Smoking also causes atrophy of the skin, follicular DNA damage and reduced blood flow to the follicles via nicotine induced vasoconstriction.
This would make us suspect that hair loss should be greater in smokers and this is effectively demonstrated to be true by population studies. For example in a survey of 740 Taiwanes men suffering from androgenetic alopecia, men who smoked over 20 cigarettes a day had greater hair loss on average than non smokers and also began to lose their hair at a younger age.
Similar results have been seen in twins where one smoked and the other did not.
The situation with alcohol is not so clear. There are no direct studies showing that drinkers have greater hair loss than non drinkers. However we do know that as alcohol is metabolized in the body it produces oxidative stress in tissues due the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS can damage proteins and DNA or combine with other substances to create cancer causing compounds.
Although there are no direct studies on alcohol and hair loss, there are studies linking this type of oxidative stress to greying hair and hair loss.
However there are a number of studies which also show that moderate drinking is associated with some health benefits.
In summary, cigarettes should be avoided completely as not only do they cause multiple health problems they could also speed up your hair loss. Alcohol is probably OK occasionally and in moderation.
Dr Peter Griffiths
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