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New Research Confirms Air Pollution Can Cause Hair Loss

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The 28th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress has kicked off in Madrid, Spain, with some interesting news for both drivers and passengers.

A presentation from South Korea’s Future Science Research Centre explained how air pollution has been shown to negatively affect hair growth in ways which can lead to hair loss.

Reduces levels of important hair growth proteins

The Anatomy of a Hair Follicle

The South Korean team exposed extracted dermal papilla (DP) cells – those located at the bottom of the hair follicle and which play a vital role in the formation and growth of human hair – to various concentrations of polluted air for 24 hours.

At the end of the test, the hairs were examined to investigate whether any differences had occurred to their key growth proteins.

Not only were beta-catenin, cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2 levels found to be decreased – significantly in the case of beta-catenin, which is responsible for new hairs forming normally – but these effects were found to be dose-dependent. Essentially, the more polluted the air the DP cells were exposed to, the greater their reduction of important hair growth proteins.

“While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are well established, there is little to no research on the effect of particulate matter exposure on the human skin, and hair in particular,” says team member Hyuk Chul Kwon.

“Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on human follicle dermal papilla cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”

Expands upon previous research into hair loss and air pollution

traffic congestion lights stop halt pollution london

Despite the researcher’s claim that there has been a lack of study in this area, there has certainly been some investigation of this area before.

The new South Korean data appears to expand upon findings from previous research in both the USA and the UK that also linked air pollution to hair loss.

A 2017 study by researchers at Duke University in America demonstrated that air pollution from traffic can cause hairloss. They understood this to be because exhaust pollutants were present in far greater quantities inside vehicles than in the air outside.

Furthermore, the pollution contained high levels of the chemicals that cause oxidative stress – also known as free-radical damage – which has also been associated with thinning hair and identified as a trigger for the premature onset of Male Pattern Baldness.

Before that, in 2009 a team from the college of medicine at Queen Mary University of London, UK, linked traffic pollution to baldness after discovering that toxic air pollutants can damage vital hair proteins.

Whilst each of these earlier projects was small in scale, they have produced insightful information which, in addition to the new findings, certainly compounds the case for more trials in this area. Additionally, this could now be used to help find ways to protect the hair from such pollutants in order to prevent hair loss.

Could be the reason for rising hair loss problems

In recent years there have been increasing complaints about rising levels of Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss from residents of China, India and the United Arab Emirates. Continues below…

WHO World Health Organisation Global ambient air pollution map 2018 - hair loss and air pollution
Click to Enlarge the 2018 World Health Organisation Global Ambient Air Pollution Map

Although the precise reason for this apparently sudden increase in cases of thinning hair in men and sometimes women has not yet been identified, it was largely assumed to be down to stress.

This was based on the fact that modern lives are becoming increasingly stressful and unbalanced, with people tending to get less sleep and recreational time than before, plus everyday diets not always being as healthy as they could be due to the smorgasbord of convenience food offerings available which often have poor nutritional values – all factors known to contribute to hair loss.

However, the correlation between this pattern of research outcomes and the fact that these countries all have some of the worst air pollution in the world, based on the 2018 survey from the World Health Organisation (WHO), does seem to lend itself to high levels of air pollution being a possible factor.

Without going full Greta Thunberg and avoiding all forms of non eco-friendly transport, things you can do to help reduce the effects of air pollution on the hair include wearing a hat and washing your hair when you come in each day.

Having good quantities of antioxidants in your diet may also be beneficial, with vitamin C, selenium and zinc all known to contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. These nutrients are all included in the exclusive Belgravia food supplements, Hair Vitalics for Men and Hair Vitalics for Women, though these are not intended to replace a healthy, balanced diet.

Where air pollution is exacerbating, or triggering Male or Female Pattern Baldness, a personalised hair loss treatment course featuring clinically-proven medications and, where appropriate, additional hair growth supporting products, may be advantageous.


The Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. 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 world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.

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