A side effect of Smoking you didn’t know about. Can smoking cause hair loss?
18th September 2023
The effects of smoking are widely known, with cancer and health warnings on cigarette packaging and adverts highlighting the dangers . But hair loss may be a side effect of smoking which you aren’t as aware of.
Does smoking cause hair loss?
Having a smoking habit can cause hair loss, or hair thinning, in some people. Several studies have confirmed a link between smoking and early-onset hair loss, with one 2020 study https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.13727 finding a strong correlation between consistent smoking and early-onset androgenetic alopecia, a form of hair loss that affects both men and women. Out of the 500 smokers who took part in this study, 425 of them had experienced some degree of hair loss, whereas, in comparison, only 200 of those who didn’t smoke showed signs of hair loss. The degree of hair loss was also found to be more severe in those who smoked, with approximately 47% of the smokers in the study suffering from deep recession along the hairline or hairline recession and vertex balding, with this only being found in 10% of the non-smokers in the study. There have also been studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology and Archives of Dermatology with similar findings between heavy smoking and hair loss.
So, what about smoking causes hair loss?
Does nicotine cause hair loss?
Smoking causes Oxidative Stress – an excessive amount of free radical activity in the body. Free radicals are molecules that react with other molecules in the body. If the body has an excess of these molecules, they can potentially cause damage to the DNA of the body’s cells, ultimately affecting the hair follicles. Overproduction of free radicals, and Oxidative Stress, can also be caused by:
- UV rays
In Fact, the doctors at the Farjo Hair Institute were directly involved in the seminal peer reviewed research published here in 2015, Oxidative Stress–Associated Senescence in Dermal Papilla Cells of Men with Androgenetic Alopecia – Journal of Investigative Dermatology (jidonline.org)
There is also research that links the damage of DNA of the hair follicles to the toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke https://karger.com/drm/article-abstract/206/3/189/110956/Association-between-Smoking-and-Hair-Loss-Another?redirectedFrom=fulltext which can potentially lead to poor hair growth.
The chemicals in tobacco and nicotine found in cigarettes can negatively impact cardiovascular health and circulation, restricting the blood flow in the body. This can see regular smokers experiencing premature balding or hair loss due to the reduced blood flow to the hair follicles. Regularly subjecting the body to tobacco reduces the flow of blood, as it damages the heart and the connecting vessels, thus meaning the amount and the quality of nutrients which make their way to the hair follicle are reduced. This can speed up the hair loss process and can damage the hair remaining on the scalp, with the possibility of it causing the hair to become brittle and dry and break off.
Hair damage due to smoking isn’t just related to balding or hair loss. Regular smoking can also impact the greying of the hair, with a 2013 study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673399/ linking smoking to the early onset of hair losing its colour pigment and turning grey before the age of 30. The hair of a regular smoker will also potentially turn drier and brittle prematurely and at a young age due to Oxidative Stress.
What about vaping?
Does vaping cause hair loss?
Approximately 3.5 million adults now vape regularly in the UK, with vaping being one of the popular alternatives to smoking. Although vaping does slightly reduce the chances of developing health conditions due to the habit, E-Cigarettes are not toxic-free.
So, can vaping cause hair loss? Vaping has yet to be studied to the same extent as smoking, but it is suggested that the habit can have the same effect on hair follicles due to cigarettes and E-cigarettes both containing the same chemicals and nicotine. With the user still being exposed, the hair loss pattern with smoking and vaping is very similar. Vaping can still cause restricted blood and oxygen flow to the blood vessels and hair follicles, reducing the amount of nutrients making their way to the scalp. And with nicotine, the addictive element, still being present in vapes, the continued addictive usage is what will prolong and potentially worsen the hair loss symptoms.
What happens if I quit? Will my hair grow back?
If the experienced hair loss is related to smoking or vaping, giving up the habit will enable the hair to start repairing itself but will take time. If quitting for good, the free radical cells will decrease eventually, meaning that Oxidative Stress will no longer create such a big impact because of the reduced tobacco intake. Quitting for good will also make estragon levels rise, so any hair which does grow back will have more chance of being stronger and thicker.