The undeniable and inescapable truth behind smoking is that it kills, and it does so efficiently and inexorably to the tune of one death every five seconds. The statistics do not lie when they identify smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the world. This monstrous habit has been plaguing public health since it was first introduced to the world by Paleo-Indians some five thousand years BC. Currently, it is estimated that over 18 billion cigarettes are lit and smoked every single day. These numbers are astonishing considering the staggering amount of data evidencing smoking as pernicious to health and well-being.
Even more surprising is the fact that knowledge about the adverse consequences of smoking has never been as widely disseminated as it is now. Anti-smoking campaigns are habitually carried all over the world, especially in developing countries where smoking seems to be the most rampant amongst the adult population. However, a concerning trend remains as people continue to smoke day in and day out.
The smoking pandemic is responsible for an outstanding number of heart attacks and strokes each year. Pulmonary diseases such as emphysema and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis are also directly linked to tobacco smoke. Cancer of the lungs, throat, and mouth are common afflictions of smokers worldwide; lesser known is the incredibly high incidence of bladder and pancreatic cancer that smoking incites. Basically, smoke will provoke hazardous consequences and damage just about every tissue it comes into contact with, even your hair. That’s right before it kills you, smoking will probably make you go bald.
Tobacco smoke is home to thousands of toxic chemicals. Nicotine is probably the most well-known, but there is a significant concentration of Tar, Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, Cyanide, and Arsenic. Not surprisingly high levels of these compounds will directly and negatively affect the scalp, thereby altering the formation of new hair strands.
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Cigarette smoke has been shown in some studies to have a substantial adverse effect on the microvasculature of the dermal hair papilla. A reduced level of blood circulating in the follicle will result in direct damage to the structure and a reduction in the production of hair.
The toxic components found in cigarette smoke all possess strong genotoxicity. This means that they are regularly able to significantly damage the genetic information contained within a cell causing mutations and loss of cellular integrity. When these smoke genotoxicant compounds are metabolized by the hair follicle, they produce an inordinate amount of DNA damage. This genetic damage will potentially lead to an alteration of the hair growth-cycle event activation. A disrupted hair growth cycle will ultimately result in the premature loss of hair.
Hair is primarily composed of a fibrous structural protein called keratin. It has been strongly suggested that smoke causes a rather significant imbalance in the proteolysis of keratin molecules. A protease enzyme and its inhibitor molecule the anti-protease, play an essential role in the exogen phase of hair growth. In so far as this protease/antiprotease balance is disturbed an increase in exogenic shedding may occur.
Smoking has also been linked to a rather abrupt increase in the appearance pro-inflammatory cytokines within the system. These cytokines will undoubtedly promote inflammation of the hair follicle. When the hair follicle suffers a prolonged and persistent inflammatory state, as is the case with regular smokers, tremendous amounts of oxidative stress are induced. This will in turn potentially lead to fibrosis of the hair follicle and a diminished function of hair growth.
Hydroxylation of estrogen molecules may be significantly higher in smokers and thus estrogenic metabolism maybe altered. Although androgenic compounds have dominated the field of research about hair loss, it has been proven time and again that estrogen has a direct effect on the hair follicle. Thus, hair growth is retarded on by the introduction of estrogenic hormones because they function as key modulators of hair follicle binding to cognate receptors. It is important also to mention that many of the most important follicular transcription factors currently known to control hair growth are modulated by estrogenic compounds.
Further evidence of the negative effects that smoking has on the health of the hair growth cycle was expounded by a study that linked aromatase inhibition caused by cigarette smoke has a miniaturizing effect on the structures found inside the hair follicle. This happens because aromatase inhibition promotes a relative increase in the amount of available testosterone which is then converted to Dihydrotestosterone leading to hair loss.
As if this incredible amount of evidence linking smoking to hair loss weren’t enough, it is important to note that cigarette smoke can indirectly affect hair growth by having an immunosuppressant effect which leads the body open to contracting other illnesses that may, in fact, contributed to the hair loss.
It is therefore recommended that you stop smoking immediately. You will not only benefit the health and integrity of all your bodily organs but you will instantaneously see an improvement in the strength and health of your hair. If you insist on smoking, you should then attempt to wash it as often as possible in order to minimize exposure to cigarette smoke and all its toxic agents. The use of a vasodilation compound such as Minoxidil to counteract the constriction caused by nicotine is also highly recommended.
All the nutrients necessary for the growth of hair and the integrity of the follicular growth cycle circulate through the blood; because smokers literally poison their blood with thousands of toxic compounds, it is only natural that hair growth will be adversely affected and thus hair loss expected.
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- Ohnemus, Ulrich, et al. “The hair follicle as an estrogen target and source.” Endocrine reviews6 (2006): 677-706.
- Rossi, A., et al. “Aromatase inhibitors induce ‘male pattern hair loss’ in women?.” Annals of oncology6 (2013): 1710-1711.
- WIKIPEDIA Smoking