to mix it with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil and massage it gently into your scalp for 10-15 minutes before you wash it off. Of course, this should be a routine action.

  • Eucalyptus Oil: The oil has strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties that make it suitable and effective for fighting dandruff. Just like the tea tree oil, you could also mix eucalyptus oil with your shampoo or with a carrier oil.
  • Neem Oil: Neem oil is naturally extracted from the seeds of the neem tree and can relieve dandruff and dry scalp by maintaining the pH level of the scalp.


A nit infestation can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding head-to-head contact
  • Not sharing personal items such as hair brushes, combs, hats, and scarves
  • Checking for any signs of nits or lice in your kid’s hair as often as you can

Dandruff can be difficult to prevent, especially since sometimes it is hereditary, however, using an anti-dandruff shampoo can help in managing its symptoms.

Other ways to prevent dandruff are:

  • Avoid using chemicals such as dye and hairspray on your hair
  • Avoid scratching your scalp roughly when washing your hair
  • Brush your hair frequently
  • Wash your hair as regular as you can


Nits and dandruff share some similarities given that they both appear whitish on the hair, and cause itching, however, there are a lot of similarities between the two. While dandruff can be easily removed, nits are difficult to get rid of. Being able to distinguish between nits and dandruff will help in treatment, as they both have different treatment methods.

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