Take for example a woman in a concentration camp, how her hair slowly becomes more unmanageable/mangy the longer she's there because she isn't using all of the tinctures and conditioners she used to use before.

Example sentence: "She wanted nothing more than lotion for her cracked skin and conditioner for her atrophied hair."

If this is NOT correct or even the most fitting word, would you tell me what would work best without saying "slowly getting more dry and frizzy"?


Interestingly, it seems that this use might be acceptable.

From Collins via The Free Dictionaries

atrophy (ˈætrəfɪ) n, pl -phies

  1. (Pathology) a wasting away of an organ or part, or a failure to grow to normal size as the result of disease, faulty nutrition, etc
  2. any degeneration or diminution, esp through lack of use

vb, -phies, -phying or -phied to waste away or cause to waste away

So, the implication is that there is degeneration or wasting away. And this could apply to each individual hair. They're frizzy because they've wasted away, individual scales have fallen off and the hair is dry.

That said, I would consider it an unusual choice of words in this context given definition 1 above. It's more usual to apply this to an organ or some fleshy part. You can tell that from the synonyms given in thesaurus.com:

atrophied attenuated famished lean shrivelled starved thin undernourished withered anorexic bony gaunt haggard lank scrawny skeletal skin-and-bones skinny underfed

And also from the ngrams. If you follow the links to the few cases where "atrophied hair" is actually used, it is normally along with "follicles".

My own preference, would be to use malnourished. If you check with a quick google search, "malnourished hair" gets about 6x the hits that "atrophied hair" does. The conditioner would provide nourishment for the hair. It's probably a safer choice.

| improve this answer | |
  • If this is acceptable, it's only because people have been brainwashed to think that hair is alive. Likewise for nourish. – michael.hor257k Jan 21 '19 at 12:06
  • @michael.hor257k I did think that maybe the advertising wizards had got me. But given that I do my hoovering with a Dyson, they probably got me long ago! Maybe the word choice should simply be "unmanageable hair"? – Pam Jan 22 '19 at 13:20

A simple google search reveals that the term "atrophy" has been used time and again in the field of Medicine, but my own preference would be "deteriorated" or even "malnourished" like Pam has mentioned above.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.