Many people know that smoking tobacco increases your chances of developing lung cancer and respiratory illness. But the negative health effects of smoking aren’t restricted to your lungs.
A 2018 study showed that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. When you breathe in these chemicals, they can travel from your lungs to your bloodstream. From your blood, they can spread to other parts of your body and negatively impact many aspects of your health.
One of the lesser-known side effects of smoking is an increased chance of developing hair loss. It’s not exactly clear why smoking is associated with hair loss, but it’s thought that there are many contributing factors.
Keep reading as we dig deeper into the many ways smoking may cause hair loss.
Smoking tobacco can potentially damage your hair follicles and increase your risk of developing hair loss.
A 2020 study compared the prevalence of early-onset androgenetic alopecia in male smokers and nonsmokers between 20 to 35 years old. Androgenetic alopecia is also known as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness.
The researchers found that 425 out of 500 smokers had some degree of hair loss while only 200 of 500 nonsmokers showed signs of hair loss.
On the Hamilton-Norwood scale of hair loss, grade 3 is identified by deep recession along the hairline. At grade 4, there’s balding at your vertex.
The researchers found that 47 percent of the smokers had grade 3 hair loss and 24 percent had grade 4. Only 10 percent of nonsmokers reached grades 3 or 4.
The researchers concluded that nicotine and related chemicals might be responsible for accelerating hair loss, but more research is needed to back this theory.
Smoking may also cause oxidative stress and reduced blood flow to your hair follicles that may contribute to hair loss.
Smoking increases your body’s production of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that easily react to other molecules in your body and can potentially cause damage to the DNA of your cells.
Oxidative stress occurs when there’s an excessive amount of free radical activity in your body. Exposure to the following can all potentially cause oxidative stress:
- tobacco smoke
- ultraviolet rays
In an older 2003 study, researchers proposed that toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke may lead to damage in the DNA of cells in your hair follicles. Damage to the DNA of these cells may potentially lead to impaired hair growth.
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