Woman with red hair looking at the cameraWoman with red hair looking at the camera

Does Nicotine Cause Hair Loss?

The side effects of smoking are undoubtedly harsh. Tar clogs up the lungs, and the chemicals can cause premature skin aging — and that's just for starters! Smoking tobacco will wreak havoc on the body, but the reason why smoking cigarettes is so hard to quit mostly comes down to nicotine.

Nicotine is the psychoactive found in cigarettes and tobacco that acts as an addictive stimulant. But how does this stimulant impact hair health? And will you experience impaired hair growth if you continue to inhale cigarette fumes? VEGAMOUR crept under the smoke and spoke to the experts to find out more. Plus, discover the all-natural hair care line that will keep even smoke-ravaged hair looking and feeling fresh.

What Properties of Nicotine Cause Hair Loss?

Nicotine is a chemical that can be absorbed into the body via the lungs, mouth, nose and skin. The chemical is considered so addictive that it's placed in the same stimulant family as cocaine, caffeine and even methamphetamine.

Studies suggest that nicotine restricts blood flow across the body by causing blood vessels to constrict. A healthy blood flow to the scalp and body can help increase the thickness of the hair and encourage hair regrowth. To produce a thick, luscious head of hair, the scalp needs a healthy environment where hair follicles can thrive. Unfortunately, even secondhand smoke and nicotine exposure can cause problems for the skin and, in turn, the scalp.

A 2020 study compared the rise of early-onset androgenetic alopecia in male nonsmokers and smokers and found that out of 500 participants, 425 experienced hair loss. Only 200 participants out of 500 nonsmokers experience hair loss. The level of hair loss was variable, and although the evidence convincingly suggested that nicotine-related hair loss was likely, more research needs to occur before it's considered conclusive.

"Tobacco generally is known for its detrimental health effects on the human system," said Jordyn Mastrodomenico LCADC, LAC, CTP, clinical director of Choicepoint Health. "There have been various studies over the years, including one that utilizes samples of hair as a possible biomarker for long-term exposure to nicotine. Cigarette smoke constituents include nicotine (solid particulate phase), a lipid-soluble chemical that suits the nature of cell membranes that happily absorb it."

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Various Forms of Nicotine

"Nicotiana Tabacum is more commonly known as the tobacco plant. All tobacco plants essentially contain nicotine, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and synthetic products such as gums and patches," said Mastrodomenico.

It's not just cigarettes; nicotine can be found in the following products:

  • Nicotine patches
  • Smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco
  • E-cigarettes or vapes
  • Nicotine gum

All nicotine products can potentially interfere with the blood vessels, damaging the hair follicles and halting hair growth. Hair grows in a cycle and has three phases:

  1. The anagen or growth phase
  2. The catagen or resting phase
  3. The telogen or shedding phase

The cycle must complete at a healthy rate for tresses to grow long and strong. Smoking or nicotine consumption restricts nutrients, triggering hair to stay in the anagen phase for too long. The hair usually sheds between 50-100 strands a day, but when stuck in the anagen phase, the hair isn't replaced at the same speed as usual.

The Long-Term Effects of Nicotine

However you're ingesting it, nicotine can restrict blood flow, contributing to high blood pressure and other health risks. In addition, nicotine and carbon monoxide (also found in nicotine-laced products) also decrease the amount of oxygen circulating around the body.

"Nicotine further worsens its case by producing chronic effects such as vasoconstriction and oxidative stress, resulting in lipid peroxidation, which is bad news because the hair buildup is essentially lipids and induces senescence and hormonal effects such as Grave's hyperthyroidism, which causes secondary alopecia to occur," suggested Mastrodomenico. As well as potentially triggering a heart attack and an iron deficiency, those who smoke and use e-cigarettes could also experience:

  • Weak, brittle strands: When nutrients in the body are compromised, hair feels brittle and dry. This can impact hair growth and lead to breakage over time if you continue to consume nicotine.
  • Premature hair graying: Smoking can put hormones in the body under stress and damage the hair follicles. If this continues long-term, nicotine consumers might experience light or graying strands at a younger age.

Maintaining a vibrant and glossy hair color is one of the secrets to a youthful look. Whether your strands are fading to gray because of nicotine or because it's simply their time, the GRO Ageless Control Duo uses clean, high-performing plant-based ingredients to defy grays from the inside out. In addition, the nourishing serum helps slow down the signs of aging and the nutrient-rich supplements help add a collagen-rich shine in just 90 days.

It's currently unclear whether smoking and nicotine cause female pattern hair loss, but initial research suggests that it is possible. If nutrients fail to reach the scalp long-term, it could potentially lead to permanent balding and hair transplantation, but again, more conclusive research needs to occur.

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Caring for Hair Post Nicotine

One of the best things you can do for your body and hair is to quit nicotine products. But even after quitting, it will still take time for hair follicles to recover and for hair loss to slow down. If you have been experiencing dramatic hair fall, it's worth checking in with a doctor to confirm that nicotine was the trigger because hair loss can happen for various reasons.

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and quitting can sometimes require help. If you're struggling, further health education and support can help. You could also try:

  • Alternative therapies. Hypnosis, acupuncture and natural medications might help you break the nicotine habit.
  • Therapy groups. Working with a counselor or addiction specialist in a support group might make quitting easier.
  • Prescription drugs. Medications such as Zyban and Chantix are often prescribed to soften cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms.
  • Quitting apps. Checking in with an app daily can help you stay accountable.
  • Avoiding temptation. Staying away from those who also have a nicotine addiction will reduce the urge to smoke.

Quitting smoking is the first step to getting your hair's health back on track. To help strengthen strands, try using the a detoxifying scalp serum. VEGAMOUR's scalp serum has follicle-stimulating technology that helps clear toxins from the scalp, encouraging healthy and shiny hair. The soothing but effective serum is formulated with a propriety blend of vegan silk protein and phyto-actives that provide a semi-permeable barrier for the scalp. The combination of zinc, wild baobab, marula oils and omega 6 & 9 fatty acids keeps everything moisturized, protected and balanced.

The Takeaway

Whether you're breathing in secondary smoke or constantly dragging on an e-cigarette, the chemicals from nicotine can negatively impact the body. It can really damage hair follicles long-term and interrupt your blood flow.

You won't necessarily be able to reverse the damage nicotine does to existing hair, but with a nourishing plant-powered serum, a healthy, nutritious diet, less stress and more exercise, healthy hair is possible. Quitting nicotine will positively impact your hair and your health, so talk to a doctor today if you're struggling.


Photo credit: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.