Lice are parasites that attach to hair and feed on the blood of their host. Head lice (Pediculosis capitis) are the most common type of lice found on humans. Head lice can spread easily and quickly among children and in school settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 12 million cases of head lice are detected in U.S. schoolchildren per year.

Head lice are not known to spread disease. However, they can cause scalp itching, which can be uncomfortable, and occasionally lead to other health concerns like secondary skin infections.

Lice eggs are typically a tan color, which can make them harder to spot in some types of hair. What’s more, lice can be tan, whitish-gray, or dark brown, and may look different in different shades of hair. This survival mechanism can make spotting lice in blonde hair especially challenging.

Lice can be looked for and diagnosed at home, even if they are a little hard to spot. It just takes a bit of detective work. You can use a fine-toothed comb, along with a hand-held magnifying glass, to look through your hair in small sections.

Pay attention to the scalp, which is where you are most likely to see lice that are alive. You may also look at the roots of your hair for eggs and egg casings. Sores from scratching may be present on your scalp, but sores alone are not a reason to suspect that lice are present.

Lice can be difficult to conclusively rule out. If you can’t find any lice with your own inspection but still suspect that you or your child might have lice, you can speak with a healthcare professional (such as a primary care doctor or your child’s pediatrician) about having the scalp looked at.

If you have blonde hair, lice may look like specks of pepper or sand on your scalp. Adult lice are about the size of a sesame seed. These parasites live on your scalp, and they can only move by crawling. They can’t hop or fly off your scalp.

Depending on the color of the lice, they may be easier or more difficult to detect. Living lice tend to be a bit darker than lice eggs (which are also called nits). That can mean that it’s easier to spot the lice themselves than it is to see their eggs.

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Magnified picture of a louse in light-colored hair. Dmitrii Pridannikov/shutterstock

Lice eggs in blonde hair can also be hard to spot. Nits often appear yellow or white, or they can take the color of their host’s hair. They may look like skin flaking, dandruff, or hair product buildup.

The eggs themselves take about a week to hatch. After the eggs hatch, the casings are left attached to your hair.

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Lice eggs are often called nits. They can be found on strands of hair. Lukasz Sadlowski/Shutterstock

Lice do not prefer one color of hair over another. They can sometimes, however, adapt their color slightly according to the characteristics of their host.

That doesn’t mean that they gravitate toward people with blonde hair. There’s no evidence to suggest that lice have developed an evolutionary preference for certain hair colors.

The CDC says that people of African descent may be among the least likely to develop lice, perhaps because the shape of lice claws is better suited to the hair shaft width of other types of hair.

The CDC also says that contrary to popular belief, lice do not prefer dirty hair. They are actually able to climb better on clean hair. It is harder for them to latch on and climb up dirty hair.

Treatment to get rid of head lice can include:

  • oral medications
  • topical ointments, creams, and shampoos
  • supplemental measures, such as washing all bedding and sheets that have come into contact with the person who has them

Common lice treatments that have shown to be effective include:

  • over-the-counter shampoos that contain pediculicides (ingredients that kill lice)
  • prescription medications like:
    • ivermectin
    • lindane
    • benzyl alcohol
    • spinosad
    • permethrine
    • pyrethin

Home remedies like olive oil, tea tree oil, and coconut oil may work for some people, but evidence to support their use is mostly anecdotal.

However, the most common type of human head lice is becoming more resistant to some of the medications used to treat them. You may want to start with gentler measures, like:

  • using shampoos
  • applying essential oils (diluting them with carrier oils first)
  • washing your bedding
  • taking prescription medications under a doctor’s supervision

Finding lice in blonde hair can sometimes be a bit difficult. That’s because the lice themselves, and especially nits, can be a similar color to blonde hair. That doesn’t mean they are impossible to find, or that they prefer blonde hair over other colors.

If you or your child has been exposed to lice and you feel like you might have an infestation on your hands, you can usually find the lice yourself using a fine-toothed comb. If you can’t find any, but are still concerned about it, contact a medical professional.