Dead vs Live Nits: Color of Lice Eggs

Image of a woman with brown hair that has multiple hatched and unhatched lice eggs.

Loaded with pictures, discover the different colors of lice eggs and how you can determine the difference between live and dead nits in the hair.

One of the most misunderstood things about lice is what lice eggs look like. More specifically, what color are lice and how can you know if they are dead or not. Whether you’re checking your child for lice or are trying to determine if what you’re seeing is dead or live nits, you’ll find the answers here.

This article discuss the following:
Color/Appearance of Lice Eggs
Super Lice Eggs
Color of Dead Lice Eggs
How To Remove Dead Lice Eggs from Hair
Live vs. Dead Lice Eggs
How Long Dead Nits Stay in Hair

If you are new to lice, lice eggs and nits are the same things. The two words will be used interchangeably in this article.

What Do Lice Eggs Look Like?

A lice egg (nit) is attached to a hair strand. A finger in behind the nit and a white arrow points at the nit.

Lice eggs are tiny (about the size of a poppyseed), and they blend in pretty well with hair. If you aren’t looking closely, you are likely to miss them. Lice eggs and dandruff are often mistaken for one another, but some of the key differences are that lice eggs are tear-drop shaped and glued to the side of the hair strand.

The tell-tale sign that what you are finding is a nit is that a nit cannot be flicked, blown, or brushed away. Aside from a high-quality lice comb, the only way to remove a lice egg from the hair strand is to squeeze it between two fingers and manually drag it down the entire hair strand.

side-by-side images of blond girl's hair. Three circles identify the hot spots that lice usually lay lice eggs (nits)

You will find lice eggs in the “hot spots” of the head. These hot spots are the places that lice like to lay their eggs the most. They are behind both ears, the nape of the neck, and the crown of the head.

What Color Are Lice Eggs? 

A common misunderstanding is that nits are white. Nits have a shiny appearance and can appear white, especially in dark hair. But most lice eggs are not white. They vary in color from light golden to dark brown, depending on how close they are to hatching.

An uclose picture of an unhatched lice egg (nit). The nit is attached to the side of a brown hair strand and is golden in color.

Golden

When lice lay their eggs on a 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. 

A brown/black lice egg (nit) attached to the side of a brown hair strand.

Brown/Black

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.

Over a black backdrop, a golden colored lice is emerging from its egg (nit). The lice egg (nit) is attached to a blond hair strand.

Hatching

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

An up close image of a hatched lice egg (nit) attached to the side of a blond hairstrand. The lice egg (nit) appears to be white/transparent in color.

Transparent/White

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.

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.

Super lice and regular head lice are virtually the same bugs, except super lice has mutations that make them (and their eggs) much more difficult to kill. Recent studies show that 98% of head lice are now super lice. These days, most lice treatments simply do not kill lice or prevent lice eggs from hatching. 

Read more about super lice here.

Regular Lice Eggs vs. Super Lice Eggs

An image of the contential united states. The background is blue and the states are red. The words "super lice spreads to 48 states" is superimposed on the image.

Like the adult bugs, super lice eggs look similar to regular head lice eggs. The difference is that lice eggs from 30 years ago without the super lice mutation could be affected by pesticides, that might prevent them from hatching. These treatments do not harm today’s super lice eggs. Pesticides cannot kill them, and they will continue to hatch!

If you focus only on killing lice and not removing eggs, you will not get rid of super lice because new super lice will continue to hatch from the eggs that you didn’t remove from the head. And, to make matters worse, each generation of super lice will be stronger than the last.

What Color Are Dead Lice Eggs?

Many people wonder if lice eggs change color after they die. Unfortunately, many people believe that dark brown lice eggs are dead, and do not remove them from the head. The opposite is true. The darker the lice egg, the closer it is to hatching. If you find dark lice eggs in the hair, then you can plan on those eggs hatching within just a day or two.

You’ll find a lot of products advertising “kills lice eggs,” but don’t be fooled by these gimmicks. Some lice treatments may kill some eggs, but no treatment product today kills all lice eggs. Over the years, both lice and lice eggs have developed resistance to treatments. Nits have a thick, waxy coating that makes them nearly impossible to kill. 

The best thing you can do to “kill” lice eggs is manually remove them from the head. Once lice eggs are pulled from the hair and thrown into the trash, they will not be able to hatch because you have removed them from their heat source. 

If you try to just “kill” lice eggs and not remove them from the head, then you will most likely end up in an endless cycle of lice over and over for months (or longer).

Here’s what that cycle looks like...

Super lice is a mutant strain of head lice spreading throughout the world, particularly in the US and Canada. Discover what they are and how to kill them…

You kill all the lice. You think you’ve gotten rid of everything, but you leave a few lice eggs in the hair. Those lice eggs hatch within a few days, and, shortly, those lice begin laying eggs. Within a few weeks, you have a full infestation all over again. You go around and around in this circle of “getting lice back” from yourself.

How To Remove Dead Lice Eggs from Hair

I know, removing lice eggs from the hair is difficult. After using a crumby lice comb with little success, many people resort to “nit-picking,” which is manually removing individual lice eggs from the hair with your fingers. 

Nit-picking is an option, but it is incredibly time-consuming, tedious, and overwhelming. Sadly, most parents that spend 6-12 hours “nit-picking” and believe they have removed every nit inevitably miss some. Two missed nits mean staying trapped in the lice cycle again and again.

The fastest, easiest, and most effective way to get rid of live or dead lice eggs permanently is with a professional-level head lice comb. 

I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve tried lice combs, and they don’t work.” That’s because you’re using a lousy comb. There are only a few good lice combs on the market today, and you can’t find any of them at the drugstore. The very best lice comb out there is the Nit-Free Terminator Comb.

These are affiliate links, and I earn a small commission, but I only recommend what I know is the absolute best.

If you ask any lice professional, they will almost certainly tell you this is the comb they use. 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 child’s hair.

Live vs. Dead Lice Eggs

Two lice eggs (nits) are attached to different hair strands. The top lice egg is not hatched and is golden brown in color. The hatched lice egg is transparent/white.

Instead of thinking about live vs. dead lice eggs, you should think hatched vs. unhatched.

Lice eggs that have already hatched will be transparent/translucent in color and usually appear white in the hair. These nits no longer have lice inside of them, so they are not a threat. Unhatched or “viable” nits have color to them, they begin golden brown and then become darker the closer they are to hatching.

But it can be difficult to tell the difference between hatched and unhatched nits with the naked eye, so why wouldn’t you just remove them all?

How Do You Know If Nits Are Dead?

Unfortunately, because lice eggs do not change in appearance once they die, there is no way to know if nits are dead or alive until they hatch. Do you want to wait around and “see” if the lice eggs hatch or not? I don’t think so. The best thing to do is to remove all lice eggs from the hair to prevent them from hatching.

How Long Can Dead Nits Stay in Hair?

A woman's hair (brown) with white lice eggs in the hair. This woman has a serious infestation and has had lice for 3 years.

Potentially, dead nits can stay in the hair forever. Once lice glue a lice egg to the hair strand, it will not come off unless removed from the hair. Lice eggs stick to the hair, so eventually, over time, they will move from near the scalp to further down the hair strand as the hair grows over the years. But, they will never fall out! Here is a picture of a girl who had lice for 3 years. Notice the dark brown unhatched/viable lice eggs are close to her scalp, and the white, already hatched lice eggs go all the way down her hair.

Also, lice eggs become more challenging to remove the longer they are in the hair, not less complicated. They start to decay and “break down” overtime on the hair strand, which seems to make them stick better to the hair strand.

I know it’s difficult and overwhelming to get all of those little lice eggs out of your child’s hair, especially if she has had it for some time, but go online, buy a Nit Free Terminator Comb and start combing her hair with it every day. You have to remove those eggs from her hair to stop them from hatching, that’s the very best way to actually “kill” nits. Start today, and finally, get out of the endless cycle of head lice!

Best of luck on your lice journey! (1)

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