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January 1992

The Follicular Degeneration Syndrome in Black Patients: `Hot Comb Alopecia' Revisited and Revised

Author Affiliations


From the Dermatology Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC.

Arch Dermatol. 1992;128(1):68-74. doi:10.1001/archderm.1992.01680110078010

• Background.—  The history, physical examination, and histologic findings in 10 black women with a common, distinctive form of scarring alopecia (formerly called hot comb alopecia) were retrospectively studied. A detailed history of hair care habits was obtained, and scalp biopsy specimens were examined after both vertical and transverse sectioning.

Observations.—  Poor correlation is noted between the usage of a hot comb and the onset or progression of disease. The earliest observable histologic abnormality is the premature desquamation of the inner root sheath. In severely affected follicles this is followed by a chain of histologic events leading to complete follicular degeneration.

Conclusions.—  The term follicular degeneration syndrome (FDS) is proposed for this clinically and histologically distinct form of scarring alopecia. Historical information is incompatible with the hypothesis that hot comb usage causes the alopecia. It remains unclear whether the use of any of a variety of hair care products and techniques plays a role in the pathogenesis of this condition. Premature desquamation of the inner root sheath serves as a histologic marker for FDS follicular degeneration syndrome, and may be an important pathogenetic factor.(Arch Dermatol. 1992;128:68-74)