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Can Vaping Cause Hair Loss (and How?): Evidence Review 2024
Dr. Ismail Ughratdar (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Ismail Ughratdar (FRCS)
Updated on May 9, 2024

If you are one of the 13.2% of the UK population who smoke electronic cigarettes [1], you may be wondering if vaping can cause hair loss. While there is currently no simple answer to that question, vaping may indeed contribute to your hair thinning.

It is a long-known fact that smoking tobacco has a wide variety of detrimental effects on your health [2], but hair loss often gets lost among its more serious health risks. Few people are aware that nicotine use can reduce blood flow to your hair follicles, cause oxidative stress damage to your strands, or trigger hair loss conditions such as androgenetic alopecia or alopecia areata [3][4]. Since most vaping products contain nicotine, they may produce similar effects, to some extent [5].

However, since vaping products are relatively new, their effects on human health are only beginning to be studied [6]. Thus, there are presently no studies which can ascertain their impact on your hair. Moreover, different formulas contain variable amounts of nicotine and other substances, so the type of vape you are using can influence its effect on your hair.

Continue reading this article for the full evidence review regarding:

  • The relationship between vaping and hair loss
  • Whether vaping is safer for your hair than traditional cigarette smoking
  • Whether quitting vaping can restore your thinning hair
  • How to prevent and treat hair loss caused by vaping
Table of Contents
Hand holding a vape pen

About vaping

Vaping is the common term used for smoking electronic cigarettes. These are devices which heat a solution that contains nicotine, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine and flavouring agents, releasing a vapour which the user inhales. This solution is commonly known as e-liquid and it can have different flavours and concentrations (in some cases, it can even contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the compounds found in recreational drug Marijuana) [7].

There are several types of vaping devices and more are being developed. The most commonly known are [8]:

  • Disposable e-cigarettes, which can only be used until their solution runs out
  • E-cigarettes with refillable cartridges
  • Tanks or mods, which have a tank that can be refilled and customized
  • Pod-mods, which contain refillable pods and a customizable system

E-cigarettes were originally marketed as a smoking cessation aid. Health organizations embraced and promoted this type of product as an alternative to traditional smoking [9] because they contain far fewer than the 7000 toxins found in cigarettes [8] and also lower doses of nicotine.

However, since vaping is so recent and so many types of devices and fluids have already emerged, there was insufficient time to adequately study its potentially harmful effects. Recent studies are starting to reveal that while still likely healthier than traditional smoking, vaping may still cause some damage to your respiratory, cardiovascular, immunologic, nervous and endocrine systems [5][10].

Furthermore, there is preliminary evidence that e-cigarettes may increase the risk of some forms of cancer [11] and they can also cause fetal malformations and developmental issues in children and adolescents [10].  If the role played by vaping in increasing the risk of developing life-threatening conditions is still not fully clear, its effects on hair shedding remain yet to be studied.

Does vaping cause thinning hair?

Does vaping cause thinning hair?

Since there are currently no studies that have looked into the role vaping might play in triggering or accelerating hair loss, there is little evidence as to whether and to what extent vaping can cause your hair to thin.

However, it is a well-established fact that smoking causes hair loss, primarily through the inhalation of nicotine [2]. Vaping devices also contain nicotine, albeit in lower doses than traditional cigarettes. However, their nicotine yield varies with brand formulation and user behaviour [10].

This means that even though more research is needed to confirm this, vaping may play a role in making your hair fall out through the following mechanisms:

1. Reducing blood flow to the hair follicle

Your hair follicles need to receive oxygen and nutrients from your blood so they can grow thick, healthy hair. However, nicotine makes your blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow [12]. This can diminish the amount of nourishment reaching the roots of your hair, making your strands thinner or preventing some of your follicles from producing new hair.

2. Increasing oxidative stress and inflammation

Nicotine is already known to produce and maintain a state of microinflammation around your hair follicles [3]. Moreover, a 2022 literature review [13] reveals that other toxic substances which can be found in the e-liquid of many vaping products can also produce oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. This can damage hair follicles and disrupt your hair growth cycle, which can result in hair thinning.

3. Triggering or worsening certain forms of alopecia

Commonly known as male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia occurs when too much of your testosterone is converted into a different hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT binds to androgen receptors in your hair, which makes them shrink and stop producing hair [14].

A study performed on 3427 men revealed that smokers had 15% higher levels of testosterone than non-smokers [15], which made them more susceptible to producing too much DHT. Moreover, a different study found that male pattern baldness is far more prevalent among smokers and that this habit accelerates hair loss in those experiencing this condition [16].

While nicotine is not the only toxin in traditional cigarettes which could have caused these effects, it definitely played a role in their occurrence. Since vaping products contain nicotine, while more research is needed, it can be inferred that they may also trigger or accelerate androgenetic alopecia.

Moreover, clinical trials have found that smokers have an almost double risk of developing alopecia areata in comparison to non-smokers, as nicotine increases inflammation around hair follicles. This effect appears to increase proportionally with the amount of cigarettes smoked [17]. While it is uncertain how this translates to vaping, there is a chance that it could also increase your likelihood of developing alopecia areata to some extent.

Is vaping safer for hair loss than traditional cigarettes?

Is vaping safer for hair loss than traditional cigarettes?

There is consensus among researchers and health organizations that while vaping can still have some harmful side effects, it is generally safer than traditional cigarettes [18]. Although more research is needed, this is likely to also apply to the risk of nicotine hair loss.

E-cigarettes contain lower doses of nicotine than traditional ones and don’t contain carbon monoxide than traditional ones, which means their impact on hair thinning and damage may be smaller. They also do not contain many of the other harmful substances inhaled through cigarette smoke, such as hydrogen cyanide, which can lower the amount of oxygen that reaches the hair follicles [12].

Is nicotine replacement therapy safer for hair than vaping?

Is nicotine replacement therapy safer for hair than vaping?

It is difficult to answer this question in the absence of relevant studies to determine the relationship between vaping and hair loss. Furthermore, the fact that different e-liquids contain varying amounts of nicotine only increases the challenge.

On the one hand, it is safe to assume, based on current information, that vaping products which do not contain nicotine are less likely to cause hair loss than nicotine products.

On the other hand, it has been recently proven that electronic cigarettes are significantly more efficient than nicotine replacement therapy in promoting smoking cessation [19][20]. So while vaping may have some harmful effects on your hair, if it helps you quit smoking, it may still prove to be the superior option for your hair loss in the long run.

Can nicotine-free vaping cause hair loss?

Since nicotine is the main substance in e-cigarettes that is proven to cause hair loss, nicotine-free vaping products should, theoretically, be significantly less likely to cause hair thinning than both traditional cigarettes and electronic ones which contain this substance. However, a report commissioned by Public Health England shows that 87% of UK residents who vaped reported using e-liquids that contained nicotine [1].

Moreover, this does not mean that there is nothing in nicotine-free e-liquid that could potentially harm your hair. Most of these products contain flavouring chemicals which have been found to produce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body [23]. This could also affect the health of your hair follicles. So further research is needed before any kind of vaping product can be deemed safe for hair loss.

Will my hair grow back if I stop vaping?

Will my hair grow back if I stop vaping?

The good news is that if vaping may cause hair loss through similar mechanisms as traditional smoking, quitting this habit would also mean your hair would indeed grow back after a while.

When it comes to traditional cigarettes, it only takes 48 hours to flush out the additional carbon monoxide associated with smoking and between 2-12 weeks for your blood flow to return to normal. This means your hair follicles would already be receiving more nutrients and be under less oxidative stress in a few days to a few weeks [21].

Since vaping involves lower quantities of nicotine and other harmful chemicals [10][22], quitting may not have such a strong effect on your hair as you would get from quitting smoking. However, it is still likely that you may see some improvement in your hair health.

However, it is a good idea to see a trichologist and make sure that your hair loss is indeed caused by vaping and not the result of a condition such as androgenetic alopecia, traction alopecia, or common scalp problems, such as seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis.

How to prevent hair loss when vaping

How to prevent hair loss when vaping

While waiting for science to look into the relationship between vaping and hair loss, there are some things you can do to prevent unnecessary hair shedding:

How to treat nicotine-induced hair thinning

How to treat nicotine-induced hair thinning

If you are experiencing hair loss and you suspect that it may be caused by vaping, the best thing you can do is to book a consultation with a trichologist as soon as you see the first signs of hair thinning and balding. They will run all the necessary tests – such as a dermatoscopy, a scalp biopsy or blood tests for hair loss – and diagnose the condition that led to your hair woes.

If you worry that vaping may contribute to your hair loss, the best course of action would be to quit nicotine-based products altogether. However, if you get diagnosed with a type of alopecia, you may be recommended one of the following evidence-based treatments and therapies:

  • Minoxidil – This popular and efficient hair growth treatment is very appropriate for nicotine users because it opens up the blood vessels in your scalp, allowing more nutrients to reach your hair follicles.
  • Finasteride – This medication is the most commonly prescribed to treat androgenetic alopecia, as it works by preventing the excessive production of DHT. If vaping has accelerated your male/female pattern baldness, Finasteride can help curb your hair loss and potentially experience some hair regrowth. However, it is not recommended for premenopausal women.
  • Steroid creams – If you are experiencing alopecia areata or scalp psoriasis, corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation, stop the progression of the condition and in many cases, stimulate hair growth.
  • Dermarolling for hair growth – Micropunctures made in your scalp with a small tool called a derma-roller, trigger your body’s natural healing response and make it easier for topical hair growth treatments (such as topical Minoxidil) to penetrate your scalp.
  • Red light therapy for hair growth – also known as Low-Level Laser Therapy, this treatment uses focused beams of red or near-infrared light to enhance your cell metabolism, getting more energy to your hair follicles.

If your hair loss does not respond to non-surgical treatments, there is no need to worry. You may still be a good candidate for a hair transplant. Hair restoration surgery is very simple, virtually painless and highly effective: in the UK have a 97-100% success rate.

The hair transplant procedure involves healthy hair follicles being harvested from areas of your scalp which are usually not affected by your condition (usually, the back or sides of the head) and then reimplanted in the areas where your hair has started to thin.

The best part about getting a natural-looking hair transplant is that the fuller strands and youthful vibe will stay with you for years. That is because a hair transplant is permanent and thus, a good investment to make in your appearance and sense of self-confidence. See our results for yourself in our before and after hair transplant gallery.

However, please be aware that you will need to stop vaping at least 3-6 weeks before and after hair restoration surgery, as any kind of smoking can impact your hair transplant results.

Can Vaping Cause Hair Loss (and How?): Evidence Review 2024, Wimpole Clinic

  1. Nicotine vaping in England: an evidence update including health risks and perceptions, 2022
  2. The Effects of Smoking on Hair Health:  A Systematic Review
  3. Role of Smoking in Androgenetic Alopecia: A Systematic Review
  4. Cigarette Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Risk of Alopecia Areata: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Taiwan
  5. Electronic cigarettes: what are they and what do they do?
  6. The Dangers of Vaping
  7. E-Cigarettes A Scientific Review
  8. E-cigarette, or Vaping, Products Visual Dictionary
  9. Vaping to quit smoking
  10. Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes.
  11. Can electronic-cigarette vaping cause cancer?
  12. Smoking, Chronic Wound Healing, and Implications for Evidence-Based Practice
  13. Electronic cigarette aerosol increases the risk of organ dysfunction by enhancing oxidative stress and inflammation
  14. Androgenetic Alopecia – an Overview
  15. Endogenous testosterone levels and smoking in men. The fifth Tromsø study
  16. Implications of cigarette smoking on early-onset androgenetic alopecia: A cross-sectional Study
  17. Cigarette Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Risk of Alopecia Areata: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Taiwan
  18. Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings
  19. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation
  20. Electronic cigarettes versus nicotine-replacement therapy for smoking cessation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
  21. Quit smoking this January
  22. Electronic cigarettes and vaping: a new challenge in clinical medicine and public health. A literature review
  23. Inflammatory and Oxidative Responses Induced by Exposure to Commonly Used e-Cigarette Flavoring Chemicals and Flavored e-Liquids without Nicotine
Dr. Ismail Ughratdar (FRCS)
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ismail Ughratdar (FRCS)Updated on May 9, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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