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Uncombable Hair Syndrome—It’s a Real Thing

Uncombable Hair Syndrome—It’s a Real Thing

Besides a great sense of humor and a touch of brilliance, what does the 102-year-old comedian Professor Irwin Corey (“Without this great land of ours, we would all drown”) have in common with the late actor, writer, producer Gene Wilder (“Nowhere special? I always wanted to go there”) and the remarkable Albert Einstein (“The difference between stupidity and genius, is that genius has its limits”)? It’s quite possible that all were afflicted with uncombable hair syndrome or UHS.

Believe it or not, that’s not the lead-in to another joke! UHS, also known as spun-glass hair, is real and scientists have identified mutations in three related genes as the cause. Seems this genetic twist affects the shape of hair shafts just above the scalp, causing them to become bent in such a way that they can’t be combed or brushed. The result? A perpetual bad hair day.

The good news? UHS mostly affects children and they usually grow out of it once puberty hits.

Until then, you should go to a dermatologist for diagnosis (made by looking at a strand of hair under a microscope) and treatment options. They include: adopting a gentle approach to managing uncombable hair; washing it with conditioners and shampoos that contain biotin (there are a lot!); and keeping hair short. And if you’re waiting for the condition to subside in your child, you may want to encourage him or her to figure out how to simulate gravity during a long space flight or start polishing a stand-up routine.

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

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