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Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss? A Doctor’s Answer

When looking at hair loss and things like the need for a hair transplant there are many factors to consider including things that contribute to hair loss or affect the chances of success of a hair transplant. Smoking is one such factor that is shrouded in misinformation and misconceptions so below, I consider, does smoking cause hair loss, and the negative impact (if any) it has on your hair health.

Exploring Hair Growth and Hair Loss Factors

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the main negative effects of smoking including the lingering smell, the discoloring of your teeth and skin, and the much higher chance of developing conditions like lung cancer.

But does smoking cause hair loss? Simply put, there are plenty of studies and research that point towards smoking increasing hair loss. Let’s first look at other contributing factors to both hair growth and loss so you can gain an overall picture.

Factors boosting hair growth

Hait growth is attributed to a range of simple factors – mainly genetics, but also your overall health, diet, and mental wellbeing. Common factors include:

  • Good genetics.
  • A balanced vitamin and nutrient intake.
  • Regular intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, etc.).

Factors contributing to hair loss

Hair loss is more complicated but the main factor is genetics – take a look at your parents and their hairlines and hair loss condition and you can generally gain a good idea of how your hair will look in years to come. However, there are other contributing factors including:

  • Bad genetics.
  • Lack of nutrients and vitamins.
  • An unbalanced diet.
  • Stress.
  • Changes in hormones.
  • Certain diseases and medical conditions.
  • Treatments such as chemo.
  • Smoking.

The great news is, is that most of these things can be changed – even if you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, there are treatments like hair transplants available.

The Impact of Smoking on Hair Health

a man with both his hands on his head It’s clear that hair loss is a multi-faceted thing and while smoking can certainly contribute, it’s just one of many factors. Now that you have an understanding of the other factors, let’s look directly at the impact smoking has on your hair health, and this includes:

  • Oxidative stress.
  • Reduced blood flow to hair follicles.
  • Damage to existing hair.
  • Earlier onset of greying.
  • Increased dryness of hair.

A theory that is gaining traction is that smoking causes oxidative stress which increases the production of free radicals in your body. Free radicals are known to potentially cause DNA damage and if you already have a genetic predisposition to hair loss or balding, oxidative stress could be a trigger that makes these things worse.

Blood flow is also an essential part of hair growth and the general well-being of your body. It’s the blood flow that delivers nutrients to your hair follicles to promote growth. Smoking reduces blood flow around your body including your scalp which can stunt hair growth, but also make your hair look lifeless and dull.

Smoking can cause scarring and damage to your existing hair follicles too as well as new ones which can promote premature greying and turn your hair more brittle which can contribute to hair loss. Smoking can also reduce the results of effective hair loss treatments such as hair transplants and over-the-counter drugs.

Considerations for Quitting Smoking

So, as you can see I’ve painted a bleak picture of smoking and hair loss. There is no denying that there is a link and that smoking is NOT good for your hair health – especially if you are genetically predisposed to hair loss.

But you can change this. By quitting smoking, you can reduce the damage to your hair and help it regain its health and vitality. Levels of things like cytokines and free radicals that impact hair health and growth will reduce once you quit and your hair will eventually look much better.

Not only that, but you should see an improvement in your general health including your fitness and cardiovascular function. Of course, there is the monetary saving too as smoking is an expensive hobby and in today’s world of ever-increasing bills, this is never a bad thing.

Lastly, if you were considering treatment like a FUE hair transplant, quitting smoking beforehand can increase the chances of success of the surgery and improve your hair loss outlook for the long term.

Smoking, Hair Loss, and the Path to Recovery

I completely understand that quitting smoking isn’t something that can be done overnight. It’s going to take you a long time, willpower, and energy. If this is something you want to pursue, there are plenty of support platforms out there and I advise seeking help if you are unsure where or how to start.

Ultimately, smoking does negatively impact the health of your hair and it can be a contributing factor to hair loss. Therefore, if you want to have a healthy head of hair, quitting is the best possible solution.