Donna Kim-Brand May 2014

We who hang out at Hair Chatter are interested in hair in a multitude of ways: things like how it looks and feels, what causes hair loss and what to do when we or our clients or friends face hair loss, what tools or accessories are useful in hair care, and even what NOT to do to prevent damage to our hair or health.

So, without any attached value judgment, today’s post is about the damage smoking can do to your hair or scalp. Cigarettes contain around 4000 different chemicals and gasses, some of which are toxic or even deadly. When you smoke, your skin cells absorb carbon monoxide which enters your blood stream and hijacks the red blood cells. This diminishes the amount of oxygen in your system, which not only affects your breathing and ability to concentrate, but also your hair since it is not receiving the required amount of oxygen and nutrients to maintain healthy follicles. In turn, your hair can become dry and brittle, both from root deprivation and from topical exposure to the drying nature of the smoke itself. In time, in severe cases, hair loss could occur, either from thinning or breakage while brushing.

A more serious result of smoking is suffering a stroke, a risk which is four times higher in smokers than non-smokers. A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply or when a blood vessel bursts, usually in the brain. This causes further loss of oxygen and other nutrients to the brain, which upsets the normal dynamic of the skin on your scalp and elsewhere on the body. The enzyme which breaks down collagen, the main structural protein in skin, is stimulated by smoking. So hair loss is not unusual in these cases. Another side effect of smoking on the skin which can affect your scalp is psoriasis, where the damaged skin cells vigorously seek to renew themselves and end up leaving scaly red patches.

Discoloration of hair is another, though less serious, condition that can occur when in regular presence of heavy smoke and smoking of any type. And then there’s the smell – that distinct, often stale, smoky aroma that sticks to hair and clothing and can not only be expensive to remove but is considered a romantic turn-off by some.

Please be aware that the damage potential also occurs from passive smoke exposure, so it behooves you to limit your time and ingestion of smoke from sources around you – bars, bus stations, or wherever people are still allowed to gather and ‘puff on the stuff’.

We live on a planet of causes and effects, which are neutral of anyone’s opinions. Gravity works the same whether you ‘believe in it’ or not. So too, the facts about smoking and damage to hair and scalp, whether you smoke or not. As with most aspects of our personal health and well-being, it is up to each of us to consider the facts (and sources), then make our choices in ways that support what matters to us. What we want for all our readers, in the nicest way possible, is for you to look, feel and be ‘smokin’ hot’!

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