An Itchy Scalp Doesn’t Always Mean Head Lice

The fear and loathing of head lice makes us all jump to the conclusion that our hair is full of the critters if we have an itchy scalp or find something in our children’s hair. That is not always necessarily the case because an itchy scalp can be indicative of many things (not just nits!). There are other problems that can be found in the hair which make us itch, but if you are still unsure always get in contact with a professional.

Head lice prevention

DEC Plugs


If you’re experiencing an itchy scalp and noticing small specks on your scalp you may have over dried your scalp. The term stands for desquamated epithelial cells.  These are creamy white fat cells excreted from the oil glands in the scalp. They are not attached to the hair but instead sit on the scalp and can be easily moved by your finger or comb. 

These oil glands can often work overtime if the scalp is attempting to compensate for the drying effects of the chemical head lice treatment. Therefore leading to an overhaul of lots of little ‘plugs’ on the scalp.


Hair Casts

Hair casts are hair root sheaths that have not disintegrated or fell off. They stay on the hair shaft and become visible as they encircle the hair strand. These look very different to head lice, they are cylinder shaped, white. You can easily dislodge and removed hair casts by using the pads of your fingers and sliding them off the hair easily. 


Dandruff occurs when the skin on the scalp becomes irritated and flakes off.  These flakes generally sit on the scalp and fall off easily if you itch or shake the hair. Dandruff can also cause mild itchiness and irritation. A more severe form of the condition, when the skin becomes inflamed, is called seborrheic dermatitis. Dry scalp is different from dandruff.  Dandruff flakes are bigger and they look oily. Dandruff can be solved with many specially formulated shampoos and hair care products.


In comparison to…


Nits or Head Lice Eggs


Nits are laid near the base of the hair root and are seriously stuck to the hair shaft.  As the hair grows the nit remains firmly attached. Unlike dandruff or DEC plugs they are not on the scalp.  Unlike hair casts they are firmly glued to the hair shaft and therefore nits cannot slide off the hair easily.  

The glue is wrapped around the hair shaft to ensure the egg is stable. Nits are always the same teardrop shape – they are never irregular in shape. When nits are laid, they are invisible sacks of liquid but as the embryo develops the egg becomes visible.

The developing head louse feeds off keratin and so absorbs the colour of the hair, which enables it to better camouflage itself. When the nit or egg is white it is generally because the louse has hatched, and the egg sheath has dried out.

Treating head lice with specialist equipment

Head Lice

Head lice come in a range of sizes as they grow through the developmental cycle.  What distinguishes them at each of these stages are their 6 legs. New-born baby lice are tiny and transparent before they take their first blood meal (these are hard to spot for the untrained eye).  After they feed, they are bright red until that blood oxidises and that’s when they become brownish. As they grow, they become a darker brown. 

Fully grown adult lice can become quite dark in colour and are about the size of a sesame seed.  They feed off your blood so can be found primarily crawling around on the scalp.  They move quickly – up to 23 cm in a minute, have 6 legs, each with a serious claw at the end to enable them to firmly hold on to the hair.

Head lice can be a pain but there is no need to worry, The Hair Force offers a head lice and nit removal service that takes the stress and hard work off your hands without a chemical, pesticide or ineffective product in sight! We are the head lice experts. Find your closest clinic here.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email