Print this page Email this page | Users Online: 476
Home About us Editorial board Search Ahead of print Current issue Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 137

Tobacco and Gray hair

1 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, D.J. College of Dental Sciences and Research, Modinagar, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
2 Department of Periodontology, D.J. College of Dental Sciences and Research, Modinagar, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Swami Devi Dayal Hospital and Dental College, Barwala, Haryana, India
4 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Seema Dental College, Uttranchal, India

Date of Web Publication20-Nov-2013

Correspondence Address:
Robin Sabharwal
Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, D.J. College of Dental Sciences and Research, Ajit Mahal, Niwari Road, Modinagar - 201 204, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-433X.121645

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Sabharwal R, Gupta S, Singh HP, Bansal R. Tobacco and Gray hair. SRM J Res Dent Sci 2013;4:137

How to cite this URL:
Sabharwal R, Gupta S, Singh HP, Bansal R. Tobacco and Gray hair. SRM J Res Dent Sci [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Oct 3];4:137. Available from:


The appearance of hair plays an important role in individual's overall physical appearance and self-perception. Hair graying is a conspicuous sign of ageing. Skin and hair color contribute significantly to our overall visual appearance and to social/sexual communication.

Aging is a complex process that affects every individual. All organs undergo a series of age related changes in which the vascular system is prominent. Ageing involves various genetic, hormonal and environmental mechanisms. As the rest of the skin, the scalp and hair are subject to intrinsic or chronologic ageing and extrinsic ageing due to environmental factors. Both occur in conjunction with the other and are superimposed on each other. Intrinsic factors are related to individual genetic and epigenetic mechanisms with inter individual variation. The hair graying trait correlates closely with chronological aging and occurs to varying degrees in all individuals. The rate at which an individual turns gray depends on genetics. While premature hair graying has also been associated with autoimmune disorders as occurring in Vitiligo (e.g., pernicious anemia, autoimmune thyroid disease) and several rare syndromes with premature aging (e.g., Werner's syndrome). [1]

In addition, a link between smoking and gray hair and between smoking and hair loss has been earlier reported. [2] In a recent study conducted by Zayed et al. It was concluded that smokers had earlier onset of hair graying than non-smokers in the whole of study sample and also there was no significant association between premature hair graying and body mass index, waist circumference, fasting blood glucose or blood pressure. [3]

The mechanisms by which use of tobacco causes hair graying are still unknown. The color of hair mainly relies on the presence or absence of melanin pigment. Skin and hair melanins are formed in cytoplasmic organelles called melanosomes, produced by the melanocytes and are the product of a complex biochemical pathway (melanogenesis) with tyrosinase being the rate limiting enzyme. It has been shown that gray hair has undergone a marked reduction in melanogenically-active melanocytes in the hair follicle. The net effect of this reduction is that fewer melanosomes are incorporated into cortical keratinocytes of the hair shaft. In addition, there appears also to be a defect of melanosome transfer, as keratinocytes may not contain melanin despite their proximity to melanocytes with remaining melanosomes. [4]

The possible mechanism of graying of hair could be explained on the basis of "free radical theory," which is analogous to the free radical theory of ageing. [5] The extraordinary melanogenic activity of melanocytes generates large amounts of reactive oxygen species through the hydroxylation of tyrosine and the oxidation of dihydroxyphenlyalanine (DOPA) to melanin. If not adequately removed by an efficient antioxidant system, an accumulation of these reactive oxidative species will generate significant oxidative stress. With ageing the antioxidant system becomes impaired leading to damage to the melanocyte itself from its own melanogenesis-related oxidative stress. Smoking often generates huge amounts of reactive oxygen species leading to increased oxidative stress. This pro-oxidant effect of smoking could lead to damage the melanin-producing cells, the melanocytes. This theory is supported by the observation that melanocytes in gray hair bulbs are frequently highly vacuolated, a common response to increased oxidative stress. [6]

  References Top

1.Trüeb RM. Oxidative stress in ageing of hair. Int J Trichology 2009;1:6-14.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Mosley JG, Gibbs AC. Premature grey hair and hair loss among smokers: A new opportunity for health education? BMJ 1996;313:1616.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Zayed AA, Shahait AD, Ayoub MN, Yousef AM. Smokers' hair: Does smoking cause premature hair graying? Indian Dermatol Online J 2013;4:90-2.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
4.Commo S, Gaillard O, Bernard BA. Human hair greying is linked to a specific depletion of hair follicle melanocytes affecting both the bulb and the outer root sheath. Br J Dermatol 2004;150:435-43.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Arck PC, Overall R, Spatz K, Liezman C, Handjiski B, Klapp BF, et al. Towards a "free radical theory of graying": Melanocyte apoptosis in the aging human hair follicle is an indicator of oxidative stress induced tissue damage. FASEB J 2006;20:1567-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Trüeb RM. Pharmacologic interventions in aging hair. Clin Interv Aging 2006;1:121-9.  Back to cited text no. 6


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded191    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal