Smoking and Hair Loss

October 16, 2018 | By Dr. Sangay Bhutia (Hair Transplant Specialist in Delhi)

Smoking and Hair Loss

Waiting for a friend, let me light a cigarette. At a bar drinking, let me light a cigarette. Anxious before an interview, let me, once again, light a cigarette! What we end up doing is, punctuating our lives with a smoke – often habitually. But, do we know that apart from other problems that smoking can cause – it can actually lead to hair loss?

There is indisputable evidence to prove that smoking tobacco leads to increased risk of heart diseases, cancer and pre-mature ageing. In addition to that, recent studies have proved quite convincingly that smoking does lead to hair loss! Lets try and understand how.

Smoking hampers 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 remain undernourished and over a period time weakens and will eventually fall off the scalp.

In addition, a study published recently in the journal of dermatology has stated quite clearly that there are multifactorial mechanisms by which smoking causes hair loss. Smoke genetoxicants can cause damage to the DNA of hair follicles. Smoke induces imbalances in the follicular protease systems that impacts hair growth cycle. Moreover, smoking can have a direct bearing on follicular micro- inflammation and fibrosis.

Chemicals present in smoke can cause production of free radicals thereby causing oxidative stress. This may lead to release of certain signals from follicles which can cause inhibition of growth of hair follicles. Free radicals can also cause damage of the cellular structure leading to molecular imbalance of hair follicle. Free radical formation by smoking may cause early catagen phase leading to decreased follicular growth and ultimately hair loss.

Researchers have also been for years trying to understand whether smoking accelerates genetic hair loss or androgenic alopecia. Although there is no clear evidence but the studies have concluded that there is a possibility that smoking can speed up permanent hair loss.

Studies, which compared smokers and non-smokers over the age of 40, have found that smokers were more susceptible to severe hair loss. In some cases genetic balding starts early in smokers.

It is important to understand that organs in our bodies are not operating in isolation. They are a part of the whole. And if one gets affected, it impacts the body in myriad ways. Smoking is linked to a weakened immune system. It decreases our bodies ability to fight toxic external agents and makes us more susceptible to a variety of diseases. It impacts our blood pressure, increases heart-related ailments, and makes us vulnerable to cancerous growths. It expedites the ageing process which also affects our hair. Greying, thinning and eventual hair loss are common problems that habitual smokers confront.

It is common knowledge that food rich in protein, vitamins, iron and zinc are extremely critical for healthy hair. Smoking tobacco leads to loss of appetite and eventual undernourishment of the body. This directly impacts our hair and retards growth. It is for this very reason doctors recommend that if you feel the urge to smoke – eat instead!

In addition to eating a nutritious diet – doctors also advice that we exercise regularly. It helps us stay healthy and fight stress – which is a major reason for hair loss. Smoking impedes our ability to exercise to our fullest potential. It induces lethargy and in affect, impacts our looks and hair growth.

The reasons for hair loss are many and often interrelated. If you are experiencing premature greying, thinning and hair loss, then we recommend that you eat well, exercise and do not punctuate your life with a cigarette. And yes, meet your doctor as soon. Let them blow away your worries with personalised care.

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