Uncombable Hair Syndrome is a Real Thing

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Certainly, there are days when we’ve all felt this: umcombable hair syndrome. But it is actually a real — rare — medical condition. The syndrome was first identified in 1973 but possible cases date back to the 1840s.

What Is Uncombable Hair Syndrome?

A girl with UHS via The Cut

Uncombable hair syndrome (UHS) is a biological defect that makes hair literally impossible to comb. The result is Einstein-esque: something like static electricity on steroids.

Thankfully, UHS is uncommon. According to WebMD, just about 100 cases have been recorded, all in children aged between three and 12. All those afflicted appeared to grow out of the syndrome around puberty, and that’s not the only commonality. The children also share the same hair color and texture: bright blonde, brittle, frizzy blonde strands that stick up, often with a slight crimp. The appearance has led to some other nicknames for the condition, including “spun-glass hair” and “unmanageable hair syndrome.”

Heinrich Hoffmann’s “Struwwelpeter” via Wikipedia

“Cheveux incoiffables” was the French term used by doctors A. Dupré, P. Rochiccioli, and J.L. Bonafé, who first identified these strange strands in 1973. However, there are older historic examples. A German children’s story from 1845 includes a character named “Struwwelpeter,” which means “Shockheaded Peter.” The physical description of the boy lines up with the light, shock-straight locks of UHS. That work was eventually translated into English by Mark Twain with the name “Slovenly Peter.” Mean!

Since “cheveux incoiffables,” decades of research into UHS have revealed three genetic mutations as the root cause: PAD13, TGM3, and TCHH. They are likely inherited when both a child’s parents carry a copy of the mutation, even if those parents are recessive, exhibiting no symptoms, according to WebMd.

According to Dr. Carol Cheng, who spoke to ABC about UHS, rather than exhibiting the typical cylinder shape, the shaft of these uncombable hairs is triangular. “Within the triangle, there [are] these little grooves that go up and down the long axis of the hair shaft, so that’s why it makes it really uncombable,” Cheng said.

Locklan Samples Goes Viral

Locklan Samples via The Guardian

Last year, a young Georgia boy named Locklan Samples became an internet sensation for his spiky, white uncombable hair. After he was diagnosed with UHS, His mother, Katelyn Samples, began posting pictures her then 10-month-old son, revealing his strange syndrome to the world. The punny name of his Instagram? Uncombable_locks.

Describing the texture of her son’s hair, Katelyn also told The Guardian, “It can get matted easily. It is very fragile … It can get tangled and I do have to be careful. That would be an example of a time I actually would wash it because I very rarely wash his hair. Just doesn’t need to be. It doesn’t really get greasy.”

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