Uncombable hair syndrome denotes a tangled mess of uncontrollable hair, growing in different directions. Here is a brief overview about this rare condition.
This is a rare medical condition, which is characterized by inflexible, brittle, coarse, and straw-colored hair fibers growing in all directions, in frizzy patches. When combed, such hair cannot lie flat, due to the abnormality in its structure. This condition is also known as ‘Pili trianguli et canaliculi’, ‘Spun-glass hair’ or ‘Cheveux incoiffable’.
Uncombable hair syndrome was discovered by French scientists, during the 1970s. They named it ‘Cheveux incoiffable’. The name ‘Spun-glass hair’ is derived from the dry, curly, glossy, blonde or straw-colored appearance of the hair, which resemble threads of spun glass. This condition is very rare, and only 60 cases were reported from the early seventies to the late nineties.
Uncombable hair syndrome occurs mostly in children. It develops shortly after birth, but becomes apparent at any stage between three months to 13 years. Initial stages are characterized by thin and glossy hair, which gradually turn brittle, dry, curly, and lighter in color. It becomes uncontrollable and uncombable, and cannot be chemically relaxed or straightened. Usually, this syndrome is not associated with any physical or mental disorder. It is said that this condition affects the scalp hair only. Other symptoms of uncombable hair syndrome are as follows:
- The hair is slow-growing, thin, brittle, and has very less or no pigment.
- In some cases, partial baldness is also seen. Due to their peculiar structure, the hair is not properly attached to the follicles, and may fall off easily.
- Though the condition is related to scalp hair only, hair in the eyebrows and eyelashes can be sparse in some of the affected people.
- As the basic structure of hair is similar to that of teeth and nails, people affected with uncombable hair syndrome may have short, brittle, and split nails, and teeth with enamel defects and aberrations.
The main reason for uncombable hair syndrome is said to be the anomaly in the structure of the hair fiber. Each hair fiber has a triangular, or irregular-shaped cross-section, and one or more longitudinal grooves, which run through the entire length. The other name for this condition – ‘Pili trianguli et canaliculi’, is derived from this feature. ‘Pili’ means hair, ‘ trianguli’ for triangular cross-section and ‘canaliculi’ refers to the longitudinal canals. According to some experts, premature keratinization (deposit of keratin, an insoluble protein substance that is the chief structural constituent of hair and nails) of the inner root sheath, can also result in this condition. These features can be diagnosed by scanning electron microscopy of hair fibers.
The affected people may or may not have a family history of uncombable hair syndrome, but some studies suggest an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance, and an autosomal recessive pattern, with varying degrees of penetrance. The hair of family members of an affected person, may appear normal, but can have some strands with structural anomaly, which can be detected through scanning electron microscopy. However, such structural anomaly is more prominent in those with uncombable hair syndrome, because more than 50% of the hair would be affected. Hence, to recognize this condition, more than 50% of the hair should have structural abnormalities.
At present, there is no certified treatment for uncombable hair syndrome, but some reports suggest that daily doses of biotin may result in some improvements. It is said that the regular use of biotin for a period of at least four to five months can make the hair more pliable, and easy to comb. This treatment does not change the structural abnormalities of the hair. It is also suggested that, silver nitrate compresses, mycolog ointment, and occasional antibiotics can be effective in tackling this hair condition. Consult your health care provider, before using such medication. It is also seen that in some cases, this condition is reversed naturally (without any medications), as the children reach adolescence. The hair may become thicker and darker in color, as the kids grow. Even the texture may get normal.
If your child has the symptoms mentioned above, contact your physician for proper diagnosis. You can use some hair products to manage the hair, but only after consulting your health care provider.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.