UH News

Loss of spouse, smoking & drinking increase hair loss for women

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CLEVELAND University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center’s renowned plastic surgeon Bahman Guyuron, MD has potentially uncovered new contributors to hair loss in both men and women.

Age and genetics have traditionally been considered the most reliable predictors of both female and male hair loss. However, two new studies involving identical twins to be presented at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual conference on Sept. 24 reveal that being a widow, divorcee, or a heavy smoker can wreak havoc on one’s hairline, especially if you’re a woman.

“Never before has the role of some of these factors been documented,” said Dr. Guyuron, Department Chairman of Plastic Surgery at UH Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University. “While genetics remain a strong predictor of some types of hair loss, introducing certain stressful or unhealthy factors into a person’s life can result in more hair loss.

“Identical twins are genetically programmed to experience similar patterns of aging and hair loss. If one of the twins loses more hair than the other twin it is related to the external factors,” added Dr. Guyuron, who is co-author of the study and ASPS Member Surgeon.

One study examined 84 identical female twins and found the strongest predictor of female hair loss was marital status. Those who were divorced or widowed exhibited more hair loss than married women. In addition, a large weekly consumption of alcohol led to higher levels of female hair loss above the forehead. Heavy smoking was a significant contributor to female hair loss in the temple area.

However, women who drank moderately–two alcoholic beverages a week–experienced significantly less temporal hair loss than their twin.

A second study looked at 66 male identical twins and found that while genetics was the strongest predictor of male hair loss along the hairline, smoking, heavy sun exposure and a history of dandruff were also contributors. In addition, medical conditions such as hypertension, a lack of regular exercise, and elevated testosterone levels contributed to increased rates of hair loss in men.

“There’s as much interest in preventing and treating hair loss, as there is in finding ways to stop or to turn back the clock,” said Dr. Guyuron. “Many women and men suffer from hair loss. Discovering the controllable factors that contribute to the hair loss will help us to prevent it more successfully and develop better means to manage this troubling condition.”

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