Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss?

Bad breath, yellow nails, and an empty wallet. These are just a few things that may spring to mind when you think about smoking. A receding hairline? Maybe not so much.  

Smoking has an adverse and sometimes detrimental impact on our bodies. If you’ve been blessed with a full head of hair and you’re working hard to preserve those luscious locks, we have bad news.

Smoking can also have a dramatic impact on our hair health, and with each cigarette you smoke, your chances of premature hair loss (and aging) are drastically increased. 

How Does Smoking Impact Your Hair?

It’s no secret: smoking is bad for us. So bad, in fact, that it’s responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S alone. As if there weren’t enough reasons to avoid or quit smoking already, premature and excessive hair loss can be added to your list. 

When you smoke tobacco, you increase the production of molecules in your body called free radicals. Free radicals can damage your DNA – and as the cells in our hair follicles are sensitive to oxidative stress, the production of free radicals can be one of the leading causes of hair loss.    

Smoking can promote hair loss if you already have thin hair or are predisposed to baldness. This is true for both men and women. For women, smoking can lower estrogen levels in the body.

This contributes to premature hair loss, as well as some other nasty symptoms, including: 

  • Disturbed sleep or fatigue
  • Irregular periods
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings and depression
  • Tender breasts
  • Recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s).

Unfortunately, the news is just as dire for men. Smoking has been proven to increase inflammatory cytokines associated with androgenetic alopecia and male pattern baldness; in short, you’re likely to lose your hair far quicker if you smoke. 

Smoking doesn’t just cause hair loss. It can also cause your hair to become brittle, weak, and ‘straw-like’ –  so, that voluptuous, silky shine you see in the movies probably won’t radiate from your locks if you’re smoking regularly. 

Each cigarette contains an estimated 4,000 chemicals and gases. When you light up, these toxic fumes surround your hair. So it’s really no surprise that your hair will feel the effects of frequent cigarette smoking. 

The toxins in the smoke damage your hair follicles and hormones. According to a report published in the British Medical Journal, there’s a ‘consistent link’ between smoking and premature graying of the hair.

So, even if you don’t lose your hair, those sneaky gray hairs may have you looking a little too wise beyond your years. 

How Does Smoking Promote Hair Loss?

  We know smoking is bad for us, but how exactly does it damage our hair? Let’s take a closer look at how smoking can promote hair loss. 

Pollution 

  Inhaling cigarette smoke isn’t the only way to damage your hair. For example, if you’re regularly smoking in a confined space, such as a room with no ventilation or in the car without the windows rolled down, you’ll be creating environmental pollution. 

  This pollution can damage the mechanisms that produce the protein that makes hair, and the polluted air can even speed up the rate of genetic hair loss (if you’re predisposed). 

Poor Blood Circulation

  Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals. The nicotine can cause your blood vessels to narrow or constrict, therefore limiting the amount of blood flow to your organs.

If you smoke a large amount regularly, the repeated constriction of your blood vessels can cause them to become stiff, which decreases the amount of nutrients and oxygen your cells receive, 

  When your blood flow is impeded, your hair follicles don’t receive enough blood to nourish your hair, and the growth cycle becomes interrupted. Any interruptions to the hair growth cycle will undoubtedly cause a noticeable amount of hair loss. 

Weak Immune System 

  Smoking is proven to compromise the balance of the immune system. Frequent smoking can cause inflammation and immunosuppression, making us more susceptible to illnesses and diseases, some of which can cause hair loss. 

Can Quitting Smoking Promote Hair Growth?

So, you’re ready to pack in the smokes for good. Congratulations! It’s never too late to quit smoking. Even if you quit in later life, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and other health conditions.

Our bodies are incredible, and even the organs damaged the most by smoking can start recovering the minute you quit. Here’s the real question, though – can quitting promote hair growth?

The good news is, yes, it can!When you quit smoking, you’ll help restore your hair’s natural growth cycle and increase the blood flow to your hair. This means your hair is likely to become more hydrated, shinier, and full of nutrients.

The promotion of hair growth can be documented in both men and women. If you’re a female smoker, your estrogen levels have probably been thrown out of whack from the toxins in the smoke.

If your hairs become thinner as a result, packing in the habit will likely encourage the return of thicker and stronger hair. If you’re a male smoker, you may also be experiencing premature baldness or thinning of the hair.

If smoking has increased the natural aging process or encouraged the early onset of male pattern baldness, quitting will probably make your hair thicker and healthier, too. 

Taking The Leap: How To Quit

If you’re a smoker suffering from hair loss, premature graying, or other smoking-related conditions, your only choice is to quit. However, you don’t need us to tell you that quitting smoking is no small feat.

No one chooses to become addicted to something; after all, that’s how addiction keeps us stuck in its clutches. Your journey to becoming smoke-free may not be easy, but there are several things you can do to get on the road to recovery. 

Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Cold turkey is tough, and it’s not for everyone. Over the past 25 years, research has shown that out of 100 people trying to quit smoking, only an estimated three to five of them will stick at it for longer than six months. 

Unfortunately, the success rate is so low, that nicotine replacement therapy may be the right call. This can take several forms, including: 

  • Nasal sprays or inhalers
  • Patches, gum, or lozenges
  • A prescription for cessation medications, such as Chantix or Zyban

Avoid Triggers  

If certain situations get you craving a smoke, take note of them. These are the scenarios you’ll need to avoid as much as possible when quitting.

Whether it’s a few social drinks with friends, your morning cup of coffee, or your late-night snack, you’ll need to identify your trigger situations and plan for a new distraction. Some alternative behaviors you could perform to curb the cravings include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Having a glass of water
  • Doodling
  • Using social media

However small or large the distraction is, make sure you have one. Remember: most cravings only last between 3 to 5 minutes, but they’ll frequently occur throughout the day. Keeping yourself busy is your best defense. 

Final Thoughts

The way your hair falls can make or break your day. For example, if you’re a smoker experiencing premature hair loss or damage, you’ll probably feel your confidence taking a knock. Unfortunately, smoking DOES cause hair loss.

However, not all hope is lost. If you decide to quit, you can expect your hair to recover quickly and return to its beautiful, healthy state in no time. 

Jonie Dean
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