Can Smoking Trigger Hair Loss And Hair Fall?

“Smokers are liable to die young” that’s the information you’ll find on the packs of many cigarettes. The reason for that is, it’s already been scientifically proven that smoking cigarettes can increase your odds of developing respiratory and cancer illnesses. 

A 2018 study indicated that tobacco smoke contained over 7000 chemicals and among all those chemicals, at least 69 of them have been known to cause cancer. What happens is, when you inhale those chemicals, they travel to your bloodstream from your lungs and from your blood spread to other parts of your body and start impacting many aspects of your health negatively. 

It’s now a known fact that smoking is bad for the lungs but can smoking trigger hair loss and hair fall? The short answer is yes. Hair loss fall associated with smoking is one of the lesser-known side effects of smoking. 

Hair loss is associated with smoking and the reason for that isn’t exactly clear although it’s thought that there are many contributing factors. That’s why in this article, we’ll dig deeper into the different ways through which smoking can cause hair loss. 

How smoking triggers hair loss

Smoking can increase the risk of developing hair loss and can potentially damage your hair follicles. To further buttress that point, a 2020 study compared the prevalence of early-onset androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness) in male nonsmokers and smokers between the age of 20 – 35 years.

The results of the study indicated that 200 out of 500 non-smokers showed signs of hair loss while 425 out of 500 smokers showed some degree of hair loss. The researchers discovered that 47% of the smokers had grade 3 hair loss (the grade 3 hair loss is identified by deep recession along the hairline on the Hamilton-Norwood scale) and 24% had grade 4 (balding at the vertex). For the non-smokers, only 10% of the participants reached grade 3 or 4.

Due to the results of that study, researchers were able to conclude that nicotine and other related chemicals may be responsible for accelerating hair fall and hair loss although more research is required to back up this theory. 

The body reaction to hair loss is sending blood flow to the scalp and your hair follicles will be able to derive the needed oxygen and hair building nutrient growth. Smoking contributes to hair loss by reducing the blood flow to your hair follicles and by causing oxidative stress.

How does oxidative stress result in hair loss?

When you smoke, your body produces more free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can potentially damage the DNA of your cells and can easily react to other molecules in your body.

Once there’s an excessive amount of free radical activity in your body, it can be said that you are undergoing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can be caused by tobacco smoke, ultraviolet rays, pollution, and radiation. 

In a study carried out in 2003, researchers then proposed that the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke could damage the DNA of cells in your hair follicles. Damage to the DNA of those cells could potentially lead to impaired hair growth.

A more recent 2018 research review showed that the cells found in the hair follicles of balding scalps were particularly sensitive to oxidative stress.

Is there a relationship between reduced blood flow to the hair follicles and smoking?

Yes, there is. The chemicals found in tobacco can impact your circulation and cardiovascular health negatively. Smoking can also cause a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels and that increases the risk of developing conditions like heart attacks, blood clots, and stroke.

It’s common knowledge that the blood vessels nourish your hair follicles through the delivery of nutrients and the elimination of waste. Therefore impaired blood flow to the scalp which can be caused by smoking can potentially lead to hair damage and hair loss.

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