The Bald Facts: Air Pollution Could Be Causing Your Hair Loss

Exposure to air pollution is linked to hair loss in humans, scientists say.

If you’re worried about your receding hairline and you live in a city, you might want to consider moving, as scientists have found exposure to high levels of air pollution may be linked to hair loss.

New research presented at the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (EADV) Congress in Madrid found particulate matter (PM) – that is present in polluted air – could impact both hair growth and retention.

The team took cells, known as dermal papilla, from the base of hair follicles on the human scalp and then exposed them to the polluted air. They used various concentrations of PM10-like fine dust and diesel particulate extract (found naturally in areas with high use of vehicles).

Then, 24 hours later, they tested the samples to detect whether specific hair-growth proteins in the cells had changed at all.

Researchers found the presence of PM10 and diesel particulate decreased levels of the protein responsible for hair growth – beta-catenin – and morphogenesis.

Morphogenesis is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape. It is one of three fundamental aspects of developmental biology.

According to the study, the levels of three other proteins which are responsible for hair growth and hair retention – cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2 – were also decreased.

This meant that the greater the level of pollutant, the greater the decrease in proteins was found. This is one of the first studies to look at the link between pollution and baldness.

Hyuk Chul Kwon from the Future Science Research Centre in South Korea, said: “While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are well established, there is little to no research on the effect of particulate matter exposure on the human skin, and hair in particular.

“Our research explains the mode of action of air pollutants on human follicle dermal papilla cells, showing how the most common air pollutants lead to hair loss.”