Pollution could be making your bald by decreasing levels of crucial proteins for hair growth, scientists fear. For the first time, researchers have shown tiny toxic particles can damage chemical processes within cells that promote hair growth.
This ‘could lead to baldness’, the scientists claim. However, further trials are needed because their studies were on human cells in the lab.
Academics behind the research have now suggested people should spend less time exercising outdoors if they want to avoid hair loss.
Hair Fall Causes and How to Grow Hair Fast
The work focused on common air pollutants known as particulate matter (PM), which are emitted by car exhausts, industry, and household heating. PM is at the center of a public health storm, having been linked to serious problems including asthma, heart and lung disease.
But evidence of its effects on the skin is still in its infancy – despite a growing market for anti-pollution cosmetics. The research was conducted by The Future Science Research Centre in the Republic of Korea, led by Hyuk Chul Kwon.
The team harvested cells from the human scalp at the base of hair follicles, known as dermal papilla cells (DPS). DPS sit at the base of a hair follicle, underneath the scalp, and work alongside skin surface cells to control the formation of the hair shaft.
These cells are responsible for hair growth and hair retention and need proteins to to function. The DPS were exposed to various concentrations of PM10, which are particles with a diameter of ten micrometers or smaller, including diesel and dust.
After 24 hours the researchers detected the levels of specific proteins in the cells using a scientific process known as western blotting. The test can identify which proteins are present and in what quantities, depending on how they bind to specific antibodies.
Results showed the levels of beta-catenin had dropped, a protein that is responsible for triggering hair growth. The study also revealed that the levels of three other proteins – cyclin D1, cyclin E, and CDK2 – were decreased by PM10, which would affect both hair growth and retention.
Dr. Hyuk Chul Kwon said: ‘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.
‘The results suggest that particulate matter may cause hair loss. ‘It is, therefore, possible to hypothesize that at certain levels of exposure, this could lead to baldness. But further population-based research needs to be undertaken to confirm this.
‘While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and CVD [cardiovascular disease] are well established there is little to no research on the effect of particular matter exposure on the human skin and hair in particular.’
He added: ‘While it is difficult to escape ambient pollution, limiting time walking on busy streets, especially during rush hour, should help to reduce exposure. ‘If you are exercising outdoors, try to do so in areas that are less polluted and do not spend too much time waiting at traffic hotspots such as traffic lights.’
PM is made up of a mixture of solid particles and droplets found in the air that are so small they can be inhaled. PM2.5 are the smallest particles, with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or smaller – finer than a human hair. Both PM10 and PM2.5 are considered to be major pollutants, alongside nitrogen oxide, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide. Dailymail