We know smoking cigarettes causes a whole load of health issues, as well as yellowing nails, bad teeth and a whole host of other physical changes. It's the reason for a lot of problems, but can smoking cause hair loss on top of everything else? We look at the facts to see if all that nicotine is the cause of hair loss, or if it's all just another tabloid paper myth.
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Hair loss is something that affects men all over the world, with 40% of men noticing significant hair loss by the time they're 35, and up to 65% by the time they're 60. Most of these statistics are related to male pattern baldness, which has everything to do with genetics and very little to do with lifestyle.
However, what if the reason for your hair loss was to do with an everyday task that, admittedly with some difficulty, you could quit? They're articles all over the place talking about the evils of nicotine, but what can cigarettes cause apart from medically proven health issues? Well, although more research needs to be done, there are four main theories that link smoking to hair loss, so let's go over them shall we?
Theory 1 - Nicotine and Carbon Monoxide
Nicotine and carbon monoxide are both found in cigarettes, and there's a whole host of reasons why they're generally terrible for the body that we won't get into. We'll just stick to hair. Both nicotine and carbon monoxide restrict the flow of blood as well as oxygen to the body, which is why you get breathless more easily, and one of the ways that your hair could be losing out.
When the hair follicles don't get enough nourishment they're forced to go into the resting stage of their cycle, which then leads to them fall out and and give you a nice increase of hair on your pillow.
Theory 2 - Premature Ageing
Anti-smoking posters, adverts, flyers and information videos love to show just how bad a smoker's skin is compared to a non-smoker. If they can't scare you off with pictures of lungs, they try and scare you off with wrinkles. We've all seen it, the sad, elderly smoker staring blankly into the camera, with the text underneath reading "this person is 25", or something like that.
Smoking can accelerate the ageing process in various ways, giving you sagging skin, wrinkles, age spots, and a whole other list of flattering features. The theory is that while the rest of the body is prematurely ageing, it makes sense that your hair follicles will as well, leading to accelerated loss.
Theory 3 - Damaged Hair Follicles
While we've mentioned causes that affect the quality and growth of hair follicles, there's also a theory that cigarettes directly attack them, leading to inevitable hair loss. With the cocktail of harmful ingredients housed inside them, it's said that cigarettes can damage the follicles, leading to thin hair and fall out. Smoking cigarettes regularly can lead to long-term damage, so even when the hair grows back, it's weak and more likely to break.
Theory 4 - DHT
DHT is an interesting hormone and one that's a necessary part of the body. If you didn't have DHT you wouldn't have your bits...if you..er..get my meaning. It's also necessary for other aspects such as muscle mass and a deep masculine voice. However, it's also a key factor in male pattern baldness. Always a double-edged sword with these things isn't it?
You can probably see where we're going with this. Cigarettes increase the production of DHT in the body, leading to an increased chance of hair loss and a receding hairline. The hair follicles simply shrink over time, weaken and then fall out.
On That Note
So, does smoking cigarettes cause hair loss? Right now it's up to you to analyse the information available. However, while more research is needed to turn these educated theories into facts, a lot of them make sense, and if you're noticing that your hair is thinning or even falling out, smoking might be the culprit.