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Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss? 4 Ways It Damages Hair Health
Beauty

Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss? 4 Ways It Damages Hair Health

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Written by Rosmy Barrios, MD | Fact checked by Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD check
Last update: April 18, 2023
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5 min

Smoking can cause hair loss and damage your hair health in several ways. Breaking this habit could help revive your scalp. Discover how smoking affects hair growth and the four damaging effects it can have on your hair follicles.

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Smoking has many side effects that increase the risk of long-term health issues. Most of these problems revolve around your heart and lungs but can also affect other parts of your body, including the scalp. 

Cigarettes contain a range of harmful substances, such as nicotine, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and tar. Breathing these in can restrict blood flow to your scalp, which may cause hair loss. 

If you smoke and suffer from sudden hair loss, it may be worth learning about the potential connection. Discover 4 ways smoking damages your hair health and whether breaking this bad habit can revive your scalp. 

Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, smoking can cause hair loss if you do it continuously. The nicotine and toxic chemicals may promote oxidative stress and reduce the blood flow to your scalp. Over time, the hair follicles become weak and incapable of producing new hair strands. 

Smoking encourages the production of free radicals, which are unstable atoms that damage the DNA in your cells. Too many bad atoms cause oxidative stress and increase inflammation in your body. It’s also possible that this imbalance slows down your hair growth rate, leading to thinning strands. 

Another possible effect of smoking is poor blood flow. The chemicals in tobacco foster plaque growth in your blood vessels, stopping a sufficient amount of blood from fueling your hair follicles. 

Research suggests that smoking can also suppress your appetite. Not eating enough nutrient-dense foods may cause nutritional deficiencies, which promote hair loss because your scalp isn’t receiving healthy blood. 

If you do suffer from hair loss due to smoking, consult with a doctor for support. They can suggest treatments that help you recover from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

Can vaping cause hair loss? 

It is possible that vaping also causes hair loss. This chemical-filled liquid can be just as harmful as cigarette smoking because it encourages oxidative damage. You should avoid smoking and vaping to grow healthy hair and prevent permanent hair loss.

A vape contains nicotine, propylene glycol, diacetyl, and heavy metals. These substances are extremely harmful to your body, as the toxic chemicals harm your cells and restrict blood flow. 

Vaping too much could increase the early onset of female or male-pattern baldness. This is a form of androgenetic alopecia that causes hair loss. Nicotine in e-cigarettes may also stop your scalp from producing healthy hair strands. 

How Does Smoking Cause Hair Loss?

There are a number of ways cigarette smoking can damage your scalp. A person’s hair growth cycle depends on their dietary habits, genetics, and haircare routine. Bad habits like smoking and vaping could slow down hair growth and even encourage premature hair graying in some. 

Below are 4 ways smoking can cause hair loss: 

#1 It damages blood vessels

The chemicals in cigarettes can cause blood vessels to swell and become inflamed. This could increase plaque buildup in your arteries, which limits blood flow to your hair follicles. If they don’t get enough blood, they can’t work efficiently during the hair growth cycle. Over time, inhaling too much cigarette smoke can trigger hair loss. 

#2 It weakens the immune system

Cigarette smoke negatively impacts your immune system. It can damage your immune cells and stop them from fighting inflammation, especially on the scalp. A poor defense system means your body cannot eliminate free radicals or harmful bacteria that clog the hair follicles. 

The sudden increase in inflammatory agents may also foster scalp conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis. These conditions clog your pores and cause hair loss until they are treated properly. 

#3 It causes oxidative stress

Inhaling cigarette smoke can lead to genetic alterations. Nicotine, being a stimulant drug, may increase the number of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body. Free radicals damage cell membranes in the scalp, which speeds up the aging process of your hair. In time, you might suffer from premature hair loss

Fueling your body with too much tobacco smoke could make hair loss permanent. This means you can’t grow back certain parts of your hair, especially if you already suffer from female or male pattern baldness. 

#4 It disrupts the endocrine system

The endocrine system comprises glands that make hormones. Smoking affects the pituitary, adrenal, testicular, thyroid, and ovarian glands, which can disrupt your hormonal balance. For example, high androgen levels could inhibit hair growth and damage your hair follicle structure. 

If I Quit Smoking, Will My Hair Grow Back?

Yes, quitting smoking could help your hair grow faster naturally. This is because your body begins to flush out the nicotine and other harmful substances that have penetrated your lungs and heart. In a few months to a year, you might notice a small amount of growth around your hairline. 

Quitting smoking doesn’t mean you’ll grow hair in a short time. It might take some people one or two years to see new hair, depending on how long they were smoking. You can speed up the process by rubbing natural oils in your hair, such as argan, rosemary, or pure coconut oil

It’s also worth speaking to a hair professional about growth treatments. They could suggest hair transplantation or diets that support hair regrowth. You can also question ways to prevent or slow down premature graying from smoking.

FAQs

Does smoking cause baldness?

Inhaling tobacco smoke can cause baldness if you don’t quit. This is due to the number of free radicals constantly roaming your scalp and damaging the pores. You can prevent permanent hair loss by using hair carrier oils like avocado, black seed, coconut, and moringa.

Does smoking thin your hair?

Yes, smoking regularly can thin your hair and make it more brittle. Thinning hair is more prone to breakage, which might cause hair loss. You can only get thicker hair by quitting smoking and using nourishing hair products.

Will quitting smoking improve my hair?

Breaking the smoking habit can help replenish your hair. It may take time to see new growth, but your immune system is working to remove harmful toxins from the body. Give it a few months, and you could see a noticeable difference.

A Word From an MD

Smoking cigarettes can damage your long-term health, but they can also damage your scalp and stop it from producing long, healthy strands. Dealing with hair loss is frustrating, especially if you want to grow it back after leaving this bad habit behind.

There are a few ways you can replenish your scalp and see growth. A daily scalp massage could stimulate blood circulation in the hair follicles. Research suggests that more blood flow increases hair thickness by fueling your cells.

You can also take collagen supplements, oil your hair regularly, and dry your hair using a microfiber towel or cotton shirt.

In terms of your diet, eat more nutrient-dense foods that contain protein and biotin. Eggs, berries, salmon, spinach, avocados, and sweet potatoes are suitable options.

Conclusion

Smoking and hair loss are connected, so it might be time to stop that habit. Cigarettes contain harmful substances, like nicotine, ammonia, and carbon monoxide, which can lead to impaired hair growth. 

You should follow a balanced diet, use safe haircare products, and massage your scalp often to reverse hair loss. Just remember that hair grows back at unique times for everyone, so you won’t notice progress straight away.

HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Written by
Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD, is a medical advisor for the Health Reporter, the head of the anti-aging department, and a regenerative medicine specialist in several medical institutions with years of experience in aesthetic medicine and cosmetology.
The article was checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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