Smoking makes your hair fall out: Fact or fiction?

Cigarettes and their harmful effects are already widely discussed. New, alarming warnings continually find their way onto cigarette packets so will the next one read ‘Smoking causes premature hair loss’? The latest research results do infer that additional motivation could exist to stop smoking...

Programmed cell-death – smoking damages the hair follicles

Even healthy cells have a limited lifespan. Each cell in your body has a kind of ‘self-destruction program’ that leads to the cell first shrinking and then dying at a certain time. This is designed to ensure that the number of cells in the body does not grow immeasurably and that degenerate cells are broken down. Smoking appears to be a factor that activates this self-destruct program in the cell prior to the natural point in time when it would start and thus greatly reduces its lifespan. This effect has been proven in animal testing for hair follicles affected by cigarette smoke.

Changes to hormonal balance could also be a reason

Nicotine has the effect of impeding estrogen. This hormone, which promotes hair growth in women, among other things, has the exact opposite effect if its level in the body is too low: hair loss. Many women notice this problem around the time of a pregnancy, when estrogen levels first rise and then fall again after the birth, and later in life when the menopause causes fluctuations in hormone levels. Besides these natural processes other factors, such as smoking, can have a negative effect on the estrogen level and promote diffuse or hormonal hair loss in women.

Smoking intensifies the effect of androgenetic alopecia

Genetic hair loss is the most common reason for hair loss in both men and women. In short, an oversensitivity of the hair follicle to a degradation product of the male hormone testosterone causes long-term atrophy of the follicle and causes it to die, making further hair growth impossible at this location. The probability of being affected by this form of hair loss is almost doubled if a person smokes. If cigarette consumption is greater than one pack a day, then this increase in probability even rises to 130%. So it does not depend on smoking alone – the quantity is also important.

Hair loss diagnosis requires a precise medical history

Hair loss is a broad field that is being increasingly studied by scientists. This is understandable, as we know that loss of hair on the head leads to great emotional pressure and a loss of self-esteem in most people. However, the cause of hair loss can also be a combination of different factors and that is why the diagnosis must be made carefully. Often there is too much focus placed on the purely medical factors and not enough attention is given to the fact that lifestyle and the psyche influence our hair growth. According to these findings, smoking seems to be one factor in hair loss that cannot be ignored and that is why we should not underestimate the risk of the – supposed – enjoyment of nicotine.

From cigarettes to bald spots