How can tobacco affect your personal appearance?

How tobacco affects your body


  • Nicotine, the drug that makes tobacco addictive, goes to your brain very quickly.
  • Nicotine makes you feel good when you are smoking, but it can make you anxious, nervous, moody, and depressed after you smoke.
  • Using tobacco can cause headaches and dizziness.


  • Tobacco stains your teeth and gives you bad breath.
  • Tobacco ruins some of your taste buds, so you won’t be able to taste your favorite foods as well.
  • Tobacco causes bleeding gums (gum disease) and cancers of the mouth and throat.


  • Smoking increases your heart rate and blood pressure and causes heart disease and heart attacks.
  • If you try to do activities like exercise or play sports, your heart has to work harder to keep up.


  • Smokers have trouble breathing because smoking damages the lungs.
  • If you have asthma, you can have more frequent and more serious attacks.
  • Smoking causes a lot of coughing with phlegm (mucous).
  • Tobacco can cause emphysema (lung disease) and lung cancer.


  • Smoking causes dry, yellow skin and wrinkles.
  • The smell sticks to your skin.


  • Less blood and oxygen flows to your muscles, which causes them to hurt more when you exercise or play sports.

Content last reviewed July 24, 2013
Page last updated October 31, 2013


Smoking and Schizophrenia

The prevalence of smoking in individuals with schizophrenia tends to be higher in relation to the population in general as well as in relation to other psychiatric populations.(30) Although the consumption of tobacco is decreasing in the population in general, patients with schizophrenia continue to smoke in alarming numbers and to suffer the ill health consequences of smoking.(46)

A variety of mechanisms could mediate this association. Tobacco consumption might reflect the institutionalization process, as well as the tedium and low impulse control presented by individuals with this disease.(30) The hypothesis of the use of tobacco as self-medication stands out. Individuals with schizophrenia report that smoking is relaxing, reducing anxiety and minimizing the side effects of medication.(7) In addition, tobacco consumption can improve concentration, reduce unpleasant hyperstimulation experienced by individuals with schizophrenia, and promote one of the few available pleasures for many individuals with the disease. In addition, it is also possible that nicotine reduces negative schizophrenia symptoms, such as apathy, tedium, and emotions related to withdrawal syndrome, while improving the processes of attention and concentration.(37)

This suggests the existence of a set of complex psychopathological, biochemical, and neuropharmachological interactions mediating the interface between smoking and schizophrenia.(46) However, the subject is controversial, and there are other lines of interpretation. Individuals with schizophrenia are less worried about social conventions and the long-term consequences of smoking to health, and are less likely to quit smoking. In addition, the social alienation typically experienced by individuals with schizophrenia frequently results from its concomittance with certain factors, such as low socioeconomic level and belonging to a socially marginalized group, that tend to increase the prevalence of smoking. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt differentiated practices in patients with schizophrenia who wish to stop smoking, such as altering the doses of medication in smokers who abstain from tobacco, using nicotine replacement therapy in higher doses, using a combination of nicotine patches and gum, as well as providing cognitive behavioral therapy.

Smoking and attention deficit disorder

The prevalence of smoking in adolescents and adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or hyperactivity tends to be greater than that seen among individuals without ADD.(47) An increasing number of studies have been developed in an attempt to elucidate the causes of this relationship.(48-50) One of the hypotheses is that tobacco consumption in individuals with ADD results from an attempt at self-medication to relieve the symptoms of this disturbance. Smoking is possibly used as a resource to improve attention and cognition processes.(48,51) As an example, the administration of nicotine patches in nonsmokers with ADD improves cognitive functioning.(52)

Comorbidity between ADD and abuse of or dependence on psychoactive substances in general is also high. It is postulated that the association between ADD and drug abuse/dependence reflects an attempt at self-medicating the symptoms of the disturbance. However, the literature suggests that multiple factors, including personality characteristics, as well as genetic and neurobiological determinants, can mediate the interface between smoking and ADD.(48,49)

Tobacco consumption during pregnancy can constitute a risk factor for the subsequent appearance of this problem in the affected child.(50,53,54) In view of this, we can infer that it is fundamental to provide educational programs for pregnant women in order to make them aware of the multiple risks of smoking during pregnancy.

Smoking and alcoholism

The literature reveals a strong association between smoking and disorders related to alcohol abuse or dependence.(31,37) The prevalence of alcoholism is approximately 10 to 14 greater in smokers than in nonsmokers, and most studies suggest that alcoholism precedes smoking.(31,55) Studies that confirm the connection between genetic factors and personality traits can create a basis for investigations designed to identify which genes are associated with a complex network of unhealthy behaviors, such as aggression, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking, as well as with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, in order to improve treatment programs.(56)

Smoking and other Mental Diseases

Prospective studies carried out with ethnically distinct populations reveal that the consumption of tobacco during pregnancy is associated with a greater incidence of criminal or violent behavior in adult life among males.(57) In the studies mentioned, the association found remains, even when the analyses are adjusted for the influence of other risk factors for criminal behavior. Studies indicate that smoking during pregnancy precedes the appearance of behavior disorders in children and adolescents. In addition, in these studies, the association found remains, even when the analyses are adjusted for the influence of other risk factors for such problems.(58) The incidence of subsequent criminal behavior might be mediated by damage to the nervous system of the fetus, caused by the toxic substances contained in tobacco smoke.(57)

Final considerations

There is strong evidence that personality traits are influenced by determinants of genetic and neurobiological nature, among other factors.(56,59) The most widely accepted concept is that variations observed in personality characteristics are due, at least in part, to the activity of neurotransmitters. The role of mechanisms of transmission and capture of neuroregulators, such as dopamine and serotonin, noradrenalin, and norepinephrine, stands out. In addition, genetic and neurobiological factors can also act in the predisposition to personality disorders and psychopathological profiles.(60)

However, in contrast to the effort to understand the genetic determinants of the risk of alcoholism and chemical dependence in general, there are still a relatively small number of studies in the literature focusing on the genetic mediation of the associations among personality, psychopathology, and smoking.(59)

In comparison with former smokers and nonsmokers, smokers tend to be more extroverted, tense, impulsive, depressive, and anxious, as well as presenting more traits of neuroticism, psychoticism, and sensation seeking, together with tendencies toward antisocial/unconventional behaviors. In addition, it is well established that the prevalence of smoking is higher in patients with psychiatric disorders than in the population in general. There is evidence that these associations are mediated by genetic and neurobiological factors.

However, this line of interpretation does not rule out the interference of other factors in tobacco smoking behavior. For example, a study carried out in Japan in 1997 revealed a pronounced gender-related difference in the prevalence of smoking (60% for males and only 8.6% for females),(12) in contrast with studies carried out in other countries. This leads us to believe that tobacco smoking behavior is also mediated by the psychosocial and sociocultural context. It is supposed that genetic and neurobiological factors, interacting with psychosocial/sociocultural dynamics, simultaneously influence the principal personality dimensions of the individual and the predisposition to smoking/psychopathological profiles.

It is possible to state that knowledge of the psychological/psychiatric factors associated with smoking is important for practical purposes and can be incorporated into the treatment of the nicotine-dependent individual. We can suggest that, prior to initiating the process of smoking cessation, all patients should be evaluated as to the personality profile and the presence or absence of certain associated psychiatric disturbance, since the lack of nicotine can exacerbate the withdrawal syndrome symptoms and even favor the appearance or worsening of psychiatric diseases.

The close interconnection between smoking and psychopathological profiles underscores the importance of interdisciplinary co-operation among professionals working in treatment programs for nicotine dependence. The crucial role of the psychological/psychiatric evaluation and follow-up assessment of the patient throughout the therapeutic process is especially emphasized.

2. Fagerström KO. Measuring degree of physical dependence to tobacco smoking with reference to individualization of treatment. Addict Behav. 1978;3(3-4):235-41.

3. Botelho C. Você também pode parar de fumar. Cuiabá: Adeptus Editora; 2006. p. 79-81.

4. Perkins KA, Epstein LH, Pastor S. Changes in energy balance following smoking cessation and resumption of smoking in women. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1990;58(1):121-5.

6. Eysenck HJ. The biological basis of personality. Springfield: CC Thomas; 1967.

8. Eysenck HJ. Genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences: the three major dimensions of personality. J Pers. 1990;58(1):245-61.

9. Spielberg CD, Jacobs GA. Personality and smoking behavior. J Pers Assess 1982;46(4):396-403.

10. Seltzer CC, Oechsli FW. Psychosocial characteristics of adolescent smokers before they started smoking: evidence of self-selection. A prospective study. J Chronic Dis. 1985;38(1):17-26.

13. Kubicka L, Matejcek Z, Dytrych Z, Roth Z. IQ and personality traits assessed in childhood as predictors of drinking and smoking behaviour in middle-aged adults: a 24-year follow-up study. Addiction. 2001;96(11):1615-28.

16. Eysenck HJ. Smoking, personality and psychosomatic disorders. J Psychosom Res. 1963;13:107-30.

23. Carton S, Le Houezec J, Lagrue G, Jouvent R. Relationships between sensation seeking and emotional symptomatology during smoking cessation with nicotine patch therapy. Addict Behav. 2000;25(5):653-62.

24. Costa PT, McCrae RR. The NEO Personality Inventory Manual. Odessa: Psychol Assess Resources; 1985.

26. Gilbert DG, Crauthers DM, Mooney DK, McClernon FJ, Jensen RA. Effects of monetary contingencies on smoking relapse: influences of trait depression, personality, and habitual nicotine intake. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 1999;7(2):174-81.

29. Terracciano A, Costa PT Jr. Smoking and the Five-Factor Model of personality. Addiction. 2004;99(4):472-81.

31. Gigliotti AP, Lemos T. Comorbidade Psiquiátrica em Tabagismo x Dependência de Álcool e Outras substâncias. In: Associação Brasileira de Estudos do Álcool e Outras Drogas. Comorbidades – transtornos mentais x transtornos por uso de substâncias de abuso. São Paulo: ABEAD, s.d.

33. Windle M, Windle RC. Depressive symptoms and cigarette smoking among middle adolescents: prospective associations and intrapersonal and interpersonal influences. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2001;69(2):215-26.

34. Covey LS, Glassman AH, Stetner F. Cigarette smoking and major depression. J Addict Dis. 1998;17(1):35-46.

46. McCloughen A. The association between schizophrenia and cigarette smoking: a review of the literature and implications for mental health nursing practice. Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2003;12(2):119-29.

47. Pomerleau CS, Downey KK, Snedecor SM, Mehringer AM, Marks JL, Pomerleau OF. Smoking patterns and abstinence effects in smokers with no ADHD, childhood ADHD, and adult ADHD symptomatology. Addict Behav. 2003;28(6):1149-57.

48. Krause KH, Dresel SH, Krause J, Kung HF, Tatsch K, Ackenheil M. Stimulant-like action of nicotine on striatal dopamine transporter in the brain of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2002;5(2):111-3.

53. Thapar A, Fowler T, Rice F, Scourfield J, van den Bree M, Thomas H, et al. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in offspring. Am J Psychiatry. 2003;160(11):1985-9.

54. Kahn RS, Khoury J, Nichols WC, Lanphear BP. Role of dopamine transporter genotype and maternal prenatal smoking in childhood hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and oppositional behaviors. J Pediatr. 2003;143(1):104-10.

55. Ritchey PN, Reid GS, Hasse LA. The relative influence of smoking on drinking and drinking on smoking among high school students in a rural tobacco-growing county. J Adolesc Health. 2001;29(6):386-94.

56. Richards T. Research finds genetic link to personality trait. BMJ. 1996;312(7023):75.

Submitted: 26 February 2007
Accepted, after review: 28 March 2007

Study carried out at the Universidade de São Paulo – USP, University of São Paulo – Ribeirão Preto (SP) Brazil.

You and Your Teen and Smoking

Did you know that each day there are more than 3,200 people, under the age of 18, who smoke their first cigarette? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2012, 7% of middle school and 23% of high school students reported current use a tobacco product. And according to the Department of Health and Human Services it is estimated that each day approximately 2,100 youth and young adults who are occasional smokers become daily smokers.

Most adult smokers today state that they started smoking by age 18. In 2010, close to 70% of adult smokers reported that they would like to quit. Research has shown that people who start smoking during adolescence may have the hardest time quitting. It is not surprising to hear that many people attempt to quit smoking several times before they are successful. Remember that addiction to nicotine is a chronic, relapsing medical condition and should be treated as such.

Harmful Effects of Teen Smoking

Tobacco use in teenagers and young adults can cause both immediate and long-term harm. Though some parents may emphasize the long-term impact of smoking on their teen’s health — as they should — teenagers and young adults may be more persuaded by the immediate and early negative effects. These include:

  • Reduced physical fitness. Smoking reduces lung function and lung growth. It also causes shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and increased phlegm.
  • Early heart disease. Smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels which can increase the risk for atherosclerosis and heart disease.
  • Poor oral health. Smokers may suffer from yellow teeth, bad breath and other mouth problems.
  • Poor skin. Smoking is associated with skin wrinkling and early skin damage.

Adolescent tobacco use is concerning because adolescents are still growing and their brains are still developing. Signals in the brain move more slowly than in a mature brain. The decision-making part of the teenage brain that is responsible for impulse control and planning is not fully developed, so teens may make more impulsive decisions — such as starting to smoke tobacco — compared to adults.

In addition, a recent research study suggested that teenagers may be more vulnerable to nicotine addiction than adults. This study showed that adolescent rats were more prone to developing addiction than adult rats, and this increased susceptibility may be linked to differences in activity between the adolescent brain and the adult brain.

The harmful effects of nicotine in teenagers and young adults create an important call to action for parents. Speak with your children today about the hazards of smoking, the addictive grip of nicotine, and the difficulty in quitting.

Discussing Smoking with Teens

It is important to point out to your teen the potential harm associated with tobacco use. Though the long-term negative health outcomes of smoking are most important to discuss, many adolescents may be more concerned with the impact that smoking has on their lives today than they are with their health in the far future. Emphasizing the immediate negative impacts of smoking to your teen may help get their attention.

Remind your kids that:

  • Smoking around friends or siblings can also be damaging to them, as secondhand smoke is a known harmful toxin.
  • Teens who smoke may be sick more often than their non-smoking peers and may develop lung problems or have more asthma attacks. This can harm their athletic performance.
  • Smoking may lead to the use of alcohol and other drugs.
  • Smoking has a negative effect on their personal appearance (i.e., bad breath, yellow teeth, poor skin).

Also remind your kids about these damaging long-term impacts on their health:

  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States and in the world.
  • Smoking is a well-known cause of heart disease, cancers, and stroke.
  • Smoking decreases life expectancy.
  • Nicotine has adverse effects on brain development which could have lasting effects on memory and attention.

Social Smoking Trends: Hookahs and e-Cigarettes

According to the CDC, from 2011 to 2012, there was a significant increase in hookah use in high school students. Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke specially made flavored tobacco such as mint, apple, cappuccino, or coconut. This form of “social smoking” is often thought to be less harmful, but hookah smoking has many of the same health risks as cigarette smoking.

Also popular among adolescents are electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). This 2012 survey also found that from 2011 to 2012, there was a significant increase in e-cigarette use in both middle school and high school students. Nicotine in e-cigarettes is heated by a battery and vaporized and inhaled (or vaped), rather than lit with a flame and smoked. More than a 250,000 youths who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013. Additionally, a 2012 study found that 76% of middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes within the past 30 days also smoked conventional cigarettes around the same time.

Currently, there is no significant data indicating that vaporized nicotine causes young people to try other tobacco products nor is there data proving that it is safe to use. It can be helpful to begin discussing these alternate methods of tobacco use with your teen and let them know they are not necessarily safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes.

Take a Parental Stand Against Tobacco

Speaking with your children early and often about the dangers of tobacco use is key. To do so, you may want to consider that:

  • Parents are role models and can have the greatest influence in their kids’ lives. Set a positive example by tying to quit if you use tobacco. If you smoke, you can also choose not to use tobacco in your children’s presence, not offer cigarettes to your kids, and not leave cigarettes where they can easily get it.
  • Starting the discussion about smoking when your kids are young and continuing it through their high school years, may be the best strategy for preventing teen smoking.
  • Knowing if your teen’s friends use tobacco can be important. You may be able to help them practice ways to refuse cigarettes and other tobacco products if their peers offer it to them.
  • Helping your kids understand that the media and movies may make smoking seem “cool” when it is actually very harmful can go a long way.

Remember, it’s much harder to quit smoking than it is to start smoking in the first place. Have your teen speak with an adult who smokes to understand just how difficult it is to stop smoking. It is vital for parents to have a positive influence on preventing adolescent smoking.

Dr. Larry Samuels was previously a Senior Medical Director at Pfizer in the Cardiovascular Metabolic Therapeutic Area and a former Research Scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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  • 7.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. E-cigarettes use more than doubles among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011-2012.. Updated September 5, 2013. Accessed March 28, 2015.
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  • 17.Johnson SB, Blum RW, Giedd JN. Adolescent maturity and the brain: the promises and pitfalls of neuroscience research in adolescent health policy.J Adolesc Health. 2009;45(3):216-221.
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If an increased risk of respiratory illness, cancer and heart disease are not reason enough for many smokers to consider quitting, then perhaps a message focused on hair instead of health may do the trick.

Scientists have long speculated cigarette smoke may accelerate hair loss and premature graying. The association was largely attributed to toxins in smoke that can harm hair follicles and damage hormones. According to epidemiological studies, that appears to be the case. A report in the journal BMJ looked at more than 600 men and women, half of them smokers. After controlling for variables, the researchers found a “significant” and “consistent” link between smoking and early graying.

Image Credit…Leif Parsons

Last year, another team studied the link in a group of 740 men in Taiwan, aged 40 to 91 years, notable because Asian men generally have low rates of hereditary baldness. After controlling for age and family histories, the researchers found a greater rate of hair loss among the smokers, a risk that grew with increasing smoking.

“The earlier this is treated the better, treatment is based more around keeping what you’ve got and improving it to some degree, rather than restoring your hair to how it was in your 20’s and 30’s.”

By the time you are in your 60s treatments to prevent hair loss become less effective.

“In this decade and beyond, the same happens with our hair as our skin, it ages,” she said.

“Each strand of hair becomes slightly finer so will give less scalp coverage. Hair treatments become less effective and more limited, as many are contra-indicated to other health conditions and medications common in the over 60’s.

“It is essential we look after our hair. We spend thousands on anti-ageing for our face, but give very little thought to our hair, which also goes through the ageing process.”

2. Stress

12 Stress can trigger a reaction in your body that causes your hair to shed fasterCredit: Getty – Contributor

So stressed you’re pulling your hair out?

It’s not a far cry from what actually makes your hair thin when you are stressed.

Both physical and emotional stress can cause the hair to thin or even fall out.

The hair has a shedding cycle – a growth phase, rest phase and shedding phase.

It’s normal to lose a certain amount of hair every day, but when you are stressed the shedding phase is sped up so your hair can appear thinner than usual.

The good news is, your hair will return to normal when you are less stressed out, so try to focus on taking steps to reduce your stress.

3. Smoking

12 The toxins in cigarettes may be linked to poorer hair quality and baldingCredit: Getty – Contributor

Like smoking didn’t have enough health risks, you can now adding thinning hair to the mix.

It comes down to two things, toxins and blood flow.

A study of Taiwanese men in 2007 found that those who smoked reported higher rates of hair loss.

Scientists speculated that the toxins in fags damaged the hair follicle and therefore it’s ability to maintain thick, luscious hair.

Another reason smoking may cause hair loss is that is can cause restricted blood flow.

Smokers are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke thanks to thicker arteries caused by smoking, which restricts blood flow.

If blood flow is restricted to the scalp then the hair is getting less nutrients than it needs and may start to thin.

So if you want to protect your head of hair, stub out your cigarette.

4. Diet

12 If you diet is lacking in protein, or B vitamins, you may notice more of your hair is falling outCredit: Getty – Contributor

Eating a well balanced, healthy diet is essential for your body’s functioning – and your hair is no different.

If you are lacking certain vitamins, nutrients or even food groups from your diet you may find your hair is less shiny and thick.

A diet lacking in protein is likely to cause some problems with your hair.

If you aren’t eating enough you body may start to ration protein to other parts of your body by shutting down hair growth.

You’ll probably notice a change within two to three months after you cut back on protein.

12 Try taking supplements to make sure you are getting enough vitamin BCredit: Getty – Contributor

You can prevent it by eating plenty of fish, eggs and meat.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin B, or biotin, in your diet it can also cause hair to thin.

Biotin is the best vitamin known for hair growth, and is often used in supplements to promote hair growth.

You can get B-vitamins from many foods, including whole grains, almonds, meat, fish, seafood and dark, leafy greens.

On the flip side, eating too much vitamin A can trigger hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

But it’s usually quite hard to do this just through eating, overdosing on vitamin A is usually done through taking too many supplements or medication containing the vitamin.

5. Iron deficiency

12 Try upping how much red meat you eat if you have an iron deficiency, which can cause hair lossCredit: Getty – Contributor

Iron deficiency anaemia is not an uncommon problem, especially among girls.

The body needs iron to promote the growth of healthy red blood cells, which keeps us healthy overall.

People with an iron deficiency tend to have pale skin, constantly feel fatigued, may experience heart palpitations and can suffer hair loss.

If your red blood cells aren’t healthy then it’s hard to keep everything else in your body supplied with enough oxygen and energy to run at top form.

Your hair is usually one of the first things to suffer as your body will ration iron to where it is needed most – you need healthy red blood cells more than you need healthy hair.

If you are eating plenty of iron rich foods, like meat, dark leafy vegetables and pulses, and still struggling with the above symptoms it’s a good idea to speak to your GP.

6. Weight loss

12 If you suddenly lose a lot of weight your body may interpret it as a physical trauma and it can cause your hair to fall outCredit: Getty – Contributor

Been on a strict diet and suddenly lost a lot of weight?

You may be feeling incredibly proud of your efforts, but have you noticed your hair has changed?

When we lose a lot of weight very quickly your body interprets that as a form of physical trauma, like how an illness can cause weight loss.

It can cause the body to hoard the food it’s getting and direct it to the things that need it the most, like internal organs.

The weight loss can also be interpreted as stress, mentioned above, which will also leave your hair looking less than desirable.

Plus, strict diets often mean you aren’t eating enough nutrients for your body to function properly.

The best thing you can do is lose weight gradually and make sure you are eating all of the right foods.

7. Medication

12 Certain medications have also been linked to hair lossCredit: Getty – Contributor

There are side effects to all medication, that’s a given.

Chemotherapy will likely cause your hair to fall out, as can other aggressive treatments.

Blood thinners and bet-blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, can cause the hair to thin.

It’s almost the same as the reasons smoking can damage your hair by restricting blood flow.

When you are on blood thinners you’re blood is thinner (the key is in the name) and that means that the amount of nutrients flowing past hair follicles can be less.

Just like anything that needs nutrients to grow, your hair will suffer if there’s less to absorb.

Antidepressants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have also been linked to hair loss.

8. Polycystic ovary syndrome

12 Hormone imbalances caused by polycystic ovary syndrome can cause hair lossCredit: Getty – Contributor

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects one in five women in the UK.

For many the only hint of PCOS is irregular periods, while in more severe cases sufferers can be left with embarrassing hair growth on their faces, chest, back and backside.

The condition affects how a woman’s ovaries function.

It occurs when the sacs the ovaries sit in are unable to release an egg, which means ovulation doesn’t happen.


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PCOS is often brought on by a hormone imbalance and that hormone imbalance can cause hair loss and well as hair growth.

The excess testosterone in a woman’s body, caused by PCOS, can cause excessive hair growth.

But the lack of oestrogen, required for the ovaries to release and egg every month, may cause the hair to become thin and dull.

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If you’re a smoker and have thinning hair, the two could be linked. You’re probably well aware of how harmful the chemicals in cigarette smoke are to your body, but did you know they may also contribute to hair loss and premature graying?

According to a number of scientific studies, there are several surprising ways cigarette smoke can trigger hair loss, including:

Poor Blood Circulation

Hair follicles need oxygen, nutrients and minerals to produce healthy hair. The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke can take a toll on your circulation, shrinking blood vessels and impeding blood flow. When your follicles don’t receive the blood they need for nourishment, the hair growth cycle is interrupted. The hair growth cycle consists of four phases: the growth (anagen) phase, the transitional (catagen) phase, the resting (telogen) phase and the shedding (exogen) phase. Any interruptions to this cycle can lead to noticeable hair loss.

A Weakened Immune System

Cigarette smoking can damage your immune system, which can lead to diseases or illnesses that cause hair loss. A poor immune system may also increase your chances of a bacterial or fungal infection on the scalp, both of which can prevent your follicles from producing healthy hair.

Environmental Pollution

It’s not just inhaling cigarette smoke that can harm your hair follicles. If you regularly smoke at home or in a car with the windows rolled up, you could be creating environmental pollution. While most hair loss is genetic, research links thinning hair to environmental factors. Polluted air can exacerbate genetic hair loss and the carcinogens in smoke-filled air can obstruct the mechanisms that produce the protein of which hair is made.

The best way to reverse hair loss caused by smoking is to quit. Once you stop exposing your hair and skin to the toxins in cigarettes, your hair should start growing again. However, quitting smoking can be very difficult as it’s highly addictive. Often, it can take several tries to give up the habit for good.

The good news is there are hair loss solutions that can help you right now. Explore your options at a free, one-on-one consultation with a hair loss expert at Hair Club. It’s a chance for you to explore your options in a safe, judgment-free space. You’ll receive an evaluation of your hair and scalp, and take home a personalized report with details about which customized solution will help you achieve the results you want. Schedule your appointment today and discover for yourself how getting your hair back can change your life.

For informational purposes only. The exact cause of hair loss can only be determined by a medical professional.

Smoking and baldness

Smoking has been linked to male hair loss, reported The Sun and other newspapers. Smoking “may help to make men prematurely bald”, the newspaper said. The Independent stated that a “study in Asian men, renowned for hanging on to their hair compared with follically-challenged Europeans … found puffing on cigarettes can hasten male hair loss”. This was even the case when other factors, such as their age and family history of baldness, were taken into account.

The newspaper story is based on a study in Taiwanese men which suggests a link between smoking and baldness independent of other factors. As the results conflict with other studies, more research would be helpful. The effects of smoking upon heart, vascular and lung health, to name just a few, are more established reasons to give up smoking, than whether or not it may reduce the chances of going bald.

Where did the story come from?

Drs Lin-Hui Su and Tony Hsiu-Hsi Chen from the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital and the National Taiwan University conducted this research. There is no information given about sources of funding. It was published in the (peer-reviewed) medical journal: Archives of Dermatology .

What kind of scientific study was this?

The study was a cross-sectional study of men in Tainan County in Taiwan. The researchers were interested in determining how common male pattern baldness was in men in Taiwan. As a secondary aim of their study, they looked at whether smoking was associated with hair loss. This has already been looked at by three previous studies, and there have been conflicting results.

Men were selected from a larger ongoing study using a household register of the county, and 929 were invited to join this study; 740 of whom agreed to participate. A public health nurse (trained by a dermatologist) rated the degree of their hair loss using a well-known scale – the Norwood scale. The men were interviewed to find out at what age their baldness began, as well their smoking status (never, quit or current smokers) and details about their habit (i.e. how often they smoked, how much they smoked, when they started smoking). Body weight, height, waist circumference and hip circumference were also measured, as was blood pressure. Blood tests were taken to check for blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

The participants were also asked other questions including their age, history of chronic diseases, timing of puberty, socioeconomic factors, alcohol and drug use, and family history of baldness. The researchers analysed the data to see how common baldness was among the population. They then looked at the relationship between smoking and baldness, taking into account age and family history of baldness.

What were the results of the study?

The researchers found that the prevalence of baldness increases with age and that the results were comparable with Korean populations but lower than in men from Singapore. The researchers also found that compared with men who said they “never” smoked, those who said they were current smokers or had once smoked but now quit, were nearly twice as likely to have moderate or severe hair loss. When the researchers broke this down further (separating out the quitters from those who currently smoked), they found that current smokers who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day were more than twice as likely to have moderate or severe hair loss than people who never smoked. However, people who smoked less than 20 cigarettes per day and those who once smoked but had now quit did not appear to be at increased risk of baldness.

Other factors which seemed to be related to moderate or severe baldness were intensity of smoking (which they defined as the amount smoked per day multiplied by the duration of smoking), and dislipidemia (a disruption in the regulation of fats in the blood). The study also found that the risk of moderate or severe baldness increased with the degree of relationship for family history, i.e. those reporting that a first degree relative (for example a father or sibling) also had male pattern baldness were more likely to go bald than those with more distant relatives who had hair loss. People with first degree relatives with baldness were 13 times more likely to have moderate or severe baldness themselves, than those with no family history.

What interpretations did the researchers draw from these results?

The researchers concluded that their research demonstrated a positive link between smoking and baldness. As expected, the prevalence of baldness increased with advancing age. The researchers put forward some theories as to why smoking may lead to baldness. Smoking may damage the vessels at the very bottom of the hair follicle, they suggested, or may damage the DNA in the hair follicle.

What does the NHS Knowledge Service make of this study?

  • This is a cross-sectional study and as such, it cannot definitively establish that one factor causes another. When interpreting the results, be aware that there may be factors that the researchers have not measured that could be linked to both smoking and hair loss. However, the study has demonstrated a relationship between smoking status and hair loss that seems to be independent of family history and current age, both of which are already known to be linked to baldness.

  • There is some genetic factor involved in male pattern baldness. This study illustrates the strength of this by finding that people with a first degree relative with baldness are 13 times more likely to be bald than people without relatives with baldness.

  • The study was carried out in a group of Taiwanese men and as such the findings may not be directly applicable to men in other cultural groups. There is a recognised contribution of ethnicity to baldness with lower prevalence being seen in Asian, Native Americans and African American men in comparison to Caucasian men. The details behind these differences are not well understood.
  • There are a host of other more established reasons to give up smoking, and this study may be touching on yet another one.
  • The results of this research are in conflict with some other studies, so more research on this subject would be useful.

Sir Muir Gray adds…

Another nail in the coffin of the cigarette; even the rumour of this finding will have an impact, whatever its validity.

Analysis by Bazian
Edited by NHS Website

Links to the headlines

Smoking linked to male hair loss.

The Sun, 26 November 2007

The bald facts: Smokers risk hair loss – as well as fatal illnesses.

The Independent, 26 November 2007

‘Smoking turns men bald’, new research claims.

Daily Mail, 26 November 2007

Smoking increases ‘baldness risk’.

BBC News, 6 October 2006

Links to the science

Su LH, Chen TH.

Association of Androgenetic Alopecia With Smoking and Its Prevalence Among Asian Men: A Community-Based Survey.

Arch Dermatol 2007; 143:1401-1406

Stress, Sun Exposure, Smoking: What Really Causes Hair Loss?

Dr. Mirmirani says headgear enthusiasts have nothing to worry about, comparing hair to a flower to illustrate her point: “if you’re covering the bloom it doesn’t affect the root,” she said. “As long as the root is healthy, the hair will grow.”


Both Dr. Mirmirani and Dr. Francis said that low blood iron can affect hair health, especially if patients have heavy periods. There’s also some research linking insufficient levels of Vitamin D to hair loss, but its role in hair growth isn’t clear yet.


A handful of studies have looked for associations between smoking and hair health, but the jury is still out. Regardless, Dr. Francis argues, it certainly isn’t helping. “Smoking tobacco drastically deteriorates the microcirculation and we see overall diminished skin health,” she said. “Anytime skin health and circulation are poor, you can expect that the hair volume will also be poor.”


We’ve already established that super-tight hairstyles, worn day after day, can cause a type of hair loss called traction alopecia. But certain products used to style textured hair, like relaxers or other chemical straighteners, can also do serious damage. Dr. Francis explained that these products break the bonds that give textured hair both its curl pattern and strength; the treated hair is weaker and much more susceptible to breakage, especially close to the scalp. Thankfully, as long as the follicles are intact, the broken hair can grow back.

The Beauty Benefits of Smoking Cessation

You don’t need us to tell you the dangers of smoking—cancer, emphysema, heart disease, stroke, the list goes on. Though quitting can be a long road, it’s a worthwhile one—one that can begin to improve your health just minutes after you’ve put out your last cigarette.

What’s going on inside your body (improved breathing, decreased inflammation, lowered blood pressure and more) is profound and meaningful to your overall wellness. But your efforts affect what’s on the outside too—visible proof of the gift you’ve given yourself in tossing your pack for good.

As you enjoy more and more smoke-free days, take the time to catch your reflection and see just how worth it your resolve has been.

When you stop smoking, you’ll have…

Tighter, brighter skin.

Over the years, you may have noticed dull, dry and even yellow skin. That’s because smoking narrows blood vessels, which decreases blood flow and limits the oxygen and nutrients that can reach the skin’s surface. Many of the thousands of chemicals in tobacco smoke also destroy collagen and elastin, the connective fibers that keep skin wrinkle-free. Lines on your face are one result, but research also shows that smokers have accelerated signs of aging from the neck down, including sagging skin on the inner arms and breasts.

When you quit smoking, blood and nutrient flow to the outer layers of your skin improves almost immediately. Though your skin will never fully return to its original pre-smoking state, most of what’s damaged can be vastly improved, including collagen and elastin renewal. In fact, even just a few days after you’ve kicked the habit you’ll likely see your complexion become brighter and rosier, and you may find that your skin appears less saggy.

Thicker hair.

As we age, our hair tends to thin. Our body functions slow down, including blood flow to the scalp that prompts new hair growth. The toxins in cigarette smoke speed up that thinning process by damaging hair follicles and affecting hormones that regulate hair growth. Research has also shown a significant and consistent link between smokers and early graying. On the upside, smoking cessation halts the accelerated loss and may slow graying. (If your hair isn’t exposed to all of that smoke, it will smell nicer, too.)

Research has also shown a significant and consistent link between smokers and early graying. On the upside, smoking cessation halts the accelerated loss and may slow graying. (If your hair isn’t exposed to all of that smoke, it will smell nicer, too.)

Healthier nails.

Smoking deprives your nails of oxygen and nutrients, just like your skin, resulting in brittleness, dryness, slow growth, discoloration, cracking and peeling. Amazingly, all of these issues are reversible when you quit. It’s nice to know that your nails can look their best once again, but quitting smoking offers them another benefit: Healthy hands that are crack- and peel-free are less susceptible to developing fungus, which is not only a health concern but can be painful as well.

It’s nice to know that your nails can look their best once again, but quitting smoking offers them another benefit: Healthy hands that are crack- and peel-free are less susceptible to developing fungus, which is not only a health concern but can be painful as well.

Whiter teeth.

Remember: The tar and nicotine in cigarettes has to pass through your mouth to get to your lungs, which means yellow, stained teeth and smoky breath. But dentists agree that all of those effects are completely reversible once you quit. To boost your brightness even more, brush with a mix of three teaspoons of baking soda and two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide.

To boost your brightness even more, brush with a mix of three teaspoons of baking soda and two teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide.

A more positive perception of yourself.

With every cigarette you skip, you’ll be one step closer to seeing these changes to your appearance. Do whiter teeth and a brighter complexion stack up to lowering your cancer risk and improving your heart health? Certainly not. But seeing signs of a healthier you, the very thing that defines your true beauty, may boost your belief that you can—and will—reach your goal and that it’s never too late to quit.

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This post was originally published in November 2013, and has been updated.

I recently showed you how cutting out alcohol improves your health. So while you’re on track with your healthier lifestyle, I wanted to follow it up with another bad habit that offers an immediate return on your health investment upon quitting: smoking. As for the benefits? They’re pretty convincing. Who doesn’t want better sex and sounder sleep? And though many people have (thankfully) already quit, even your casual puffs can have a big impact.

1. You’ll have better sex
A 2011 study found that men had stronger erections after quitting smoking – so you can benefit from your partner’s sexual improvements if you help them quit. For you, the improved blood flow to your lungs and enhanced oxygen levels in your blood will boost your energy levels. And for those trying to conceive, a June 2016 study found that smokers also had a higher percentage of sperm DNA damage.

2. Your gut health will improve
The dreaded post-cessation weight gain has a lot to do with how smoking impacts your gut health. Researchers found that when a person stops smoking, the diversity of bacterial strains in their intestines shifts, resembling the gut flora found in obese people. They hypothesized that it was the change in the gut that caused weight gain, and not a change in caloric intake — and they were right. What this means is that taking actions to heal your intestinal flora before you quit will help you avoid weight gain and cravings.

3. Put the axe to arthritis
Believe it or not, even a few cigarettes a day can more than double your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This risk decreases as soon as you give up smoking and improves as each year passes.

Smoking has been shown to be the culprit behind more than a third of cases of rheumatoid arthritis-based aches and pains. It’s one more reason to quit the tobacco habit, not to mention that once you do you’re more likely to throw on your running shoes and exercise too.

4. Get back your beauty sleep
Another reason to quit? You’ll sleep like a baby. Researchers found that nearly 12 percent of current smokers have trouble falling asleep, 11 percent wake in the night and 10 percent wake too early in the morning. In fact, they found that for each cigarette smoked during the day, the total sleep time decreased by more than one minute.

I recently wrote on the consequences of a lack of sleep, so if you find yourself tossing and turning, this is one lifestyle habit that can make a big difference in your snooze time.

5. Cutting out nicotine could reduce your risk of developing diabetes
A study out of the California State Polytechnic University found that adding nicotine to human blood samples raised levels of hemoglobin A1C, which indicates higher blood sugar content. To put it simply, the study suggests that smoking can make diabetes a lot worse. The study also implies that non-diabetic smokers may have a higher change of developing diabetes.

6. You’ll mend your heart
While some people find they trade cigarettes for sweets, one study shows that, regardless of post-cessation weight gain, you’ll still see your risk of cardiovascular disease drop. In fact, postmenpoausal women who quit smoking within the past three years had a 26 percent lower risk of developing heart disease compared with women who continued smoking.

7. You’ll look younger
Quitting increases the oxygen and nutrients sent to your skin cells, leaving you with smoother, more supple skin. And while your skin will look younger, you’re not just turning back the clock on your appearance. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 decreases your risk of premature death by 90 percent. This number increases to 97 percent if you quit before the age of 30.

Have you recently quit smoking? We want to hear about how great you feel in the comment section below.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, and the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, .

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It’s hard to quit smoking, but if you manage to abandon it for good you will not just be healthier, but more attractive too.

Quitting smoking improves your appearance by reducing the effects of premature ageing caused by toxins in tobacco smoke.

You can also expect to have brighter eyes, prettier lips and nails and shinier hair.

We speak to consultant dermatologist, Dr Andrew Carmichael and GP, Dr Roger Henderson, the author of 100 ways to live to 100, about how kicking the habit can make you look fantastic and feel great.

Why is it so hard to quit?

Tobacco is both physically and psychologically addictive.

Seven out of every 10 people who smoke want to give up, yet go on smoking because they are addicted to nicotine and feel scared that they won’t be able to function properly without tobacco.

‘If you want to kick the habit, the first step is to reduce how much you smoke – if you can’t give up completely,’ advises Dr Henderson.

Clearer, younger skin

Dr Carmichael says, ‘Your skin reflects your lifestyle and what you eat and drink.’

People who smoke heavily are wrinkled with stained, yellowish teeth, discoloured nails, receding gums and lustreless hair – which makes them look older than non-smokers.

Smoking makes your skin look sallow and it affects collagen, which provides elasticity.

Kicking the habit freshens up your complexion as your skin becomes better nourished with oxygen and nutrients.

‘There is a link between heavy smoking and developing hand eczema. If you are prone to atopic eczema, smoking and stress can make this condition worse,’ adds Dr Carmichael.

Brighter eyes

Smokers often have reddened, tired-looking eyes because of constant exposure to irritants.

If you are prone to hay fever, dry eyes, or other allergic eye conditions, even passive smoking can irritate the outside lining of your eyes and make them feel worse.

‘People with allergies are more prone to suffer itchy, irritated eyes in smoky environments,’ warns Dr Carmichael.

Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables – as smoking reduces your body’s supply of vitamins and minerals.

Whiter teeth

Over time, nicotine stains your teeth and nails a waxy yellow colour – hardly appealing.

Smoking is also linked to painful gum disease and your teeth falling out. If you quit, you can expect a healthier, whiter smile and fresher breath.

More energy

Within weeks of quitting smoking your body’s blood flow improves and your lung capacity increases by up to 10 per cent, so you should find breathing, walking and running easier.

Within nine months of giving up improved levels of oxygen in your blood will enable you to play sports, like football better.

Your work performance should also be better as more oxygen feeding your brain boosts concentration and memory.

Better sex

A recent survey has shown that non-smokers are three times more appealing to prospective partners than smokers. Most people prefer kissing non-smokers as their breath smells fresher.

Kicking the habit can boost your attractiveness because you smell nicer and look healthier.

Men may experience stronger erections and women better orgasms – as their sensitivity increases.

Quitting smoking also improves your fertility and chances of having a healthy baby.

Non-smokers get pregnant quicker and are more likely to be successful when they undergo in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Food tastes better

‘Stopping smoking helps you regain your senses of taste and smell, which are dulled by chemicals in tobacco,’ says Dr Henderson.

To keep slim and cope with tobacco cravings, while you are giving up, substitute biscuits and sugary snacks for lower-calorie sliced fruit, popcorn (without added sugar or butter) or crunchy carrot sticks.

Avoid drinking alcohol, which can trigger tobacco cravings.

Less stress

Studies show that your stress levels drop after quitting smoking as you no longer experience stressful nicotine withdrawal symptoms between cigarettes.

Lighting up another relieves cravings for a short time, but they soon return like an itch that won’t go away.

Giving up tobacco boosts your immune system making you less likely to catch nasty colds and flu.

Get help to quit

Dr Henderson says, ‘Don’t try to quit alone, as the longer you smoke, the harder it is to quit. If you have been smoking since your teens, you’re likely to find it difficult to stop. Most smokers have often tried and failed to give up in the past.’

Talking to your GP can increase your chances of success by up to four times, compared with going cold turkey.

If you can’t give up, try smoking fewer cigarettes and using nicotine replacements like gum and patches (NRT) – which can help you cope with cravings.

‘There is little evidence that nicotine itself harms you – but inhaling chemical-laden tobacco smoke is very toxic and carcinogenic,’ he says.

‘Lit cigarettes contain lead, cyanide and ammonia, amongst 4,000 other components, which can damage your health and cause cancer.

‘Reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke will benefit you and others around you and may even pave the way to giving up completely.

‘There is lots of help available including organisations like Quit, which can give you free advice and support.’

For some helpful tips on how to kick the habit for good, take a look at this video.

Further information

Action on smoking and health


Go Smokefree

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Sign up for your free stop smoking programme. StayQuit looks at all aspects of your addiction.

Other people also read:

Is quitting bad for your waist?: Have you hidden your scales since you stopped smoking?

Excuses that keep you from quitting: afraid to fail again?

Why is it so difficult to stop smoking? Every smoker’s relationship with cigarettes is different.

Last updated 17.12.2013

Lisa Sewards Health journalist

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