Does Smoking (Nicotine) Cause Hair Loss?

Does Smoking (Nicotine) Cause Hair Loss?
Does Smoking (nicotine) Cause Hair Loss?

When your hair is thinning one of the first things you should do is try to figure out what’s causing your hair loss. Knowing can help stop or reverse the loss in some circumstances.

Did you know that smoking may cause issues with your hair?

If you’re a regular smoker and have thinning hair, there might be a connection between the two. Sometimes this connection is direct, while sometimes smoking triggers a chain of events that leads to hair loss indirectly.

Understanding these connections and what the symptoms are can help. Once you’ve identified what symptoms you’re dealing with, you’ll be better equipped to be to reverse their effects.

To learn more, let’s look at nicotine and how it affects your body.

What Is Nicotine?

There are a lot of ingredients in cigarettes, but the most well-known ingredient is nicotine.

Nicotine comes from the nightshade family. This is the same plant family that we get tomatoes and eggplants from. Out of the nightshade plants, tobacco has one of the highest potencies of nicotine, with up to 3% of the dry weight being nicotine.

Side Effects Of Nicotine That Can Affect Your Hair

Now that you know a little more, let’s look at the different side effects are and how they can be linked to hair loss.

Poor Circulation

Cigarette smoke has toxic chemicals in it that can cause your blood vessels to shrink in size. This decreases the flow of blood in your body. This includes the flow of blood to your scalp and hair follicles. They need oxygen, minerals, and other things in order to form your hair.

When your hair doesn’t get enough of what it needs, the first thing that happens is that it comes out weaker, thinner, and duller. If this continues, eventually the follicles will completely let go of the hair. End result? You’ll experience hair loss.

If you are struggling with poor circulation, you’ll often have cold hands or feet. It’s a good indicator that circulation could be your problem. In this case, increasing circulation to your scalp should be one of the first things you do to encourage your hair growth.

High blood pressure is another sign of this issue. Blood pressure is the pressure which the blood travels through your veins.

When your veins constrict, this means your same amount of blood is forced into a smaller space, thereby creating more pressure. This is why high blood pressure is harmful. Your body has to work twice as hard to get all the nutrients delivered to the different areas of your body.

Increased Toxins

While nicotine is a harmful toxin for your body, there are also other toxins that your body absorbs when you smoke. All of these are put through your body’s filter. Your liver is your body’s filter, and some of these toxins literally kill the cells in your liver.

If you are only smoking occasionally,  and aren’t being exposed to other toxins, then your liver may be able to repair itself. However, over time your liver will not be able to keep up. Your immune system isn’t able to function as well without the help of your liver. Overall, this leads to a weak immune system.

Weak Immune System

The same toxins that shrink your blood vessels also weaken your immune system. When you have a weak immune system you tend to get sicknesses easier. Infections can be worse, and even last longer.

When you’re sick your body tries to focus its efforts on getting you well again. This includes using up nutrients that you consume. If you are sick for an extended period of time, your body will run low on these nutrients.

Since your body always prioritizes your essential organs and functions, this means if you get a deficiency, one of the first places you’ll notice it affecting is your hair and nails. This is because they’re lower in priority.

In addition, when you get sick you take medication, and medications often have side effects. Hair loss could be one of the consequences.

All of that is not even to mention some of the more serious things that can happen such as cancer or autoimmune diseases. The chemotherapy for cancer will assuredly cause you to lose your hair among other things, and autoimmune diseases where your body will attack itself can have a wide range of symptoms.

Higher DHT Levels

If you are looking into hair loss at all, then you are no doubt at least a little familiar with DHT and how it can lead to hair loss. While this is in part a genetic thing as to if it attaches to your scalp, smoking actually makes this worse in two ways.

The first way is that it increases the amount of DHT that you have in your body, making it more likely that it will find its way to your scalp. The second way is that it can make it more likely to bond with your scalp.

It aids this bonding more so if you tend to smoke indoors since the smoke in the air is counted by your body as though it was an environmental pollution. This can strengthen any genetic tendency for the DHT to lead to you losing your hair.

While this can happen to men, this is even more common in women and it is one reason why women can experience pattern hair loss. One important thing that you should be aware of is that DHT actually likes low levels of oxygen.

While some oxygen is needed to form DHT, it does not take much to do so. This means that increasing your oxygen is a great way to help lower your DHT levels. It also means that there is another reason why you should try to avoid high blood pressure.

Depositphotos 396862974 xl 2015 scaled - Does Smoking (Nicotine) Cause Hair Loss?

Signs That Your Hair Is Being Affected

While your hair smelling of smoke might not mean that you are losing your hair, this is a sign that your hair is actually absorbing some of the smoke. This is obviously not a good thing, though it is not as bad as your hair thinning all over your scalp.

Sometimes your hair and scalp can absorb so much smoke that they can actually visibly yellow. Your scalp can also get thicker as your hair strands get thinner. Other signs are a dry or an itchy scalp, sometimes with a grey-colored dandruff.

In severe cases, the skin on your hands and in other places may become more yellow. Your teeth will likely yellow before that happens, however, and your breath will start to smell bad. This can be to the point of getting gum disease as well.

Other side effects that your body can have are coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, and a persistent cough. Finally, you may even suffer from weight loss and other things, all of which are clear signs that your body is having a hard time processing the nicotine.

Limiting The Effects Of Nicotine

While giving up smoking is no doubt the best option, there are things that you can do to help reduce the effects of it if for any reason quitting is not an option. Sessions of deep breathing, for example, can help get more oxygen into your system and is therefore a great thing to do.

Along with deep breathing, you should also make sure that you are getting plenty of exercise. This will help to cleanse your lungs and should be done regularly. Things like swimming are a great option for your lungs and help to strengthen them.

Another thing that you should do is to either get house plants or air filters that are equipped to filter out smoke. This will help it not stay in the air so long and will shorten the amount of time that your lungs are exposed to it.

Rest is also something that you need to make sure that you get plenty of, along with good eating habits. Certain foods that help increase your circulation such as cayenne, garlic, and ginger are things that you can eat more of. By increasing your circulation, these will help your hair in every way.

Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E which is also a good thing to help with your circulation. This food also is good for helping to keep your blood pressure in check. All in all, trying to keep yourself as healthy as possible is vital if you want to limit the effects of smoking.

How Smoking Causes Hair Loss

Below are the various ways that smoking can cause hair loss:

1. Smoking leads to reduced blood circulation

Hair follicles depend on a good supply of oxygen and other essential nutrients for high performance. The absence of these essential nutrients causes hair loss.

During smoking, cigarette smoke is laced with the harmful carbon dioxide which reduces the flow of blood to the scalp to the barest minimum. Due to this limited supply of blood, the performance of follicles is reduced, leading to hair loss.

2. It leads to stunted cell growth

A polluted environment is never ideal for the growth of hair cells. Instead of using the necessary nutrients to support hair growth, our body will deploy these nutrients to fight the harmful effect of cigarette smokes on the body. Thus, hair loss is given a free rein to operate.

3. Smoking leads to poor health

Contrary to the impression created by cigarette makers and their marketers, smoking has no cooling effects on the human body.

Rather, smokers are susceptible to slow death. It weakens the body’s metabolic system, exposing it to a wide variety of illnesses as the immune system is weakened. Some important systems of the body may stop functioning due to the effects of cigarette smoke.

When all these systems either stop functioning or function below average, it affects the hair follicles. It becomes difficult for hair follicles to perform their function of supporting hair growth.

4. It damages hair follicle’s DNA

Smoking produces some genotoxicants that are powerful enough to completely damage the DNA of hair follicles. When the DNA is damaged, natural hair growth becomes relatively impossible. This will lead to hair loss.

5. It has pro-oxidant effects

These effects can lead to the production and release of some pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as cytokines, into the body. When this happens, the follicles will be subjected to micro-inflation which is against proper hair growth.

6. It causes imbalance

Smoking also causes an imbalance in the protease/anti-protease systems of the follicles. Subsequently, the hair growth cycle will be affected adversely, leading to gradual hair loss.

All these are pointers to the fact that smoking can cause hair loss. However, the effects of smoking on hair loss are more pronounced in young people than adults where smoking combines with other factors like work pressure to wreck havoc on smokers’ hair

I am sure you love your youthful age and also your life. If you really do, then consider putting a stop to smoking, because apart from leading to baldness, it also has the capacity to shorten your lifespan.


One of the best things that you can do for your hair loss, and for your health in general, is to stop smoking. Once your body is free from the toxins it will then be able to replace the hair that it was losing much easier.

Unfortunately, vaping does not get rid of the nicotine. Since it is the nicotine more than anything else that can lead to hair loss, this means that vaping will not stop your hair from falling out.

This is also true of other things like eCigs, even though it does not have nicotine. This is because eCigs do have other things including flavors and chemicals that give it the same feel. These are almost as damaging as nicotine itself, especially on your liver.

All of these different side effects combined lead to premature aging of your cells over time. This means that you are not only likely to lose your hair, but you may also grey prematurely. Smoking is bad for your whole body, not just your hair.

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Christopher is the founder of Hair Loss Geeks, which launched back in 2011. At the time there wasn't any credible information on the internet about hair loss. As someone suffering from hair loss himself, Christopher began his extensive research journey. After launching the site, he later graduated from Boston University in 2012 with his PhD in Biochemistry. What started off as a hobby project quickly became a bigger focus as it grew. Christopher hopes everyone can learn from both his experience and research.

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