It sounds like an alibi for someone with poor grooming habits, doesn’t it? But imagine, if you will, having a head of hair that was so sensitive and so tangled and kinky… that you just couldn’t get a comb through it. Believe it or not, Uncombable Hair Syndrome is a real condition and the people that suffer from it are just like you and I. The only difference is that they simply cannot comb their hair.
What is Uncombable Hair Syndrome?
Discovered by French researchers in the early 1970’s, the condition now known as Uncombable Hair Syndrome (UHS or Pili trianguli et canaliculi) was originally referred to as “cheveux incoiffables.” It has also been nicknamed Spun Glass Hair, because the hair is very thin and often has a glistening quality to it that makes it look like spun glass, particularly during childhood. While some adults retain this quality, in most cases, the hair begins to grow lighter, more dry, and kinky as the person ages. Additionally, this strange hair seems to grow at a slower rate than unaffected hair and will often stick out from the head in all directions, often giving a ‘finger in the light socket’ appearance.
People suffering from Uncombable Hair Syndrome grow increasingly unable to comb their hair, whether it be from physical pain from trying to work out the tangles, or because the hair is fragile and breaks or pulls out easily. Whatever the reason, combing the hair becomes more and more difficult until it’s practically an impossibility. Contrary to some beliefs, UHS is not due to laziness but causes honest pain and discomfort. It also causes extreme emotional distress to those who suffer from it, particularly children.
While UHS has been found to be a hereditary condition, passed down from family members, there are also sporadic cases that are occasionally reported, in which there is no history of this condition in the family, whatsoever. Little else is known about the causes of Uncombable Hair Syndrome.
Diagnosing Uncombable Hair Syndrome
Affecting only scalp hair, the hair affected by this condition is found to be very fine and glass-like during adolescence. Examining the hair beneath a high-powered microscope reveals that people with Uncombable Hair Syndrome have hair that has a triangular or kidney bean appearance, when looking at a cross-section of the hair. A long groove can also be seen, running the length of the hair strand. These two features are often seen in people suffering from this unique hair condition. Additionally, partial baldness can also be a problem for people suffering from UHS – in many cases, the hair is not firmly attached in the follicle and pulls out easily.
Treating Uncombable Hair Syndrome
Because this is usually a genetic condition, there is no cure for Uncombable Hair Syndrome. Fortunately, some individuals do grow out of it, with time. In the meantime, some studies have shown that there are some favorable responses to biotin supplements. Other people claim to have limited success with over-the-counter treatments for dry or frizzy hair. In order to work through it, uncombable hair usually takes a lot of time and careful patience.
http://www.oddee.com/contrib_8160.aspx – A good visual of the condition
http://dermatlas.med.jhmi.edu/derm/ – Information on the condition
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/06/26/uncomable-hair-syndr.html – More information on UHS