The impact of oxidative stress on hair.
Oxidative stress reflects an imbalance between the systemic manifestation of reactive oxygen species and a biological system's ability to detoxify the reactive intermediates or to repair the resulting damage. Reactive oxygen species or free radicals are highly reactive molecules that can directly damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. They are generated by a multitude of endogenous and environmental challenges, while the body possesses endogenous defense mechanisms. With age, production of free radicals increases, while the endogenous defense mechanisms decrease. This imbalance leads to progressive damage of cellular structures, presumably resulting in the aging phenotype. While the role of oxidative stress has been widely discussed in skin aging, little focus has been placed on its impact on hair condition. Moreover, most literature on age-related hair changes focuses on alopecia, but it is equally important that the hair fibers that emerge from the scalp exhibit significant age-related changes that have equal impact on the overall cosmetic properties of hair. Sources of oxidative stress with impact on the pre-emerging fiber include: oxidative metabolism, smoking, UVR, and inflammation from microbial, pollutant, or irritant origins. Sources of oxidative stress with impact on the post-emerging fiber include: UVR (enhanced by copper), chemical insults, and oxidized scalp lipids. The role of the dermatologist is recognition and treatment of pre- and post-emerging factors for lifetime scalp and hair health.