Scientists Have Worked Out Why Your Hair Is “Uncombable”

Illustration by Anna Sudit
Untameable hair is the bane of many of our lives. For some, high-tech styling tools, Brazilian blowdries and expensive serums are the bare minimum required to stop us from looking like Monica Geller in Barbados. Now, scientists believe the reason why our hair may be constantly dry, frizzy and tangled, lies in our genetics. Researchers from the Universities of Bonn and Toulouse in Germany and France have identified mutations in three genes that can cause what is known as "uncombable hair syndrome", aka "spun glass hair syndrome" or “Struwwelpeter syndrome". Those affected tend to have fair hair that is dry, frizzy, thin and resistant to being brushed or combed the researchers said, writing in the American Journal of Human Genetics. Maybe that Tangle Teezer wasn't such a worthwhile investment after all. Virtually nothing has been known about the phenomenon until now as it is relatively rare. The condition was first described in specialist literature in 1973 and only around 100 cases have been recorded worldwide since then, the Daily Mail reported. However, the researchers assume there are many more people affected. "Those who suffer from uncombable hair do not necessarily seek help for this from a doctor or hospital," said Professor Regina Betz from the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Bonn. Betz and her colleagues sequenced the genes of 11 children with the condition and compared them to data on large genetic databases, and found mutations in three genes involved in forming hair. "From the mutations found, a huge amount can be learned about the mechanisms involved in forming healthy hair, and why disorders sometimes occur," said Betz. "At the same time, we can now secure the clinical diagnosis of 'uncombable hair' with molecular genetic methods." Luckily, while unruly hair may cause stress and anxiety, there are no health problems associated with the condition. And at least we'll have something else to blame for our frizz from now on, other than "the humidity".

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