Having a bad hair day once in a while is pretty usual for most people. You might hide the occasional bad hair day by sweeping your locks under a hat or opting for a simple bun or ponytail to contain your tresses.
For some children, this can be a constant experience if they have the very rare disease known as uncombable hair syndrome (UHS).
The condition usually doesn’t create any further complications and is temporary for most people who have it. But it can still be a frustrating experience for children and caregivers alike.
If you’re caring for a child with this rare disease, you’ll want to keep reading to understand exactly what caused it and what to expect as your child grows.
The phrase “uncombable hair syndrome” might sound like a satirical medical condition, but it’s no laughing matter for people with this hair type.
UHS is a hair growth disorder caused by genetic mutations in which the hair won’t lie flat, no matter how much it’s brushed or combed, according to
People with UHS tend to have blond or silver hair that looks visibly wiry or frizzy, is dry, and stands away from the scalp. This is because the hair follicles build hair shafts with structural differences and a lack of melanin.
UHS can be present at birth but often may not appear until a child is between 3 months and 3 years old. It’s most commonly observed between ages 2 and 11.
Other common names for this condition include:
- unmanageable hair syndrome
- spun glass hair
- cheveux incoiffables
- pili trianguli et canaliculi
As mentioned earlier, research has shown that most UHS cases are caused by genetic mutations.
The condition generally seems to develop through inherited autosomal recessive genetic mutations, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD). This means that a person receives the genetic mutation from both biological parents. The parents are considered carriers and may not necessarily have the condition themselves.
For most people, UHS does not lead to complications or occur with any other health conditions. For a small subset of UHS patients, though, this hair condition is a symptom of more serious health concerns.
Some conditions associated with UHS include:
- ectodermal dysplasia
- Angel-shaped phalangoepiphyseal dysplasia
- Bork syndrome
In particular, experts have pinpointed three genes — PADI3, TGM3, and TCHH — that are directly related to proteins needed during hair shaft formation, according to GARD.
Yet some people with UHS don’t carry those genetic abnormalities and still have atypical hair shafts. As a result, these cases don’t have a known cause. More research is still needed to fully understand the condition and what triggers it.
Typical hair shafts (regardless of hair type) are tubular. But for people with UHS, when observed under a microscope, the hair shaft looks angular, almost like a triangle, per
Additionally, the inner root sheath might be prematurely keratinized. This also causes atypical grooves along the hair shaft that make it more difficult to manage.
To be clear, UHS hair doesn’t fit within the accepted Andre Walker hair typing scale and cannot be compared to the more textured type 3 and type 4 hair patterns.
UHS hair does not behave like more textured hair types and does not respond to standard hair styling techniques. This means it cannot be managed by attempting traditional hair care treatments like relaxers, perms, or keratin treatments that would offer better manageability for textured hair.
UHS is considered a very rare disease. To date, roughly 100 cases have been documented in scientific studies or literature. It is possible that more people might have UHS but it simply haven’t been confirmed.
There is no official treatment for UHS. And while the hair might seem unmanageable, it is still healthy and grows. It’s also not weak or damaged.
However, UHS hair grows at a much slower rate. Some people have suggested that taking biotin supplements can improve the hair’s appearance and make it more manageable, according to a
Experts recommend being gentle with the hair and avoiding too much handling, such as aggressive brushing or combing. Likewise, opting for minimal heat styling (such as blow drying) is also recommended. As mentioned earlier, perms, relaxers, or other harsh chemical treatments should be avoided.
For most children with UHS, the condition disappears just like it randomly appeared. For most, entering into puberty triggers a change in the hair so that it transitions to being more manageable. For many people, the hair reverts entirely to a different texture so that the telltale rough texture of UHS is no longer visible.
For most children, if UHS is present, it’s a harmless but frustrating condition that makes styling and caring for this unique hair type difficult. However, some rare UHS cases are accompanied by more serious diseases.
Although UHS hair may require a more hands-off approach, most children with UHS will outgrow this condition during adolescence. In the meantime, caregivers might consider incorporating a biotin supplement to boost manageability until puberty and time cause UHS to fade.