May 18th, 2017 Written by Dr. Muhamad Usman
Are you alarmed by the sudden increase in tufts of your hair falling out? If you’re a smoker then there is a huge probability that this habit is contributing to your hair loss. It’s especially worrisome for females because of the cosmetic effects.
But what links smoking to hair loss? Here is a list of factors linking smoking and women’s hair loss to consider.
Increased Levels of DHT
Medical studies have proved that female smokers have higher levels of androgenic hormones such as dihydrotestosterone or DHT- the culprit responsible for androgenic alopecia (female pattern hair loss) (i). It causes thinning of hair and is leading cause of female hair loss.
Hypertension Elevates Rate of Hair Fall
It is a widely known fact that smoking causes hypertension or raised blood pressure. This leads to many cardiovascular disturbances and blood circulation maladies. Moreover, hypertension due to smoking adds-up to already high DHT levels (ii). Results of a study showed that hypertension is one of the most important factors contributing to female alopecia (iii).
Stress & Smoking
The rate of hair loss in women is affected by a large range of lifestyle factors related to high degree of stress (IV). Women with hair loss suffer from mental anxiety and body image issues. Couple this stress with a smoking habit and the situation goes from bad to worse.
Smokers increase tobacco use during mental distress because nicotine seems to improve mood and alleviate stress. Starting from one cigarette a day, smoking becomes a habit. So, the negative effects of anxiety on hair growth are reinforced by the toxic effects of smoking, and a vicious cycle ensues.
Nicotine & Hair Loss
Hair follicles are surrounded by a rich supply of blood vessels and capillaries, which carry oxygen and nutrients to these follicle. This supply makes growth of healthy hair possible. Nicotine is a stimulant in tobacco- the main reason for cigarette addiction.
The effects of nicotine on hair follicles are devastating. Nicotine decreases the supply of blood to the hair follicles. Also, it increases oxidative stress and associated hair damage (V).
Medical experts agree to the fact that smoking causes premature aging of skin and hair. There are many reasons to why this happens. First, smoking decreases blood supply to hair follicles, leading to their permanent death. Second, smoking also increases the level of body toxins- oxidative stress- and this further speeds up hair graying, thinning and falling (VI) (VII).
Smoking & Auto-Immune Hair Loss
Smoking is known to trigger immune system in an aberrant way. This causes body attacking its own tissues- something known as “auto-immunity”. One example is lupus. Smoking promotes auto-immunity risks and accelerates inflammation in the body (VIII). Auto-immunity is an important cause of hair loss in females (IX).
Harmful Effects on Liver
The liver is the filter of human body. All the substances that enter our body, beneficial or toxic, are at some point dealt by the liver. Therefore, toxic chemicals present in cigarettes also reach the liver. Unfortunately, these toxins damage the liver by causing pre-mature death of liver cells. Excessive smoking, therefore, damages the liver. Harm to the liver cells suppresses immune functions of the body, which accelerate hair loss (X).
In addition to nicotine, cigarette contains countless other toxins, like tar and carbon monoxide, which contribute to aging and graying of hair and death of hair follicles. All these features add up and result in accelerated hair loss.
Quit Smoking and Women’s Hair Loss May Improve – Need More Reasons?
Smoking is an injurious indulgence that causes a plethora of side effects- hair loss is one of them. Hair loss leads to low self-esteem and body image problems. If you want to regain your healthy hair and spend life as a confident, healthy female, it is highly recommended that you avoid smoking especially in excessive amounts. Shunning this habit may seem hard at first, but its long term benefits are well worth the effort.
If you’re interested in quitting, check out the following resources:
Do you have an experience with smoking and hair loss? Please leave a comment below the references.
I. Jandíková H, Dušková M, Šimůnková K, et al. How smoking cessation influence hormonal levels in postmenopausal women? Prague Med Rep. 2014; 115(1-2):60-6.
II. Ahouansou S1, Le Toumelin P, Crickx B, et al. Association of androgenetic alopecia and hypertension. Eur J Dermatol. 2007 May-Jun; 17(3):220-2.
III. Gatherwright J1, Liu MT, Gliniak C, et al. The contribution of endogenous and exogenous factors to female alopecia: a study of identical twins. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2012 Dec; 130(6):1219-26.
IV. Ralf Paus, and Petra Arck. Neuroendocrine Perspectives in Alopecia Areata: Does Stress Play a Role? Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2009) 129, 1324–1326.
V. Rajendrasingh J Rajput. Controversy: Is There a Role for Adjuvants in the Management of Male Pattern Hair Loss? J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010 May-Aug; 3(2): 82–86.
VI. Trüeb RM. Association between smoking and hair loss: another opportunity for health education against smoking? Dermatology. 2003;206(3):189-91.
VII. Ralph M Trüeb. Oxidative Stress in Ageing of Hair. Int J Trichology. 2009 Jan-Jun; 1(1): 6–14.
VIII. Lee, et al. Cigarette Smoking and Inflammation. J Dent Res. 2012 Feb; 91(2): 142–149.
IX. Alexis AF, Dudda-Subramanya R, Sinha AA. Alopecia areata: autoimmune basis of hair loss. Eur J Dermatol. 2004 Nov-Dec;14(6):364-70.