A new study found that fine particulate matter emitted by cars damages the skin that holds hair follicles in place.
A series of laboratory tests on human cells showed levels of the crucial proteins needed for hair to grow and be retained decreased the more they were exposed to pollution particles.
While there is a growing body of evidence showing how these tiny particles can damage internal health, including by entering the bloodstream through the lungs, this is the first to demonstrate such a risk to the surface of the body.
The researchers behind it said exercising indoors rather than in polluted cities could be a way of reducing hair loss.
The study was conducted by exposing cells from the human dermal papilla cells (HFDPCs), to various concentrations of PM10-like dust and diesel particulate.
After 24 hours the researchers performed a process, known as western blotting, to detect the levels of specific proteins in the cells.
The results showed that the presence of PM10 and diesel particulate decreased levels of β-catenin, the protein responsible for hair growth.
The study also revealed that the levels of three other proteins – cyclin D1, cyclin E and CDK2 – which are responsible for hair growth and hair retention, were decreased by PM10-like dust and diesel particulate in a “dose-dependent” manner.
“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.”Dr Hyuk Chul Kwon
Future Science Research Centre, Republic of Korea
Genetic factors remain the most influential known cause of baldness.