When we talk about hair loss, it can be easy to emphasise the genetic and hormonal factors. After all, in many ways, our scalp and hair health can feel predetermined — a prophecy foretold in your dad's receding hairline or the balding crown of your grandfather.
With hair loss, the impact of environmental factors can play a key role in the condition of your scalp and hair, and what we put into (and breathe out of) our body can trigger a whole host of health risks. Cigarette smoking, vapes and a nicotine habit can all result in hair damage, but how does vaping cause hair loss and why?
What is vaping?
In simplest terms, vaping is a method of smoking that utilises a small electronic device known as an e-cigarette, and tobacco that doesn’t include nicotine.
Vapes, or e-cigarettes, were invented in 1963 by Herbert Gilbert, a Pennsylvanian scrap metal dealer, who came up with the idea as a way to combat the harmful effects of tobacco . What this meant was that instead of the combustion of tobacco through lighting a traditional cigarette, vapes heat the tobacco as a liquid .
His invention was a small, battery-powered device that vaporised this liquid for inhalation — a precursor to modern e-cigarettes. He patented the device in 1965, but it wouldn’t hit mass production until the early 2000s.
Since then, vaping has revolutionised the tobacco industry and evolved into a common alternative to traditional smoking, and it’s often perceived as ‘safer, better tasting, more efficient and more discrete'; however, recent studies have shown that’s not necessarily true .
So vaping isn't safer than smoking tobacco?
It’s hard to say at this stage. Most peer-reviewed journals are the first to say that not enough research has been done on the overall effects of e-cigarettes, but the studies that have been done do suggest that vaping doesn’t come without risk .
In particular, a study conducted by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that vaping caused lung injuries that led to lung cancer, while other studies found vaping caused damage to the heart, sometimes leading to a heart attack, and brain in young adults, as well as impacted foetal development in pregnant people .
At the end of the day, e-cigarettes are still a form of nicotine exposure, and nicotine exposure has a serious effect on the body.
Does vaping cause hair loss?
According to many studies, any form of smoking tobacco has an impact on your hair. Not only do smoking and vaping affect your hair growth cycle and fibre pigmentation but even being exposed to tobacco smoke in the air can cause nicotine levels to accumulate in your hair follicles and your hair shafts .
In other words, you don’t even need to be the one vaping for your hair to be affected. The most common way that this manifests is in androgenetic alopecia, otherwise known as male pattern baldness .
How does nicotine contribute to hair loss?
It’s understood that the main cause of hair loss is genetic; however, environmental factors can and do impact the speed at which that hair loss happens. When it comes to environmental factors, smoking, vaping and nicotine exposure are all significant .
The impact smoking cigarettes and vaping products can have is significant, in no small part because nicotine, whether chewed in nicotine gum or imbibed through cigarette smoke or nicotine patches, alters your body and its makeup. In particular, it does this through:
- Constricting blood vessels and limiting blood flow to the hair follicles. This can have a particularly damaging impact during hair transplant surgery and result in serious complications .
- Inducing imbalances that damage DNA. This can cause follicle regression, impacting the natural hair follicle growth cycle .
- Causing oxidative stress and an imbalance in your body's antioxidants. This can cause impaired hair growth as different proteins are released in the body's cells to combat the effects .
- Affecting your hormones. Some studies have found that nicotine hair loss is caused by increased levels of androgen, a hormonal imbalance that vaping can cause .
How else can smoking or vaping affect hair health?
Vaping can have a range of impacts on your health, from your lungs to your scalp to your heart, but an excessive amount of nicotine in your system can also lead to hair turning grey before you're ready for it too.
One of the things that nicotine does is that it promotes the cessation of melanin production, which is the molecules in your body responsible for the pigmentation of your eyes, skin and hair follicles.
In other words, it stops your hair from producing the molecules that give your healthy hair colour . Salt and pepper hair can be a dapper look, but going grey before you're ready can lead to hair insecurity in some, and that loss of colour isn't something that you can reverse outside of regular trips to the barber.
Will my hair grow back if I stop vaping?
This question is a little harder to answer. While studies have found that when people stop smoking, their bodies can start to heal, the effect isn't universal. We're all unique, and how your body reacts in situations depends on a range of things — from eating a balanced diet to other health conditions to genetics and other environmental factors.
In other words, some smokers who go cold turkey might experience some hair regrowth, but others might find that their hair loss is permanent.
How to treat hair loss
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to treat hair loss and stimulate hair growth in a way that helps your scalp and body to regain some much-needed nutrients.
So, if you're worried about your hair, or are experiencing large amounts of hair shedding, never fear! We've got your back.
Oral and topical medications have been found to be very successful in combatting hair loss. There's a wide range of products you can choose from but if you're unsure what'll be best for you, a great place to start is with Pilot's personalised hair loss treatment plan.
This gives you the opportunity to speak with a doctor who will prescribe you with a bespoke treatment designed to help stop hair loss and encourage hair growth. Our Keep Your Hair program works by blocking the action of the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – a hormone that stops hair growth.
Our Keep and Regrow Your Hair plan uses this active ingredient alongside a medication that improves the delivery of vital nutrients to the follicles to stop loss and help hair growth. 83% of users keep their hair with this treatment, while 66% regrow their hair .
Topical treatments are easily purchased at your local chemist, and can even come in the form of shampoo and conditioners, like the ones found in Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit, for easy application.
Low-level laser therapy has been found to be successful in supporting hair regrowth. Functioning as an anti-inflammatory while also stimulating blood vessels, it's been linked to increased hair coverage and healthier skin.
Microneedling, also known as derma rolling, is the process of rolling tiny needles over your scalp to stimulate blood flow and the hair follicles, which encourages new hair growth. It can also feel pretty good — like a slightly prickly massage!
And, you can find a Derma Roller included in Pilot's Hair Growth Booster Kit, so you can reap the derma rolling benefits from home.
Maintaining a healthy head of hair is in many ways synonymous with maintaining a healthy body, and with the extent of the health impacts of vaping still unknown, kicking the habit is generally the best place to start. Resources on quitting smoking and vaping can be found here on the Department of Health website.
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