The Grapevine

Hair Loss And Air Pollution: Study Finds Surprising Effect Of Poor Air Quality

Researchers found a surprising reason that some people have been losing their hair despite being healthy. Exposure to air pollution has been linked to problems with the scalp, which lead to hair loss. 

The new study shows that air pollutants, known as particulate matter, could negatively affect important proteins that support hair growth. These pollutants commonly come from fossil fuels, coal, mining and production of materials like cement, ceramics and bricks.

Particulate matter is a mixture of solid particles and droplets present in the air. Earlier studies showed that these air pollutants could contribute to a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and respiratory problems. 

For the latest study, researchers collected different concentrations of dust and diesel particulate. The team then exposed cells from the human scalp to the pollutants for 24 hours. 

Following the exposure, the researchers examined the cells to see specific proteins. They found that the dust and diesel particulate reduced levels of β-catenin, a protein that works to promote hair growth and morphogenesis.

Poor air quality also affected three other proteins, called cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2, which also support hair growth and retention. Researchers said the longer the cells were exposed to pollutants, the more they decreased the levels of the essential proteins. 

“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," Hyuk Chul Kwon, lead researcher from the Future Science Research Center in the Republic of Korea, said in a statement

Outdoor air pollution is associated with 4.2 million deaths every year around the world. In the U.S., estimates showed that more than 141 million people lived in areas with polluted air between 2015 and 2017.

Despite the growing number of affected populations, researchers said the scientific community still lacks information on how poor air quality can damage the skin and hair. 

“While the link between air pollution and serious diseases such as cancer, [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] and [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,” Hyuk said. 

Air Pollution The World Health Organization estimates outdoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people every year around the world. Pixabay