Besides being the single most preventable cause of significant morbidity and an important cause of death in the general population, tobacco smoking has been associated with adverse effects on the skin. Smoke-induced premature skin ageing has attracted the attention of the medical community, while only recently an observational study has indicated a significant relationship between smoking and baldness. The mechanisms by which smoking causes hair loss are multifactorial and are probably related to effects of cigarette smoke on the microvasculature of the dermal hair papilla, smoke genotoxicants causing damage to DNA of the hair follicle, smoke-induced imbalance in the follicular protease/antiprotease systems controlling tissue remodeling during the hair growth cycle, pro-oxidant effects of smoking leading to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines resulting in follicular micro-inflammation and fibrosis and finally increased hydroxylation of oestradiol as well as inhibition of the enzyme aromatase creating a relative hypo-oestrogenic state. In view of the psychological impact of androgenetic alopecia on affected men and women, increasing public awareness of the association between smoking and hair loss offers an opportunity for health education against smoking that may be more effective than the link between smoking and facial wrinkles or grey hair, since the latter can be effectively counteracted by current aesthetic dermatologic procedures, while treatment options for androgenetic alopecia are limited.
Copyright 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel