Black Lice and Lice in Black Hair Images
If you’ve found black bugs in your child’s hair or you are having difficulty finding lice in black hair, you are not alone. Can lice be black?
Most websites say that lice are white or tan, but if you are finding black bugs in your hair, you are not alone. There is a lot of confusion about the color of head lice and what it means. Discover whether those black bugs in your child’s hair are head lice or something else and what it means to have black lice.
If you are looking for an article specific to lice and African-American or Black hair, then you can find a better article here, packed with pictures of lice and lice eggs in Black hair.
What is Lice?
Lice are tiny insects that live on humans and other species. Human lice require a human host as they need to feed on human blood frequently. They range in size from being almost invisible at birth to about the size of a sesame seed as adults. Three types of lice live on humans: head lice, body lice, and pubic lice.
Body lice are the least common type of lice in the United States and other developed countries. They are associated with poor hygiene and are usually only seen among those living in crowded living situations with limited access to bathing facilities like homeless and refugee camps. If you are someone who bathes regularly, it would be extremely rare for you to have body lice. They live primarily on the clothing and bedding of individuals and only come to the skin when feeding.
Body lice CAN transmit diseases such as epidemic typhus, trench fever, and other bacterial infections.
Pubic lice, also known as “crabs,” live in course hair, usually pubic hair. However, pubic lice can make their way into eyebrows, beards, and chest hair. They can rarely infest eyelashes. Pubic lice is an STD and are usually only passed during intercourse.
Head lice are by far the most common type of lice. They are a widespread problem in the United States, where around 12 million kids get head lice every year!
Head lice stick solely to the hair of the head and near the head. You can occasionally find lice in facial hair, but only in severe cases. Head lice are NOT associated with poor hygiene.
Head lice are not dangerous and do not spread diseases, but they often make the person they are infesting uncomfortable.
If, after seeing multiple pictures of lice in this article, you aren’t convinced that the black bugs in your child’s hair are lice, then skip to the Do Other Black Bugs Live in Hair That Are Not Lice? section of this article.
Can Lice Be Black?
Although most websites claim that head lice are tan or white, head lice change color based on the hair and skin type of the person they are infesting. Head lice are masters of disguise. They are incredibly adaptable and mutate to best survive, including changing their appearance to adapt. Black lice are most commonly found in a person with black hair and darker skin, whereas you will find lighter-tan lice in those with fair hair and skin.
When head lice are first born, they are translucent, almost entirely see-through. The only part that can be spotted easily is their black intestine-looking stomach down the middle of them. At this stage, it is nearly impossible to see head lice. Even if you have fantastic vision, the only thing you’ll see at this transparent stage is a little black dot, which is the stomach of the lice bug.
Head lice on people with blonde hair continue to have a lighter color. Lice at its darkest in blonde hair are usually tan to light brown. The tan color helps them to blend in well with light-colored hair.
But for those with darker hair, lice become darker over time. For a person with black hair, adult head lice usually change dark grey to almost entirely black.
Lice are always darker after they have fed. What do they eat? Lice exclusively feed on human blood. Immediately after lice feed, their black stomach becomes larger, and their body becomes darker. Many head lice have a red hue to them shortly after feeding (see picture).
Regardless of what color lice are while living, they all turn dark brown to black after they die and begin to decay.
What Does Lice Look Like in Black Hair?
If you are African American or have afro-textured hair, be sure to check out the article Black People Get Lice Too: Pictures and Treatment Tutorial that shows detailed pictures and has a tailored treatment plan for denser hair.
Head lice range from almost invisible at birth to the size of a sesame seed when fully grown. They range in color from tanish grey to brown and are slightly translucent, but in black hair expect to find black, dark grey, or dark brown adult lice. The defining characteristics of head lice are:
- 6 legs attached to the upper ⅓ of body, not on the large abdomen
- No wings
- Adult lice: expect darker adult head lice in dark hair- they will be dark brown to black.
- Smaller, younger head lice (nymphs) will be a very translucent tan with a dark intestine-like stomach.
- Black stomach/intestines often visible through their translucent body (larger after feeding)
- Tapered/ claw-like legs
If, after seeing lots of lice pictures, you are convinced that the black bugs you are finding are not head lice, then skip to the Do Other Black Bugs Live in Hair That Are Not Lice? Section of this article.
When you remove lice from the head and put them on a white backdrop, it is readily apparent which lice came from what color of hair. Look at this comparative picture of head lice from black hair, blond hair, and brown hair.
Lice Eggs (Nits) in Black Hair
Because lice are so good at hiding and moving quickly, it is pretty rare to see lice bugs early on in an infestation. Instead of looking for fully grown lice bugs, you should focus on finding lice eggs (also called “nits”) in the hair.
Unlike adult lice bugs, nits do not move around or hide. These eggs are glued onto the hair strand so they will not fall off. Because nits in your child’s hair are the first sign of a lice infestation, finding them at this stage can help you eliminate lice when there are only a few adult lice bugs.
Lice lay 6-10 of these nits in the hair every day, and they add up quickly. Nits are often mistaken for dandruff or dirt in the hair because they are small, and their shiny appearance can make them look white. In black hair, most lice eggs will look white and shiny or light brown.
There are 7 main differences between lice and dandruff, some of the main differences are that nits stick to the hair strand, are tear-drop shaped, and vary in color from translucent to almost black. The tell-tale sign of lice eggs is that they attach to the hair strand using glue, they will not flick, blow, or brush off.
How Do I Check for Lice In Black Hair?
The best places to look for lice eggs are in the “hot spots” of the head: behind the ears, the nape of the neck and the crown of the head.
Checking for lice eggs in the “hot spots” of the head, section by section, is the best way to determine whether someone has lice in the early stages. Here’s a link to a full tutorial on how to check for head lice. This tutorial features a blonde child, but the principles for checking for lice are the same.
Are Super Lice Black?
Regular head lice and super lice look precisely the same so that they can be any variety of colors, including black. Super lice and regular head lice are virtually the same bugs, except super lice has mutations that make them (and their eggs) very difficult to kill. These super lice are becoming the “new” strain of head lice.
There are only a handful of treatments that work to kill BOTH head lice, and super lice, and most are only available online. If you discover you have lice, be sure to use a lice treatment that works on BOTH regular lice and super lice like the ones recommended here.
How to Get Rid of Head Lice
If you are African American or have afro-textured hair, be sure to check out the article Black People Get Lice Too: Pictures and Treatment Tutorial to find the very best lice treatment and lice treatment plan that is perfectly tailored to denser hair.
- Use a treatment that works on BOTH lice and super lice such as Ladibugs, Lice Clinics, Head Hunters, or Fairy Tales.
- Remove all lice eggs with the Nit Free Terminator Comb.
- Check all family members for head lice with a lice comb or treat all family members with an enzyme shampoo like LiceLogic Clear & Free Shampoo.
- Keep checking with a lice comb and retreat 10 days later, not a week later. Lice eggs on the head hatch after 7-10 days, if you retreat or recheck after a week, you may miss something that hasn’t hatched.
- Clean your house using the following principles as a guide or check out the article Lice Cleaning Checklist to Get Rid of Lice in Your Home.
Think 48 Hours
Focus on cleaning items that have been in contact with the lice-infested individual within the last 48 hours. Lice cannot live longer than 48 hours on household items.
Do Not Use Lice Sprays
Lice sprays do not work on super lice. Multiple scientific studies have shown that almost all lice in the US are resistant to the pesticide found in lice sprays. The only lice sprays that work for killing super lice are enzyme lice sprays like LiceLogic Clear & Free All Purpose Spray.
You can vacuum surfaces such as couches and mattresses.
Clean Your Brushes
Soak hairbrushes, combs, and hair accessories (such as hairbands, clips, and headbands) used by the person with lice in hot water (135° F or higher) for at least 10 minutes. (I do not recommend boiling brushes and combs, however, because they will melt.)
Items in the Dryer
Put items in the dryer for 40 minutes on high heat.
Bag Items for 2 Days
Lice can’t live without blood for very long; anything that could have lice on it will be safe to use again after 48 hours. If an item is something that you cannot run through the dryer, like a favorite stuffed toy or delicate clothing, you can seal it away in a bag for a couple of days.
Don’t Forget Carseats
Vacuum car seats of infested individuals.
What About Prescriptions for Lice?
Most prescription lice treatments use pesticides similar to the ones you’d find in over the counter treatments. They’re just in larger doses, or you’re supposed to keep them on for longer periods.
Since most lice these days are resistant to pesticides, it doesn’t matter how high the dose or how long you leave them on they won’t work to get rid of lice! I would never use a prescription lice treatment on my own children or recommend one to you.
Head Lice Prevention
About 90% of the time, head lice are passed directly from one person to another by head to head contact. Hugging, snuggling, and sleeping in the same bed are prime times for head lice to move from one head to another. Head lice can also pass from inanimate objects, especially objects that come into contact with hair, such as brushes, hair accessories, and hats.
Ways to prevent head lice include:
- Avoiding head-to-head contact like long hugs, sleeping in the same bed, and putting your head on other’s shoulders.
- Not sharing things that come in contact with hair, like brushes, hair accessories, hats, jackets, clothing, etc.
- Making your hair undesirable to head lice by using a lice prevention spray or lice prevention shampoo every day. The best ones are LiceLogic, Head Hunters, Rosemary Repel, and Ladibugs.
Do Other Black Bugs Live in Hair That Are Not Lice?
If you have pets, then there is a chance that you can find fleas in your child’s hair. It's not typical that a child would have a “flea infestation” because fleas do not prefer humans. But, I have found fleas in several children over the years. I end up treating those children with fleas in the same way as I treat head lice- with a super lice treatment.
You can tell the difference between fleas and lice because fleas have hind legs that jump, whereas head lice do not jump and do not have hind legs. Head lice’s legs are all on the upper half of their bodies.
One other type of bug that could be in a child’s hair is bed bugs, although bed bugs do not infest hair. Bed bugs typically live the bed, and in furniture near the bed. They usually only come out to feed at night on the skin, not in the hair.
You can tell the difference between head lice and bed bugs because bed bugs are very flat with a shield-shaped body.
Summing It Up...
If you are finding black bugs in your child’s hair, you are almost certainly dealing with head lice. Although many internet sources without a lot of hands-on knowledge will say lice are tan or white, lice can be a variety of colors. Lice typically blend in with the skin and hair color of those that they are infesting.
Regardless of what color of lice you are finding in your child’s hair, you are likely dealing with super lice. Super lice are incredibly resistant to the old treatments we used 30 years ago. Be sure to use an effective treatment that works on both lice and super lice.
Theresa is a Registered Nurse and lice expert. She owns a top lice treatment salon where she helps families battling lice every day. Disappointed by the false information about lice and lice treatment on the web, Theresa created MyLiceAdvice.com to empower families to get rid of lice on their own--and fast. Read more about Theresa and her lice journey at “From Cardiac Nurse to Lice Expert”.