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Does smoking cause hair loss?
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on May 17, 2022

Every year, around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking [1]. Not only can smoking affect your health, but it can also affect your physical appearance – even contributing to hair loss.

Although we aren’t exactly sure of just how smoking can contribute to premature hair loss, it does seem to be one of the lesser-known side effects.

If you’ve been dealing with thinning hair or hair loss, it might be time to think about how your lifestyle habits – like smoking – could be bringing this on sooner.

Can smoking cause hair loss?

Simply put, yes, smoking can cause hair loss. This is mainly because tobacco and chemicals found in cigarettes can damage your hair follicles and prevent growth.

Smoking can damage your hair in a variety of ways [2]. Chemicals in cigarette smoke are transmitted to your hair follicles via the bloodstream, causing microinflammation and fibrosis, among other conditions that damage your follicles and inhibit hair growth [3].

It causes DNA damage to hair follicles, affects the hair growth cycle, and reduces the circulation of blood around the body which can starve hair follicles of the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy.

In fact, smoking more than doubles the likelihood of experiencing hair loss

Plenty of studies have been carried out to determine the effects of smoking on hair loss. One of the most notable studies in 2020 [4] found that 425 out of 500 smokers were experiencing some sort of hair loss, whereas only 200 of 500 nonsmokers were affected by hair loss.

Many experts think that it’s the nicotine and chemicals found in cigarettes that cause hair loss, but there still needs to be more research into the topic to determine the main cause. Either way, researchers found [4] that 47% of smokers tested experience noticeable receding hairlines, 24% experience balding at their vertex, but only 10% of non-smokers reached these points of hair loss. 

How does smoking cause hair loss?

Smoking can cause hair loss because of two things: oxidative stress and reduced blood flow.

Oxidative stress happens when there’s too much free radical activity in your body, which can damage the DNA of your cells. When you’re losing your hair, your hair can become even more sensitive to oxidative stress [5], causing severe hair loss.

The chemicals in tobacco can similarly affect your body’s ability to pump blood around. This poor circulation can not only put you at risk of blood clots and heart attacks but can also prevent nutrients from getting delivered to your hair – stopping it from being able to grow.

Other ways smoking cigarettes affects the health of your hair

Not only can smoking cause hair thinning, but it can also significantly damage all aspects of your hair’s health.  Along with contributing to hair loss, smoking may negatively impact your hair health in a number of other ways.

It can cause your hair to turn grey quicker [6], make hair feel more brittle and dry your hair out [7].

How to quit smoking

Whether you’ve been smoking for years or months, it can be a habit that’s hard to kick. Smoking is extremely damaging to your health so, even though quitting may be difficult, it will be better for you in the long run.

If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, here are just a few helpful tips that could get you started:

  • Speak to your GP who may be able to help you with strategies to quit smoking
  • Looking into alternative therapies like medications, hypnosis, or nicotine replacement therapy
  • Stay away from environments where other people will typically smoke, like outdoor restaurants, pub gardens etc.
  • Download an app that encourages you along your journey to quit smoking, like the NHS Quit Smoking app

Can you reverse hair loss caused by smoking?

Although you can undo some of the health impacts that are associated with smoking if you choose to give up smoking, it’s not always certain that you can get your hair to grow back.

In some cases, patients may notice hair regrowth, but this is often unlikely. 

If you find that, even after giving up smoking, your hair is still thinning and you’re experiencing balding, it may be time to look at some alternative treatments.

The most popular treatment is a hair transplant – like an FUE or FUT treatment. FUE (Follicular Unit Extraction) and FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) treatments both work by taking hair follicles from areas where hair is still growing and replanting them in areas where hair is thinning.

With these treatments, you may have to wait a few months to see results, and you should consider the process of recovering from hair transplant surgery and any side effects, but it’s one of the most effective ways to counteract hair loss.

Book a consultation

If you’re concerned about how much smoking has affected your hair, there are plenty of ways that you can reverse the damage.

Hair transplants are just one of your options but are the preferred route for many people suffering from hair loss. If you’d like to find out more about transplant options, or would just like some advice from an expert, get in touch with our team of specialists at Wimpole Clinic.

Our professionally-trained and experienced specialists are here to answer the questions you have and put you at ease if you’re getting ready for a hair transplant

Contact us for a free consultation with one of our hair loss specialists, and we’ll help you take the first step towards getting your full head of hair back again.

 

References:

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking 

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12673073/ 

[3] https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/68894 

[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jocd.13727 

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369642/ 

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673399/ 

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6369639/ 

Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by Dr Mir MalkaniUpdated on May 17, 2022
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.
Dr Mir Malkani
Medically reviewed by
Dr Mir Malkani
Updated on May 17, 2022

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