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Smoking and Being Overweight Linked to Thinning Hair in Women

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The American marketing company, Amway, has carried out research into how women feel about the condition of their hair, to see how age and lifestyle habits influence their perceptions.

These self-reported views of the participants’ hair were then compared to data, ranging from hair diameter measurements and tensile strength, to the patients’ body mass index (BMI).

In their study, they concentrated on 110 Caucasian women aged between 17 and 78 years, with brown hair, and found a number of key factors could influence whether women saw themselves as having fine or thinning hair.

Women’s feelings about their hair compared to scientific data

A peer-reviwed article about this Michigan-based research, which was published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science in August 2019, detailed the methodology, stating.

“Hair biophysical properties, life‐style habits data and self‐perceptions of hair condition were collected… Hair diameter (cross‐sectional area), and tensile properties (elastic modulus, break strength and break extension) were measured at the root end of individual fibers (n=100/subject) from the crown and frontal regions using objective instrumental methods.”

Additionally, BMI scores were recorded and Female Pattern Hair Loss grades, using the Savin scale (pictured), were allocated for each patient.

Each participant then completed a self-assessment questionnaire, answering queries on their lifestyle, habits and how they perceived their hair condition.

Negative effects associated with ageing, being overweight and smoking

When all the data was assessed and compared, researchers found that hair loss increased and hair diameter measurements decreased “significantly” as the women got older.

Those with a history of smoking – whether they were still smokers or not – or those who were overweight were “significantly associated” with having a thinner hair diameter, (lower hair fibre cross‐sectional area).

obese overweight smoking women's hair loss thinning hair female hairloss

Lastly, those women who rated their hair as being fine, weak or thinning, were found to have smaller hair diameters, and vice versa in that those who felt their hair was “healthy or strong” had notably thicker hair diameters. Researchers concluded there was no real correlation between hair diameter and tensile strength, however.

Cigarette smoking has long-established links to hair issues, including thinning, premature greying and the hair becoming dry and brittle. Despite the well-known negative, and potentially fatal, health consequences of smoking, clinical research from 2015 showed that women were partaking in a trend for ‘lighter smoking’; unfortunately the fact that they are smoking at all means this would still impact their hair, and health.

Whilst obesity in itself does not cause hair loss, the strain it places on the body may contribute to thinning hair, and a number of the myriad health problems linked to being obese, such as diabetes, are also known to lead to hair loss. Furthermore, medication, weight loss surgery and crash diets are all potential triggers for temporary hair thinning from a condition called Telogen Effluvium.

When this occurs in people with an underlying genetic predisposition, it can spark premature Female Pattern Hair Loss, which is a permanent hair loss condition, or exacerbate the rate of shedding in women for whom this is already active.

Age-related hair loss – as opposed to ‘hair ageing‘ – generally comes down to either Female Pattern Hair Loss – which tends to become more common, the older we get – and/or the fact that our collagen production decreases with age, leading to thinner hair.

Trust your instincts…

A poignant takeaway from this research is that, when it comes to knowing your own hair, it’s good to trust your instincts.

It’s not just excessive hair fall that signifies a potential hair loss problem; if you suspect your hair is losing its volume, feeling weaker or thinner than usual, your parting starts to look wider or your pony tail seems less full than normal, a consultation with a hair loss specialist may be beneficial.

Taking this proactive step will provide you with a professional diagnosis, advice on hair loss solutions and personalised recommendations for the most appropriate hair loss treatment course for your individual level and pattern of shedding, as well as your medical profile.

There are clinically-proven medications and supplementary hair growth supporting products which can be used to help both promote regrowth and ensure the maintenance of normal, healthy hair.

Based on the feedback we frequently receive from clients and visitors to Belgravia hair loss clinics, making this initial move can also help you to feel better informed, supported and more in control of what can often be a daunting issue – even though it doesn’t have to be.


Circ - Belgravia Centre Hair Loss Clinics LondonThe 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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