Need another reason to quit smoking? We all know smoking contributes to heart disease, vascular disease and lung cancer but health risks alone have not motivated some people to finally quit. Smoking has been linked to early skin aging and studies have now confirmed, it also contributes to hair loss and premature graying. So while health reasons may not be enough to push people to stop, maybe vanity will.
In 2007, researchers in Taiwan tested whether smoking contributes to hair loss in Asian men who typically are not as likely to suffer from androgenic hair loss as often as Caucasian or European men. The researchers surveyed 740 Taiwanese men between the ages of 40-91.The results confirmed what had been suspected; men who smoked had a greater amount of hair loss than those who did not, even after correcting for age and family history.
A previous epidemiological study in the BMJ, examined approximately 600 men and women, half of which were smokers, to determine if smoking contributed to premature graying and hair loss. They found a significant relationship between smoking and graying in both men and women and a link between smoking and baldness in men.
Smoking is believed to affect hair in a number of ways. The microcirculation of the hair dermal papilla (the area at the base of the hair follicle) constricts so less nourishment arrives to assist in new hair growth. The dermal papilla is where new cells are formed pushing older cells forward to become part of a new hair shaft in the follicle. The receptors for hormones or androgens are also in the dermal papilla so if they become damaged, hair growth is affected.
Androgenic hair loss affects both men and women though to men at a greater extent. In men, hair loss is typically at the hairline and they develop baldness. Women usually experience diffuse hair loss all over their scalp. During androgenic hair loss, large active follicles shrink into less active ones causing hair growth to thin and diminish with each cycle of hair growth until the hair eventually stops growing altogether.
Toxins from the smoking are also thought to damage the DNA of the hair follicle impairing growth. Smoking may also lead to an increased release of inflammatory factors leading to chronic micro-inflammation of the hair follicle.
Smoking is a difficult habit to kick. Though improving one’s health is the most logical reason to quit, people are driven by different needs. If someone you know hasn’t been able to make that very important decision, remind them that smoking not only affects the inside hidden parts of their body, but also one area that we always notice in others—our hair.
Trüeb RM, Dermatology. 2003;206(3):189-91. Association between smoking and hair loss: another opportunity for health education against smoking? accessed at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12673073
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele can be read at http://www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles