Brown Lice and Lice Eggs & Brown Hair with Lice

good catch

Most websites say that lice are white or tan, but if you are finding brown bugs and brown nits in your hair, you are not alone. There is a lot of confusion about the color of head lice and lice eggs and what it means. Discover whether those brown bugs in your child’s hair are head lice or something else. Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

Head Lice

Head lice 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. Head lice are not associated with poor hygiene and do not spread diseases, but no one wants them.

Brown Lice

Colors of lice

Lice are tiny experts at blending in with hair. When lice are first born, they are almost invisible, and at adulthood, they are only about the size of a sesame seed. To make things even more complicated, lice bugs usually match the color of hair they are infesting!

In my lice center, I have seen multiple colors of head lice, including brown.

Head Lice in Brown Hair

A lice bug on a hair strand near the scalp.

Head lice are small bugs that live exclusively in hair. They are the only parasite that infests human hair, so if you do find bugs in your children’s hair, it’s likely they have head lice.

Stages of lice

When lice are first born, they are tiny and translucent, almost entirely see-through.

As head lice age into adults, they become darker and more visible. The color of adult head lice typically matches the color of the hair they are infesting. You can expect a brunette to have darker head lice than a blond. Adult head lice in brunettes typically are brown.

Head Lice Anatomy

The defining characteristics of head lice are:

  • 6 legs attached to the upper ⅓ of the body, not connected to the large abdomen
  • No wings
  • Adult lice are typically light to dark brown on brunettes
  • Nymph (tiny, “baby stage” lice) are translucent/transparent with a dark stomach.
  • Black stomach/intestines often visible through the translucent body (larger after feeding)
  • Antennae
  • Tapered/claw-like legs

Super Lice

Up close image of a super lice bug. Lice have six legs attached to their abdomen. The lice appears golden brown/translucent in color. Its dark stomach can be seen through its shell. The lice is attached to a blonde hairstrand.

A new strain of head lice, super lice is making big news these days. Super lice and regular head lice are virtually the same bugs, except super lice has mutations that make them very difficult to kill and get rid of. These super lice are becoming the “new” strain of head lice. Super lice can be brown as well.

Is it Super Lice?

The most recent studies show that almost all lice these days are super lice. Head lice and super lice look and act identically; the only difference is that you can't kill super lice with the old over-the-counter treatments. So be sure that if your kiddo has lice, you use a lice treatment that works on both lice and super lice.

Here are my top picks for lice treatments that are effective on both regular lice and super lice. (These are affiliate links, and I earn a small commission if you purchase through them, but I only recommend products I believe in). 

Lice Eggs in Brown Hair

Lice eggs in brown hair

A quick note: If you are new to lice, nits and lice eggs are the same things. The two phrases will be used interchangeably throughout this article.

Because lice are so good at hiding and moving quickly, it is pretty rare to see lice bugs early on in an infestation. So, if you’re trying to check for lice, you should instead focus your attention on finding lice eggs (also called “nits”) in the hair.

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.

HOT SPOTS

While lice lay nits throughout the entire head, there are a few places lice most love to lay eggs. These places, termed “hot spots,” are the ideal places to check for nits. These hot spots are behind the ears, the nape of the neck, and the crown of the head.

NIt in brown hair

Lice eggs are about the size of a poppyseed and teardrop-shaped, not circular. They will be on the side of a single hair strand. Adult lice lay 6-10 eggs a day, so you will find multiple nits in the hair if your child has lice.

Lice eggs are stuck on the hair strand. It is impossible to brush, flick, or blow them out of the hair. The only way to remove a nit (without using a high-quality lice comb) is to squeeze it between two fingers or fingernails and then slide it down the entire hair strand, finally pulling it off the end.

This is just a brief overview; you can find a step-by-step tutorial in my article How to Check for Lice Tutorial.

Brown vs. White Lice Eggs

A common misunderstanding is that nits are white. Nits have a shiny appearance and can appear white, especially in dark hair. But lice eggs vary in color from light golden to dark brown, depending on how close they are to hatching.

golden nit

When lice first lay eggs on the hair strand, the eggs are two-toned--often a golden color with a dark brown circle inside. The dark circle on the inside of the egg is a small lice bug growing inside the egg.

blackbrown nit

Over the next few days, that lice bug grows inside the egg. As it matures and grows inside, the nit will appear darker and darker until it seems completely brown, almost black. These very dark nits are the nits that are just about to hatch.

head lice emerging from egg

Lice hatch somewhere between 7-10 days after being laid.

Egg of the head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) on a hair. The picture was taken after an anti-lice treatment  (Oxyphthirine - a substance based on Triglycerid producing a kind of film at the surface of the eggs and lice that induce asphyxia).  This egg is therefore dead and its aspect can be slightly different from an alive egg. It seems to be slightly deshydrated.  Scale : egg length= 0.57 mm  Technical settings :  - focus stack of 42 images - microscope objective (Nikon achromatic 10x 160/0.25) on bellow (160 mm extension)

After the lice bug hatches out of the egg, the eggshell remains on the hair strand. Lice eggs left over after the bug has hatched will appear to be white or translucent because all you see leftover is a shell or casing with no bug inside.

Similar to a chicken egg, after you crack open the egg and remove the insides, all you have left is a white shell.

Not Hatched vs hatched

Most confusion comes from people thinking that brown lice eggs are dead, and white lice eggs are alive.

In reality, brown lice eggs haven’t hatched yet; white lice eggs have.

Get Rid of Lice Eggs

Your best option for killing lice eggs is to remove them from the hair and throw them away in the trash. Once lice eggs are pulled from the hair and tossed, they will not be able to hatch. Lice eggs (including super lice eggs) need to be on the head to grow and hatch because they need an exact climate, a climate only available on your head.

If you focus only on killing lice and not removing eggs, you will not get rid of lice because new lice will continue to hatch from the eggs that you didn't remove.

Here’s what this cycle looks like…

The Lice Egg Cycle: Lice hatch from eggs, lice grow and lay more eggs, you treat your hair, some lice eggs are missed, and then the cycle starts over and lice hatch from eggs again.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of lice eggs permanently is with a professional-level head lice comb. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb. The teeth of this comb are spaced tightly together, but the real secret is that these teeth have small spirals, creating a “barbed wire” effect on lice and nits, catching them and dragging them down the entire hair strand and out of your hair. This is the comb I use in my lice center every day.

How to Get Rid of Head Lice

If you discover lice or lice eggs in your child’s hair, then undoubtedly you will want to get rid of it quickly. Here are the steps to getting rid of head lice fast.

  1. Use a treatment that works on BOTH lice and super lice such as LadibugsLice ClinicsHead Hunters, or Fairy Tales
  2. Remove all lice eggs with the Nit Free Terminator Comb.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Vacuum

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.

Do Other Brown Bugs Live in Hair That Are Not Lice?

Head Lice vs fleas vs bed bugs

Fleas

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.

Bed Bugs

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…

It’s not at all unusual to find brown lice or brown lice eggs. Head lice can be difficult to see because they blend in so well in the hair. The best way to check for lice in a brunette is by looking for lice eggs on the hot spots of the head. Nits can be golden, brown, or transparent, depending on how close they are to hatching. If you end up having lice, assume that it is super lice and use a lice treatment that’ll treat both lice and super lice.

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

Here are some other articles you may be interested in…