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Bad Air Days May Contribute to Bad Hair

As you probably know, Arocha Hair Restoration was established in Houston, Texas, which is the engine of America’s industrial economy. The downside of being an economic driver is that the Houston metropolitan area also suffers from poor air quality. In fact, according to the American Lung Association’s 20th annual “State of the Air” report, Houston made the top 10 list for most polluted cities in the country for ozone. The reason we’re posting about this is that a recent study shows that exposure to air pollution is linked to hair loss in humans.

As a bicycling enthusiast, Dr. Bernard Arocha has experienced the debilitating effects of bad air days. Houston has logged 27 days of unhealthy air in the past year according to the American Lung Association in Texas.

There’s good reason for TV meteorologists to discourage people from outdoor activities when the ozone levels are unhealthy. It can increase the risk of serious health effects such as lung cancer, asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage and developmental and reproductive harm. Now, scientists have found that it also can make your hair fall out.

The research, “Effects of particulate matter on human dermal papilla,” was presented at the 28th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress in Madrid. Hyuk Chul Kwon of the Future Science Research Centre, which is part of a cosmetics company based in Korea called Coreana Cosmetics, was the lead author of the study. Kwon and his team looked at the effect of particulate matter on human follicle dermal papilla cells (HFDPCs).

If you haven’t heard the term “particulate matter” before, it basically encompasses all the solid and liquid things in the air that we are breathing all the time. If you ever sit by a window on a sunny day and see all the dust, pollen and other things floating in the ray of sunlight, that is particulate matter. In addition to what you can see, there are many things you can’t see that go into your lungs, and many of these are hazardous.

If you consider the sources of particulate matter, it’s clear why this important in Houston and throughout Texas. Particulate matter comes from activities such as burning of fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel and other solid-fuels such as coal, oil and biomass, as well as other industrial activities such as building and the manufacturing of building materials such as cement, ceramics and bricks.

In other words, all the things you see on a daily basis throughout our region.

Kwon and his team wanted to find out what happens to hair follicle cells when exposed to these tiny hazardous particles in the air. They exposed HFDPCs to particles of dust and diesel that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, describes as “inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller.”

A day after exposure, the team examined the levels of several proteins in the cells using a scientific process known as Western blotting analysis. The results showed that exposure to particulate matter decreased levels of the protein responsible for hair growth and morphogenesis. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the researchers also found decreases in the levels of three other proteins (cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2) that are responsible for hair growth and hair retention. These were ‘dose dependent,’ meaning that the decrease in proteins worsened as the level of pollution worsened.

In a news release announcing the research findings, Kwon said, “While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, COPD and CVD are well established there is little to no research on the effect of particular 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.”

In an article in Fast Company, Kwon stressed that more studies are needed to understand the extent that bad air contributes to hair loss. He said there are no data that suggest the pollution in one city is more threatening to hair than any other.

We at Arocha Hair Restoration agree with Kwon that people should take precautions. Beyond protecting your hair, it is important for your overall health to do everything you can to limit exposure to air pollution. On high pollution days, exercise indoors, if possible. When you exercise outside, avoid high pollution areas such as busy roads, and avoid high pollution times, such as rush hour.