7-year-old Shilah Yin is one of only around 100 people in the world with a condition known as “uncombable hair syndrome”. Instead of downwards, her hair grows out from the scalp in multiple directions, and can’t be combed flat.
Shilah, from Melbourne, Australia, was born with normal hair, but her parents noticed a strawberry blond fuzz growing on her scalp when she was 3 months old. From then on, her hair started growing straight out and became even blonder. The girl noticed her unusual hair when she was about 4, after it started getting a lot of attention from other children and adults. It made her feel uneasy at first, but after her parents told her it was special, she embraced her unique look.
“Shilah loves her unique hair, but that has come from constant positive reinforcement at home from friends and family,” her mother, Celeste Calvert-Yin, told TODAY. “As a little, little girl she often told us she was like a unicorn as they are very special and unique just like her. It brought a tear to our eye.”
The unruly hair is very tough to manage. Her mother sprays it with a detangling solution every morning, and spends 10-20 minutes combing it very gently with a wide-tooth comb. Her father then blow-dries to make it nice and fluffy, just the way Shilah likes it.
The Australian family didn’t know about uncombable hair syndrome until last year, but now want to educate others about the condition, and the best way to do that has been through Instagram, where they often post photos of Shilah’s rebel mane. They also tell people about it whenever they ask bout the girl’s unusual-looking hairdo. Many of them think they are joking when they here about the condition, “but we say, ‘Just Google it and you will see,'” Calvert-Yin said.
According to the National Institute of Health, uncombable hair syndrome usually appears during childhood and is more frequent in children with silvery-blond or straw-colored hair. The condition is believed to be genetic – although no one in Shilah’s family has had this condition – and scientists believe that it is caused by certain genes involved in hair shaft formation.
There is no known cure for uncomable hair syndrome, but evidence shows that as children grow up, their hair texture typically becomes more manageable, and sometimes returns to normal.