Not many children will sit still to have their hair combed. Now, imagine if the act of brushing a child’s hair caused them genuine physical pain. No child would stick around for such torture, but there are some children around the world who experience this due to a genetic condition.
Uncombable hair syndrome, according to the National Institutes of Health, is when a child’s hair does not grow downward but outward due to a gene mutation. Usually developing between infancy and the age of 3, uncombable hair syndrome is characterized by dry, frizzy, light-colored hair that cannot lay flat.
Some frustrated parents might even label it “uncontrollable”:
i still ain't over this uncontrollable hair syndrome thing bc if it's real then abriella has it and she needs treatment asap ?? pic.twitter.com/48Po9FBnmC
— adriana? (@a_danae__) August 4, 2017
The condition’s name implies exact that. Hair cannot be brushed easily, and some mothers report that trying to put their child’s hair in a ponytail or similar style causes pain — so hair must remain loose and free.
There are about 100 reported cases of the syndrome, but it’s believed there are many more as it usually disappears by adolescence leaving some adults to never know they had it.
One North Carolina mother recently shared with the Mirror that her toddler’s hair is so unruly that she’s worried she’ll be accused of child neglect.
Jamie Braswell explained that at just 21 months old, her daughter, Phoebe, has already been the subject of ridicule by passing strangers:
“Every morning she wakes up and it’s standing on end. It’s like permanent bedhead.
Whenever we go out it’s not, ‘Oh, she is so cute,’ it’s ‘Oh my gracious her hair is crazy. You got a hold of a balloon, didn’t you?’
We were in the grocery store once and a lady said, ‘She is going to hate you when she looks at her baby photos because you let her go out in public like that.’
People say, ‘You should brush it better. Why don’t you put it in a ponytail?’ But that hurts her.
Every morning it is sticking straight up and throughout the day I try and spray stuff in it to keep it down, but within 30 minutes it’s spiky again.”
The mother of two added that it’s tough for her family to go out in public because her daughter is recognized instantly for her hair; however, she loves her daughter’s unique attribute and finds her uncombable hair “beautiful.”
Like Braswell, other parents find uncombable hair syndrome to be their child’s crowning glory.
Australian mom, Celeste Calvert-Yin, shares pictures of her daughter’s uncombable hair syndrome to show other families dealing with the condition that there is nothing to be ashamed about.
As Today reports, Calvert-Yin explained that her daughter, Shilah, began growing “strawberry blond fuzz” when she was three months old. The hair continued growing straight out and never past its current length.
As a result, every morning Calvert-Yin must detangle her daughter’s hair for up to 20 minutes — a routine she said the 7-year-old hates. Calvert-Yin said:
“Her favorite part of her hair routine is when her dad blow-dries it for her. Together they manage to comb and dry her hair so that it looks super fluffy. Shilah loves it.”
Shilah prefers wearing her hair loose or in braids, as clips, headbands, and ponytails hurt her scalp, according to Today.
Although Calvert-Yin has worked hard to instill a sense of pride in her daughter for her hair, she told Today that having such unique hair doesn’t come without its burdens.
Strangers will take photos of Shilah without permission or randomly touch her hair. The mom’s also heard snide remarks made about her daughter from people passing by.
Still, Calvert-Yin insists her daughter embrace her uniqueness by helping her understand that standing out is a good thing. As she told Today, at first the attention made her daughter uncomfortable but now she revels in it:
“Since then she has never really looked back… and now thrives on all the attention. […]
Shilah has the most confident, individual personality I know and it just adds to her character.”
Calvert-Yin added that Shilah has found comfort knowing there are other little girls in the world just like her.