Is Hair Loss Caused By Pollution?

It has been long suspected that the quality of our air is affecting the quality of our hair. Now a study from Korea has apparently fuelled those concerns. So we ask, is hair loss be caused by pollution?


Hair And Pollution

The importance of hygiene to hair health is well known. We all spend considerable sums of money, not to mention time, caring for our locks. According to hair type, we will each be fighting our own battles to keep it in tip-top condition. Now it seems we need to ask the question, is hair loss caused by pollution? And, if so, how?

Of course, the moment we walk out of our front door our hair is exposed. Firstly, to the harsh effects of the sun. Protection from those UV rays is relatively easily achieved. We can use protection in the form of products, though a hat is the ultimate and offers complete safety.

The real challenge, especially for those living in cities, is air quality. Those billions of tiny particles that are spewed into the air by cars, lorries, buses, trains, and aeroplanes. It has long been assumed that the negative effect on our scalp and hair caused by these particles was responsible for hair loss. Now research funded in Korea has been taking a closer look at the problem.

Is Pollution Causing Hair Loss?

Sometimes, the answer to a question seems so obvious it is barely required. But that is not how science works. Plenty of work has been done on examining the effect of these pollutants on our general health. We know that the estimate of premature deaths each year is over 4M. Pollution is also linked to depression and low fertility. But when it comes to its effect on our hair and scalp no research had been done. Until now.

Funded by a South Korean cosmetics company, a team led by Hyuk Chul Kwok have been the first to examine the problem. The results of their research were recently presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress, this year held in Madrid.

The study investigated what happens when cells found at the base of the hair follicle are exposed to pollutants. Once the cells had been exposed the team used a recognised technique to detect the levels of certain proteins. They looked at 4 proteins, all involved in the generation and regulation of hair follicles.


The team exposed the follicle cells to fine particles, 10 micrometers or smaller along with minute diesel particles. They discovered that this had a reducing effect on all four of the proteins they were tracking. They also noted that by increasing the amounts of pollutants they increased that negative effect on the proteins.

Hyuk Chul Kwok concluded “When the cells on the human scalp were exposed to common air pollutants created from burning fossil fuels, the proteins in the cells that are responsible for hair growth and hair retention were significantly reduced. The more pollutants that the cells were exposed to, the bigger this impact seemed to be.”

Hair Loss For Women

The team adds a note of caution, that further population-based research needs to be undertaken. This would turn the theory into a fact, though the facts as they stand seem fairly emphatic. It certainly adds emphasis to the importance of our hair hygiene. But it also speaks to the value of support available from hair loss professionals.

To get an idea of the scale of the problem in a modern city click here to visit a real-time air quality map.

Ranbir Rai-Watson

We would like to offer you the opportunity to discuss your hair loss situation with a friendly, globally recognized, expert. Ranbir is a qualified trichologist and a full member of The Institute of Trichologists. A committed hair professional, Ranbir has years of experience and a well-earned reputation for thought-leadership and innovation in the industry. If you would like to discuss your hair loss situation with an expert, sympathetic and experienced ear, please use the contact form to get in touch.

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