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What is Uncombable Hair Syndrome?

Michael Pollick
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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Many parents struggle with their children's seemingly uncombable or unruly hair, but there really is a rare genetic condition which makes certain children's hair completely unbrushable. Uncombable Hair Syndrome, also known as Pili trianguli et canaliculi, causes a sufferer's hair to grow out in frizzy patches which cannot lay flat on the scalp. Partial baldness can also be associated with this condition, since individual hairs may not be anchored securely.

Uncombable Hair Syndrome was first discovered by French researchers in the early 1970s, but it was so rare that fewer than 60 cases had been reported by the late 1990s. One characteristic of UHS inspired another name for the condition: Spun glass hair. Children with Uncombable Hair Syndrome generally produce very fine blonde or straw-colored hairs which have the appearance of delicate spun glass threads.

The root cause of Uncombable Hair Syndrome can be more easily understood by studying its other name, Pili trianguli et canaliculi. The hair(pili) grows out from the follicle in a roughly triangular-shaped shaft, which causes it to kink and curl irregularly. Under microscopic examination, a canal can be seen running the length of each hair. The result is a scalpful of untameable blonde hair which breaks easily and cannot be chemically relaxed or straightened.

There currently is no known cure for Uncombable Hair Syndrome, largely because of its genetic nature. Many children afflicted with the condition gradually grow out of it by adolescence, but some have been known to have some uncombable patches into early adulthood. Sometimes the shape of the hair shaft changes as the child ages and it becomes more manageable. The color and texture of the hair may also change over time, taking on a darker shade and thicker consistency.

Those who suffer from Uncombable Hair Syndrome may feel very self-conscious about their appearance, so parents may have to experiment with various hair products such as biotin to address some of the hair management issues. Some children may have unnaturally uncombable hair, but this is not the same as true Uncombable Hair Syndrome. At least 50 percent of a child's hair must be affected by the triangular and grooved hair shaft growth in order to be diagnosed as Uncombable Hair Syndrome or Pili trianguli et canaliculi.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon359400 — On Dec 17, 2013

My daughter is 14 months old and was also diagnosed with UHS. I would like to know how she will grow? Do children with this have any future effects?

By anon358664 — On Dec 11, 2013

@anon48091: What dosage of biotin did you use for your daughter? And how were you able to give it to her? Crushed? Mixed with food? I'm searching for anything to help!

By anon113047 — On Sep 22, 2010

My daughter was also diagnosed with UHS when she was two. She became very sick at two and every time she would eat or drink she would cough so bad she would throw up. She was under nourished, and after fighting with doctors they finally discovered food was getting into her lungs by a connection between her airway and esophagus.

While she was in the hospital for that, the doctors kept fussing over her hair. Which actually made us mad because we were more concerned with our very ill child who was getting ready to have a major surgery. Anyway, that is when she was diagnosed with Uncombable Hair Syndrome. Because she was so undernourished the UHS looked a lot worse than it does now. She is five now. Sammy 4 your question is what made me share this story. I do not know if it is a diet problem, but it definitely makes the UHS worse. We now keep my daughter's hair short, spiky in the back with a bump on top and the front parted on the side with a cute little clip on the side with more hair.

We do not go anywhere without her getting compliments on how cute her hair is. What is weird is I have read that people with UHS their hair does not grow very fast. With us keeping her hair short we have to cut it often. Her hair seems to grow fast, it is just brittle so it does not grow long.

By anon48091 — On Oct 09, 2009

Our daughter was diagnosed with uncombable hair syndrome when she was two years old. We gave her a biotin supplement and about one year later, new hair that was somewhat normal was growing. Today she is ten years old and everyone compliments her about how beautiful her hair is (people say is looks like spun gold). She has never had a hair cut and her hair only grows slightly below the shoulders.

By ekb — On Nov 12, 2008

I would love to know the cause of this if anyone has any insight. My daughter has it. All I can do is hope she grows out of it. Very frustrating.

By sami4 — On Oct 03, 2008

Why is this uncombable hair syndrome only in children? and why do this problem occur in them? is it cause of diet problem?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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