Does Nicotine Cause Hair Loss?: Know the Connection

Amoha Jha
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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Does Nicotine Cause Hair Loss

Nicotine is the primary psychoactive component of tobacco products. 

It can be found in various items, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, wet and dry snuff, and dried tobacco leaves. 

Nicotine affects different people in vivid manners. 

The factors influencing the effects can be the amount taken, whether a person is used to it, health issues, etc.

One of the effects that can be seen in people who consume products containing it is hair problems. 

This issue is less discussed as smoking is primarily related to lung cancer. However, it’s important to learn the link between Nicotine and hair loss.

Read on to learn whether Nicotine is a contributing factor to hair loss.

A cigarette that contains Nicotine also comprises 7,000 unique chemicals.

Does Nicotine really cause hair loss

A study was conducted in 2020 to see the prevalence of early-onset Androgenetic Alopecia in male smokers and nonsmokers between 20 to 35 years old. A total of 1000 males were assessed.

The results showed that 425 out of 500 smokers had some degree of hair loss. 

When nonsmokers were assessed, it was found that only 200 of 500 nonsmokers showed signs of hair loss.

Ways in which Nicotine causes hair loss

There is not one but many ways in which Nicotine can play a pivotal role in causing hair loss. It includes:

Reduced blood flow to the hair

Heart attack due to reduced blood flowSource: natrot_from_natrot
Heart attack (reduced blood flow)

Suppose you use a product containing Nicotine, such as a cigarette. 

When you breathe in the smoke, the blood distributed to the rest of the body becomes contaminated with the vivid smoke’s chemicals. 

These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels. 

Blood vessels are essential for hair growth as they nourish hair follicles and deliver essential nutrients. 

So if the scalp’s vessels are damaged, it may potentially lead to hair loss.

Effect on DNA

The genotoxicants released from smoke can damage the DNA of the hair follicle.

It causes DNA adducts retention in the body, harming nuclear and mitochondrial DNA. 

Sue Chan, MD, a consultant dermatologist at the Birmingham Skin Centre, explained that our hair follicle contains nucleic acid DNA, while our hair shaft contains mitochondrial DNA. 

It provides essential information forming the basis of how our hair grows. So any effect on the DNA can lead to hair fall.

Protect yourself from genotoxicants, which may even lead to severe diseases, including Cancer.

Oxidative stress

Smoking Nicotine-containing products can increase the production of free radicals in the body.

These are harmful to your body when they are excessively produced. 

Excessive free radicals can also cause oxidative stress.

If you have had oxidative stress for quite a long time, it can damage your DNA and other vital molecules. Sometimes it even leads to cell death.

A study conducted in 2018 stated that oxidative stress can lead to premature hair loss.

Effect on Catagen phase

Smoking alters the balance of protease/anti-protease systems. 

These systems are crucial for modifying the extracellular matrix during hair follicle regression (Catagen phase).

This results in affecting the growth cycle of hair follicles. Thus, eventually resulting in hair loss or thinning.

Effect on Catagen phase

Cigarette smoke alters the balance of protease/anti-protease systems. 

These systems are crucial for modifying the extracellular matrix during hair follicle regression (Catagen phase).

This results in affecting the hair growth cycle. Thus, it can eventually contribute to hair loss.

Excessive Cytokines

Cytokines are proteins crucial for immune system cells and blood cells’ growth and activity. 

A research stated that long-term use of this chemical could increase the production of pro-inflammatory Cytokines. 

The inflammatory response can cause damage to hair follicles. It may result in male as well as female pattern hair loss.

Effects of Nicotine on hair

Man smoking cigarSource: malcolm_garret_from_Pexels
Smoking cigar

Nicotine consumption of any type can cause harmful effects on hair. 

You may notice the following effects:

Premature hair graying

Melanin is a chemical that provides your hair with its color. 

It is made by pigment cells that are present on hair follicles.

With aging, the cells start to die. And once the hair follicle stops making Melanin, it starts appearing some shade of gray.

A study was conducted in 2010 in which 207 people comprising both smokers and non-smokers were assessed. 

One hundred four of them had premature hair graying. 

The prevalence of smokers among them was higher.

Dry and brittle hair

As mentioned above, Nicotine hampers the blood vessels of the scalp. 

When this happens, the blood flow is also hindered.

When there is less blood flow to the scalp, it disrupts collagen production.

This problem results in dry and brittle hair, as collagen provides strong and healthy hair.

Dry hair gives the appearance of lifeless hair, as there is no luster or shine.

Is Nicotine-caused hair loss reversible?

The answer to this question is not yet scientifically proven. 

However, quitting smoking is always a good option for several reasons.

If you quit smoking, it may reverse the damage done to your hair. 

The possible reason might be that your blood vessels will not carry harmful chemical toxins to your scalp. Thus, resulting in healthy hair.

You can also use medicines known to be effective against hair loss problems. It can be FDA-approved Minoxidil. 

It supports hair growth. You can directly apply it to the scalp.

Here is a quick checkout of recommended medications containing Minoxidil

  • Hair 4u 2%
  • Tugain 5%
  • Coverit 2%
  • Takeaway

    Nicotine is primarily used in tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, etc. It is a psychoactive component.

    So, does Nicotine cause hair loss?

    The answer is if you use products containing this chemical, you may face hair loss.

    The reasons can be reduced blood flow, effect on DNA, oxidative stress, excessive Cytokines, etc.

    All these reasons may affect your hair. You may notice premature hair graying and dry and brittle hair.

    There is no scientific evidence for the question of whether nicotine-caused hair loss is reversible or not. 

    However, quitting smoking is always recommended.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Will hair loss from Nicotine grow back?

    It is not evident whether the hair damage caused by Nicotine can be undone. Hair may grow back if you have problems like thinning hair due to a medical condition. However, if you have Androgenetic Alopecia, it might not be possible to see significant hair regrowth.

    How to stop hair loss from Nicotine?

    The only possible solution suggested to prevent hair loss from Nicotine is to quit smoking all the products containing this element. This way, you can protect your hair from all the toxic chemicals. This protection may result in reduced hair loss.

    Is hair loss from Nicotine permanent?

    If you have consumed Nicotine for a long time and continue to do so, the hair loss might be difficult to reverse. Moreover, if you have male-pattern or female-pattern hair loss, it is unlikely to notice significant hair regrowth. However, quitting smoking may help.

    How common is hair loss from Nicotine?

    Consuming products containing Nicotine may result in Androgenetic Alopecia or male pattern baldness. It is proved in a study where 71% of participants who smoked developed extensive male pattern hair loss, while only 10% of non-smokers did. It also affects the young generation.

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