Popular ‘festive plant’ could cause severe hair loss warns expert

Popular ‘festive plant’ could cause severe hair loss warns expert

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Hair loss caused by plants tends to occur after ingestion. Some flowers, however, contain sap with known depilatory effects that could result in immediate hair loss. Experts advise people to be mindful of coming into contact with certain festive plants. Left on the skin for too long, their toxic liquid could induce substantial hair loss. 

Poinsettias, a plant native to the tropical forests of Mexico, are commonly displayed in homes as a festive decoration. 

The plant sap has also traditionally proven useful in the treatment of pain and as an anti-bacterial agent. 

It is unlikely to become a concern for scalp hair unless a person comes into direct contact with the plant’s sap, but some mistakes can easily be avoided. 

Gökhan Vayni, hair loss and transplant expert at Vera Clinic, explained: “Poinsettias are houseplants that produce colourful lead bracts in shades of pink, burgundy, salmon and cream.

“The plants, which can grow up to 4m high, are traditionally displayed in homes during the festive period and are an addition to our Christmas decorations. However, they have been known to be linked to hair loss.”

Hair loss can be caused if a person comes into direct contact with the plant’s sap, which weeps rapidly when the plant becomes damaged or a leaf is broken off.

“The sap extracted from the plant has a depilatory hair removal effect,” noted Vayni.

“If the sap is left on any part of the body with hair including the scalp for a long period of time, it can cause hair loss when wiped away.”

Though the chances are unlikely, it is very important to be aware that close contact with a poinsettia’s sap could potentially encourage hair removal so try to avoid getting too close, explained Vayni.

The plant itself is completely safe to handle however it’s very important to handle the plant with caution to avoid breaking or cutting the plant causing the dangerous sap to weep out.

The expert continued: “As the plants are popular in homes this time of the year, I would especially recommend leaving them out of reach from young children to prevent any breakage to the plants and hazards.

“If you do come into close contact or touch the plant’s sap, always thoroughly wash your hands to remove any residue as quickly as possible. The longer the sap is on the skin, the higher the risk of hair loss. If irritation occurs contact an emergency number or your GP for further support and advice.”

The milky sap of poinsettias also poses a potential risk to pets, as it can irritate the mouth and oesophageal of cats. 

However, the Pet Poison Helpline states: “While poinsettias are commonly ‘hyped’ as poisonous plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated.

“When ingested, mild signs of vomiting, drooling or, rarely, diarrhoea may be seen.

“If the milk sap is exposed to skin, dermal irritations (including redness, swelling and itchiness) may develop.”

The white sap in the plant contains chemicals known as diterpenoid europhorbol esters, and saponin-like detergents.

The link between hair loss and poinsettias is conflicting, however, as some researchers suggest it may offset the adverse effects of air pollution on the scalp. 

There are numerous studies drawing a link between air pollution, oxidative stress and premature hair loss. 

According to the Belgravia Centre, various plants can offset air pollution in the atmosphere which contributes to oxidative stress, which in turn lowers the risk of hair loss. 

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