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Ultrastruct Pathol. 2001 Mar-Apr;25(2):99-103.

Uncombable hair (cheveux incoiffables, pili trianguli et canaliculi) syndrome: brief review and role of scanning electron microscopy in diagnosis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston 77030-2399, USA.


Uncombable hair syndrome was first described some 3 decades ago as "cheveux incoiffables" and is also known as spun-glass hair and pili trianguli et canaliculi. Both inherited (autosomal dominant and recessive with variable levels of penetrance) and sporadic forms of uncombable hair syndrome have been described, both being characterized by scalp hair that is impossible to comb due to the haphazard arrangement of the hair bundles. A characteristic morphologic feature of hair in this syndrome is a triangular to reniform to heart shape on cross-sections, and a groove, canal or flattening along the entire length of the hair in at least 50% of hairs examined by scanning electron microscopy. Most individuals are affected early in childhood and the hair takes on a spun-glass appearance with the hair becoming dry, curly, glossy, lighter in color, and progressively uncombable. Only the scalp hair is affected. Several conditions are associated with uncombable hair, such as ectodermal dysplasia, retinal dysplasia/pigmentary dystrophy, juvenile cataract, digit abnormalities, tooth enamel anomalies, oligodontia, and phalangoepiphyseal dysplasia. Other syndromes with hair abnormalities may also mimic uncombable hair syndrome clinically and these include, Rapp-Hodgkin ectodermal dysplasia; loose anagen hair syndrome; ectodermal dysplasia, ectrodatyly, cleft lip/palate (EEC) syndrome; and familial tricho-odonto-onchyial ectodermal dysplasia with syndactyly. Unlike other conditions with an uncombable hair component, uncombable hair syndrome alone (cheveux incoiffables, pili trianguli et canaliculi) is not associated with physical, neurologic, or mental abnormalities. In most cases of uncombable hair syndrome, the hair is grossly abnormal in infancy and early childhood, but may have improved manageability later in life. Scanning electron microscopy of hair samples provides definitive evidence for diagnosis of clinically suspected uncombable hair syndrome and eliminates other hair abnormalities from the differential diagnosis.

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