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Were you born with two differently colored eyelashes, or is your hair adorned with scattered patches of a lighter color? Or did these conditions appear later in life? You may be wondering what the cause behind this strange phenomenon is, as well as why you haven't found any answers to date. 

What Is Poliosis?

Poliosis,or poliosis circumscripta, is a condition in which localized areas of white hair appear in random places. Though the hair on the scalp is most commonly affected by poliosis, the condition can indeed strike any area of hair on the body, including eyebrows, eyelashes, pubic hair, and the hair elsewhere on your body. Most often, people who have poliosis will only have one "white patch", but poliosis can also lead to multiple patches.

Poliosis is caused by a complete lack of pigment, or a reduction of pigment, within the follicles of the affected area. The the hair bulbs lack melanocytes, but the skin which the hairs in question covers can remain completely unafflicted. 

What Causes Poliosis?

Poliosis is strongly associated with several genetic conditions that also impact melanization, the distribution of pigment on your body. 

These conditions include:

  • Vitiligo: A condition in which portions of the skin and sometimes the mucus membranes lose their pigment. 
  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disorder in which localized bald patches appear. 
  • Waardenburg syndrome: A rare genetic condition that causes deafness, neural crest defects, and pigmentation changes.
  • Piebaldism: Another rare genetic condition also characterized by white patches of skin on the forehead. 
  • Tuberous sclerosis: A genetic disorder that causes seizures and developmental delays as well as pigmentation anomalies.

Poliosis can, in addition to these and some other genetic and autoimmune conditions, also be the result of receiving radiotherapy treatment, appear after an infection such as shingles, and as a side effect of certain medications. 

Can Poliosis Be Treated?

First of all, although poliosis is linked with some debilitating medical conditions — as briefly discussed above — the lack of pigmentation within localized patches of your hair is not, in itself, dangerous in any form. Stand-alone poliosis is not any any way something that actually needs to be treated.

Where an underlying diagnosis has been reached, poliosis may, in some cases, be treatable. However, in the majority of poliosis cases, no medical treatment is possible. In such cases, cosmetic options can offer help — should your poliosis bother you, that is. Many hair dyes depend on pigment to "catch", and as such we have to warn you that attempts to dye the patches of hair affected by poliosis are going to be offering you very unpredictable results at best. Having said that, if you really do wish to dye your hair, continued experimentation will likely help you find a dye that works for you. 

Poliosis is, however, something that makes you pretty unique: it is amazingly (perhaps impossible) to find prevalence rates for this phenomenon. Though you may receive some odd looks and comments as a result of your poliosis this pigment anomaly is also a pretty interesting talking point and something that is simply part of you.

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