E-cigarettes and hair loss

Sept 26, 2019 | By Dr. Sangay Bhutia (Hair Transplant Specialist in Delhi)

Biotin for hair loss

It's fashionable to switch from cigarettes to vaping or e-cigarettes today. It is considered the 'healthier' option which is also more cool, stylish and perhaps socially acceptable. And it will feed your habit, without you suffering the bad effects of smoke and tar. There is certainly a myth that is created around it, for it’s a new product and the consumer is excited to own it. But questions about e-cigarettes remain—is it really as 'healthy' as it is made out to be? Is it fuelling addiction? Does it not impact our immune system? And what about the ageing process? Does it not expedite it? Is it not bad for your skin and hair?

It is all of the above and more questions that remain unanswered about e-cigarettes. Let’s first understand how e-cigarettes work. They essentially deliver nicotine in the form of vapour rather than smoke, which means that no tobacco is burnt in the process. And since they are a relatively new product, which has been around only since 2004, their dangerous side effects are slowly being discovered.

Research suggests that e-cigarettes and nicotine are associated with cardiovascular diseases. They potentially impair the body's ability to fight and weaken the immune system. According to a recent study e-cigarette users were about 50% more likely to suffer a heart attack and 30% more likely to suffer a stroke than non-users. And for someone who is very particular about their skin and hair, there is more bad news. E-cigarettes and vaping can lead to hair loss as well.

Studies in the past few years have documented multifactorial mechanisms by which nicotine can cause hair loss. Research has established how using e-cigarettes and vaping can create toxins which can temporarily slowdown the natural flow of blood and oxygen within our bodies – including to the hair follicles. Due to restrictive flow of blood and oxygen our hair remains undernourished and over a period of time weakens and will eventually fall off the scalp.

The relationship between smoking and hair loss has been long established. People understand that smoking can damage the body in various ways but whether e-cigarettes are capable of having similar effects on the body are yet to be established. Smoking, according to research, produces gene toxicants that can cause damage to the DNA of hair follicles. Whereas smoke induces imbalances in the follicular protease systems that impacts the hair growth cycle. Smoking is also related to follicular micro-inflammation and fibrosis which are known to play an important role in androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. Whether e-cigarettes can have the same effect is yet to be discovered, however some researchers say that vaping and smoking can have a similar effect on the human body.

The human body is a complex, interconnected whole. Any organ or part cannot be viewed in isolation. Smoking, e-cigarettes, vaping and the like - all impact the body in myriad ways. The degree of impact might vary but it is beyond doubt that it weakens our immune system and makes us look older than we are. It is no surprise then that greying, thinning and eventual hair loss are common problems that habitual users of tobacco, nicotine and e-cigarettes confront.

To keep our body nourished, skin lively and healthy hair, it is advised that we consume a diet that is rich in protein, zinc, vitamins and iron. However, nicotine which is present in e-cigarettes can impair our body's ability to absorb nutrients. Moreover, it can potentially lead to a loss of appetite, resulting in undernourishment and making the body vulnerable to diseases.

Other than a good diet, doctors advice regular exercise to combat hair loss. It not only helps you fight stress—which is a big reason for hair loss. But it also improves blood flow to the scalp. It, quite literally, helps your hair breathe and stay strong.

If you are troubled by hair loss and are also addicted to nicotine, e-cigarettes, or vaping then it is time to re-evaluate your priorities. Healthy hair comes at a cost. The question is—are you willing to pay it?

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