Can Vaping Cause Hair Loss? - Debunking Myths

If you've been vaping and noticing some extra strands in your brush lately, you might be wondering if there's a connection. It's a valid concern, especially with all the buzz around vaping and its impact on health.

We'll explore what the research says, hear from experts, and offer some insights to help you make informed decisions about your vaping habits and hair health.

The man is vaping an e-cigarette

What Is Vaping

Vaping is a method of inhaling vaporized substances through an electronic device known as a vape pen or an e-cigarette. These devices are designed to mimic the act of smoking without the combustion of tobacco. Instead of burning tobacco leaves, vaping devices heat a liquid, often referred to as e-liquid or vape juice, to produce an aerosol or vapor that the user inhales.

Vaping has gained popularity as an alternative to smoking, with many users viewing it as a less harmful option due to the absence of combustion and the reduced production of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

What Chemicals Are Contained in Vaping E-Cigarettes

  • Nicotine: Nicotine is the same addictive substance found in traditional tobacco products. It's what keeps many smokers hooked and is a key component in the transition to vaping for those looking to quit or reduce their smoking habit
  • Propylene Glycol (PG): This colorless, odorless liquid serves as one of the primary base ingredients in e-liquids. PG is responsible for carrying the flavor and nicotine in the vapor, and it's known for its ability to produce a throat hit that closely mimics the sensation of smoking tobacco. This makes it a popular choice for former smokers seeking a similar experience. However, PG is also a humectant, meaning it can cause dry mouth and throat for some users
  • Vegetable Glycerin (VG): VG is known for its thicker consistency and sweeter taste compared to PG. Its higher viscosity leads to the production of denser, more substantial vapor clouds, which are prized by cloud chasers and those who enjoy a smoother vaping experience
  • Flavorings: These flavorings are added to make vaping more enjoyable and can be a significant factor in helping smokers switch to vaping. Some flavoring compounds used in e-liquids may carry potential health risks. Diacetyl, a flavoring compound known for its butter-like taste, has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious lung disease. While its use has been reduced following widespread concern, it can still be present in some e-liquids.
  • Formaldehyde: This is a recognized carcinogen that can form when e-liquid is overheated or not properly vaporized. This harmful chemical has the potential to damage the DNA of hair follicle cells properly vaporized.
  • Acrolein: Produced when glycerin is heated, acrolein is a potent irritant that can harm the lungs and respiratory system. It's commonly found in herbicides and is known for its harsh effects on the body's airways. When it comes into contact with the scalp, it can cause inflammation
  • Benzene: This is a component found in car exhaust emissions and is a known carcinogen. Benzene can be present in the vapor produced by e-cigarettes, especially those that use certain types of flavorings or solvents
  • Metals: The heating elements in vape pens can introduce metals like lead, nickel, and chromium into the aerosol that users inhale. The presence of these metals is concerning because they can accumulate in the body and have toxic effects, particularly on the nervous system and kidneys
  • Ultrafine Particles: Vaping can produce ultrafine particles that are small enough to enter the lungs and bloodstream. These particles can carry toxic chemicals and contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory issues
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): These compounds vaporize at room temperature and can be inhaled by users. VOCs, which include substances like benzene and toluene, are known for their potential to cause health issues such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and even more serious long-term effects

What's the Connection Between Vaping and Hair Loss

The relationship between vaping and hair loss is an area of active investigation. While the evidence is not yet conclusive, the potential impact of vaping on hair health cannot be ignored, because there are clear indications and evidence of the harmful effects of e-cigarette ingredients, and therefore dermatologists recommend reducing their consumption.

Harmful Effects of Nicotine on Hair Loss

The harmful effects of nicotine on hair loss are a result of reduced blood flow, disruption of the hair growth cycle, oxidative stress, inflammation, and hormonal imbalances.

Nicotine disrupts the natural hair growth cycle, which consists of the anagen (growth phase), catagen (transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase). Nicotine has been shown to shorten the anagen phase and prolong the telogen phase, causing more hair follicles to enter the resting phase simultaneously.

It is a well-known vasoconstrictor, narrows blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood flow to the hair follicles. When the supply of nutrients and oxygen is diminished due to reduced blood flow, the hair follicles can become weakened, leading to slower hair growth and increased shedding.

Nicotine may influence the levels of various hormones, including cortisol, a stress hormone that has been linked to hair loss.

Vaping vs. Smoking Cigarettes vs. Chewing Tobacco

Vaping, smoking cigarettes, and using chewing tobacco are all methods of consuming nicotine, the addictive substance found in tobacco plants. While each method delivers nicotine in different ways, they share common risks and potential health effects, particularly concerning nicotine addiction and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Traditional cigarettes deliver nicotine through the combustion of tobacco, which releases a cocktail of harmful chemicals, including tar, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. These substances can have a more pronounced effect on hair loss compared to vaping, as they not only reduce blood flow to the follicles but also introduce a higher level of toxins that can damage the hair growth cycle.

The act of smoking cigarettes exposes the body to these dangerous compounds, significantly increasing the risk of not only hair loss but also serious health issues, including various forms of cancer. The direct correlation between smoking, the intake of these harmful chemicals, and adverse health outcomes makes it a critical factor in the discussion of hair health and overall well-being.

Chewing tobacco involves placing a portion of it between the gum and cheek, where nicotine is absorbed through the oral mucosa. While it doesn't involve inhaling smoke or vapor, chewing tobacco still delivers nicotine to the body, carrying similar risks for hair loss as smoking and vaping.

If you're addicted, consider quitting...

What Clinical Studies and Research Say

The intersection of vaping and hair loss is a relatively new area of scientific inquiry, with a growing body of research beginning to shed light on the potential impacts.
Most research on vaping has historically centered on its respiratory and cardiovascular effects, with less emphasis on dermatological or hair-related outcomes.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bradford, UK, investigated the effects of nicotine on hair follicle health. The study found that nicotine could induce premature entry of hair follicles into the catagen phase, the transitional phase of the hair growth cycle, leading to increased hair shedding.

A study by the University of California, San Francisco, examined the impact of e-cigarette vapor on oxidative stress levels in the body. The research showed that vaping could increase oxidative stress markers, which are known to contribute to hair loss.

What Are the Solutions for Hair Loss

As previously mentioned, there are no clear indications that your hair loss is caused by vaping, but the harmful impact of electronic cigarette ingredients should not be ignored.

If you notice thinning and increased hair shedding, there is no need to panic, as there are currently many innovative products on the market that can effectively address your problem, especially if you act quickly and start using them in a timely manner.

Serums and shampoos designed to combat hair loss are the most popular choices.

There are some myths about whether shampoo can cause hair loss.

Hair Loss Serums

Serums are designed to penetrate the scalp deeply and deliver concentrated ingredients to the hair follicles. Since these are concentrated formulations, clinical research has shown that these products are highly effective.

Hair loss serums are often enriched with a potent blend of active ingredients known for their hair growth-promoting properties. Among these, capilia longa in Bio-Veloxin® Activation Serum stands out as an effective natural compound that has demonstrated up to 89% reduction in hair loss and up to 52% improvement in hair density in individual studies.

Another noteworthy ingredient is vanillyl butyl ether, a mild warming agent that creates a warm, tingling sensation on the scalp, which can improve blood flow and consequently enhance nutrient and oxygen delivery to the scalp.

These innovative components complement traditional ingredients like minoxidil, biotin, caffeine, peptides, and various plant extracts, all of which work synergistically to stimulate hair follicles, improve circulation to the scalp, and provide essential nutrients to support overall hair health.

Medical Treatments

In the medical treatment of hair loss, minoxidil, finasteride, and dutasteride are most commonly used. In addition to these, spironolactone, corticosteroids, and hormonal therapy are also employed.

Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter topical medication that can be used by both men and women. Minoxidil works by prolonging the growth phase of hair follicles and increasing blood flow to the scalp.

Finasteride (Propecia) is a prescription oral medication primarily used for the treatment of male pattern baldness. Finasteride works by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that can lead to hair loss. By reducing DHT levels, finasteride can help slow hair loss and promote regrowth in men.

Dutasteride (Avodart) is similar to finasteride. It inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT. It is not FDA-approved specifically for hair loss treatment, but it is sometimes prescribed off-label for this purpose, as it may be more effective than finasteride in reducing DHT levels.

Spironolactone (Aldactone) has anti-androgen effects. It is sometimes prescribed off-label for the treatment of female pattern hair loss, particularly in cases where androgen excess is suspected to be a contributing factor.

Corticosteroids are used in cases of hair loss due to inflammatory conditions like alopecia areata. They reduce inflammation and suppress the immune response.

For women experiencing hair loss related to hormonal imbalances or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hormonal treatments such as oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy may be prescribed to help regulate hormone levels and reduce hair loss.

Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy, also known as low-level laser therapy (LLLT), is an innovative approach to hair growth, offering a non-invasive and painless alternative to traditional hair loss treatments.

Users often report noticeable improvements within just a few months of consistent treatment, making it a highly sought-after solution for those struggling with hair thinning or balding.

Red light therapy for hair growth is typically used in clinical settings, but there are also at-home devices available, such as laser caps.

Surgical Treatments

Surgical treatments for hair loss, such as hair transplant surgery, offer a viable option for patients seeking long-term solutions. These procedures are typically performed in specialized clinics by experienced professionals. During the initial consultation, the patient's overall health is assessed, along with factors like the extent of hair loss and the potential for regrowth.

Techniques such as Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) involve moving hair from areas of dense growth to areas of thinning or baldness. These surgeries can offer a more permanent solution to hair loss.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy involves injecting your own platelets into the scalp to stimulate hair growth by promoting the repair of tissues and supporting hair follicle health.

For patients suffering from alopecia, these surgical treatments can provide significant improvements in hair density and appearance. However, it's important to have realistic expectations regarding the results, as factors like the patient's age, the nature of their hair loss, and their overall health can impact the outcome.

How Can You Prevent All This While Vaping

One effective strategy to consider is transitioning from vaping to other nicotine replacement therapies that are less detrimental to your health, such as nicotine lozenges or patches. These alternatives can provide a controlled dose to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings without the harmful chemicals found in vape juice.

Non-nicotine options like herbal cigarettes or aromatherapy inhalers can offer a sensory substitute without the addictive substance.

Consider Changing Lifestyle Habits

Everything we're about to say is probably something you already know and hear from all sides, but it's good to repeat. Maybe now is the time to decide to change your established habits. First and foremost, it's important to pay attention to effective stress management, as this is often a common reason for smoking and an increased desire for vaping.

By managing stress through techniques like meditation, yoga, or regular exercise, individuals can naturally decrease stress levels, diminishing the urge to seek relief through nicotine products.

Practicing mindfulness and prioritizing self-care increases awareness of the body's signals, helping to address the root causes of the vaping habit.

Quality sleep can lower stress and anxiety levels, potentially reducing the need to vape.

The Food You Should Eat

There are a lot of nutrients you should consume to make your hair look healthy (regardless of whether you practice vaping or not).

A balanced diet rich in key nutrients such as protein, iron, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, zinc, and vitamins A and E can strengthen hair follicles, promote growth, and prevent hair loss.

Incorporating foods like lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and whole grains into your diet can provide these essential nutrients.

Be cautious with diets, as weight loss can be a cause of hair loss.

A combination of healthy habits, informed choices, and appropriate treatments can provide the best chance for reducing hair loss and promoting regrowth.