smoking and hair lossIt’s well known that smoking will turn your insides black and sticky, make you cough like an old man every morning, and that it devilishly exchanges that twenty-a-day nicotine fix for a long, slow, and ultimately ugly demise, but perhaps less commonly reported is the impact it will have on the longevity of your youth.

Someone fit and healthy, who eats well and drinks plenty of water, and who exercises regularly, is going to have a bright, clear complexion and will radiate the sparkle and glow of a teenager well into their thirties. When they start to get wrinkles – everyone does – they will develop slowly, and they will continue to look amazing throughout their forties and beyond.

How smoking affects the body?

A smoker might do all of this too, but they will never be as fit as they might be – because the tar in their lungs is clogging up all the tiny air sacs, making it harder and harder for them to enjoy their lungs’ full capacity. Smoking is also affecting their cardiac performance, and impacting the blood circulation from reaching all their internal organs, to deliver oxygen and energy for effective function.

Just as smoking causes a gradual deterioration on the inside, it is doing the same to the skin, eyes, and hair. Wrinkles appear sooner than on a non-smoker and develop more rapidly. Skin can become discoloured and dull, due to the reduced oxygen to the area. Eyes are duller too.

How smoking damages our hair

Well, apart from turning grey and white hair yellow, there is some evidence that the effects of smoking on the tiny capillaries near the surface of the scalp, that nourish the hair follicles, is damaging enough to cause hair to fall out prematurely. Supplementary evidence collected during research in Taiwan which was looking at the prevalence of male pattern baldness identified a possible link between smoking and premature hair loss. The link was particularly marked because of the fact that Asian men are less prone to baldness in general, and once all the confounding factors were removed – family history of baldness, health issues, onset of puberty, socioeconomic factors and drug and alcohol consumption – a link between baldness and a long term habit of smoking more than twenty cigarettes a day became very clear.

However, while a link has been identified, it is by no means possible to claim that smoking causes hair loss, and furthermore, as a cross-sectional study of Taiwanese men, it is not possible to generalise the findings to a global population. Nevertheless, as an incentive for men who are considering giving up smoking, this link may just be enough to nudge them into making a more resolute effort.

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By Ian Watson

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