Kassim Robinson used to hide his head under a heap of dreadlocks. But now the 30-year-old nurse wears his hair short, thanks to surgery to smooth out his "brainy" scalp.
Robinson, of Summit, N.J., has cutis verticis gyrata or CVG, a rare disorder that thickens the scalp into folds that make it look like the surface of a brain.
"I always had a lot of skin on my head," said Robinson, who was diagnosed with CVG in high school after getting a haircut. "I went to the barber and he said, 'Wow, there's a lot of wrinkles on your head.'"
Robinson finally had a name for his disorder, but there was no cure. Hence the dreadlocks.
"I would try to hide the wrinkles in my head," he said, describing the "emotional, psychological" toll of the disorder, not to mention the pain. "There was so much skin and thickness on the top of my head. It caused constant, 24-hour tension."
Robinson's scalp was four times thicker than normal, rising roughly an inch from his skull, according to Dr. Ramtin Kassir.
"It was really debilitating, both cosmetically and functionally," said Kassir, a New York City-based plastic surgeon who operated on Robinson.
In two two-hour surgeries, Kassir removed giant swaths of Robinson's thickened scalp and stretched the remaining skin over his skull.
"I'd never done this before," said Kassir, who specializes in face lifts and hair transplants and had only seen CVG in medical textbooks. "But he insisted."
Now, four weeks after the second surgery, Robinson said he feels like a new man.
"It's perfect," he said of his new, smooth scalp, adding that he can finally wear his short "like he likes it."
"No more dreadlocks, no more 'fros, no more flat tops," he said.
Robinson said he also has relief from the pain.
"Now there's no more tension because there's not a cascade of skin cuddling together," he said. "He changed my life drastically. I'm so happy."