Saying you’re a “very light smoker” is a little like saying you’re a dedicated vegan who only has the odd rasher of bacon: in medical terms even light smokers risk seriously harming their health. They also expose themselves to hair loss and premature greying.
A growing number of women, however, are convincing themselves that their “very light” smoking is nothing to worry about. According to futurity.org, nearly one in five women between the ages of 18 and 25 now say they smoke up to five cigarettes per day.
Smoking linked to hair loss
Smoking has long been linked to a variety of medical conditions, including hair loss, and anyone who thinks that by “just” having a few cigarettes a day they can skirt all of the problems associated with smoking is misguided.
“Even at low levels and intermittently, smoking carries significant health risks,” says Carole K Holahan, a Texan professor and health educator who is quoted in the futurity.org article. “These risks include cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, and an increased risk of lung cancer.”
The link between smoking and hair loss conditions in women is the subject of some debate, and even though there is no definitive study to prove outright that cigarette use is a fast track to thinning hair, many experts in the field see sufficient evidence among clients who smoke to see some obvious links. These ‘gut feelings’ are backed up a variety of studies, such as one in Taiwan in 2007 which showed how men who smoked heavily were more likely to experience Male Pattern Baldness.
In both men and women, experts believe that smoking can also make hair grey or fade in colour, and there is further evidence that the temporary hair loss condition Telogen Effluvium, caused by smoking leaving the hair malnourished, can lead to or worsen existing Male and Female Pattern Hair Loss in those with a genetic propensity.
One study in Ohio found that “divorce, excessive smoking and drinking” were all major factors in the development of hair loss in women; meanwhile research published in the British Medical Journal supported the theory that smoking can negatively affect hair growth and in some cases trigger hair loss.
According to Mike Phillpott at the School of Medicine at Queen Mary University London: “Any pollutant that can get into the bloodstream or into the skin and into the hair follicle could cause some stress to it and impair the ability of hair to make a fibre. If you stop smoking, you may be less predisposed to hair loss.”
All comes back to general health
“It’s all linked to your general health,” says Leonora Doclis, Belgravia’s Senior Trichologist. “One theory is that nicotine and carbon monoxide, both found in cigarettes, restrict the flow of blood to hair follicles. Another explanation is that smoking can cause damage to the DNA of the follicles, which causes the hair to fall out. If a healthy head of hair is important to you, as it certainly is to most women, we would recommend giving cigarettes – even just a couple per day – a wide berth.”
If you notice you are shedding more than usual and are concerned, you should visit a hair loss specialist for advice. They can provide a professional diagnosis of your condition, recommend appropriate hair loss treatments and even give lifestyle advice to help improve your hair’s health – starting with giving up smoking.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.