Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in the fitness industry, and many people swear by its ability to enhance their workouts. However, there has been a common concern among fitness enthusiasts about whether or not creatine can cause hair loss.
The question “can creatine cause hair loss” is one that has been asked time and time again, and in this article, we aim to provide you with a definitive answer.
We will explore this topic in-depth, covering the science behind creatine, the potential link to hair loss, and ultimately whether or not you should be concerned about taking creatine as a supplement.
So, let’s dive in and uncover the truth about whether or not creatine can cause hair loss.
What is Creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is the most common and well-researched supplement on the market. There are over 500 research papers published on its benefits for workout performance, muscle growth, and brain health.
At its core, Creatine is an organic compound that aids in the recycling of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in both the brain and muscles.
As the cell’s energy currency, ATP is the primary energy source for demanding physical activities, such as weightlifting and intense workouts. Creatine plays a vital role in replacing energy in brain and muscle cells, making it a popular nutritional supplement for athletes seeking to boost their workout performance and promote muscle growth.
Here are some of the benefits of creatine supplementation:
Benefits of Creatine
- Boost workout performance – Creatine helps increase total work volume during a training session. Essentially, creating a more favourable environment for progressive overload – a key factor in muscle growth (study).
- Cell signaling – It can improve satellite cell signaling, which helps the muscles rest, repair, and grow (study).
- Increase anabolic hormones – Some studies show that there is an increase of IGF-1 (Insulin like growth factor), which increases muscle protein synthesis (source, study, study).
- Cell hydration – Creatine pulls water into the cell, thus improving hydration and as a result increasing muscle growth (study, study).
- Reduce protein breakdown – There is some evidence showing that creatine can slow down the process of muscle breakdown (study).
Lastly, this meta analysis of 721 participants shows that taking creatine can increase lean muscle tissue mass by 3lbs over 2-12 months, as well as improve overall strength.
The impact of creatine on the brain
Creatine is not only fantastic for building muscle, it also helps keep your brain healthy. Creatine has been shown to help improve cognition (source), memory (source) and potentially help prevent the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s disease (study)
- Parkinson’s disease (study)
- Huntington’s disease (study)
- Epilepsy (study)
Can Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
There is no doubt about it. Creatine is one of the, if not the best supplements on the market.
However, there has always been this gloomy shadowy figure hovering over creatine.
Like Death’s whistle from that one scene from Puss in Boots.
Great movie, by the way.
Yes, that gloomy figure is hair loss. It has prevented many from making creatine their staple pre workout and are ultimately missing out on those extra muscle gains.
Here is one comment on Instagram where I reviewed 114+ studies on creatine:
Numerous videos on TikTok showing people’s hair thinning out after taking creatine.
I’ve been taking creatine for about 10 years now and I started panicking. I don’t want to lose my hair. But I also don’t want to miss out on improved muscle growth.
Before you panic and throw away your creatine stash, let’s take a look at what science has to say about the potential link between creatine and hair loss.
Scientific Studies on Creatine and Hair Loss
Most of the evidence linking creatine to hair loss is based on anecdotal reports, which are personal testimonies and experiences.
There seems to be one small 2009 study in South Africa that supported the claim. The study involved college-aged rugby players who consumed creatine daily for three weeks. The results showed a “statistically significant” increase of 56% in the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a testosterone byproduct that can shrink hair follicles, shorten the hair growth cycle, and lead to hair thinning in high concentrations.
Here’s the thing, though. The researchers did not measure hair loss in participants. They only observed the increased levels of DHT. As DHT levels are linked to hair loss, an increase in DHT due to creatine consumption could theoretically increase the risk of hair loss.
Dr. Antonio, along with a team of renowned researchers, reviewed and published the most common creatine misconceptions for the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
In their review, they point out that none of the rugby players, who participated in the 2009 study, actually reported any hair loss.
What is even more interesting is that Dr. Antonio and his team have uncovered a flaw in the South African study. The rugby players’ DHT base line (before creatine supplementation) was 23% lower than that of the placebo group. Thus, their measured increase in DHT “remained well within normal clinical limits”.
In other words, their DHT levels were low to begin with and after introducing creatine supplementation they saw an increase of 56%, which brought their DHT levels to normal.
This would explain their “statistically significant” findings.
But was creatine even responsible for the increase in DHT?
Creatine and “free” testosterone
According to Dr. Antonio’s review – “free” testosterone is what the body uses to produce DHT.
To date, there are 5 different studies that show that there was no increase in free testosterone as a consequence of taking creatine (study, study, study, study, study).
They conclude the review by stating:
In summary, the current body of evidence does not indicate that creatine supplementation increases total testosterone, free testosterone, DHT or causes hair loss/baldness.
Can You Prevent Hair Loss While Taking Creatine?
If you’re still unsure whether creatine can cause hair loss there are certain measures that can help prevent it from happening.
Finasteride inhibits the conversion of testosterone into DHT (source).
There are a number of side effects from taking finasteride, though. Such as erectile dysfunction (source).
Seek advice from a medical professional before using finasteride.
So, can creatine cause hair loss? No, not really. At least based on what we know.
While there is no definitive evidence that creatine supplementation directly causes hair loss, there is one small study and anecdotal reports suggesting a possible link between the two.
Dr. Antonio’s review suggests that we should not be worried about hair loss when taking creatine, but more research is necessary to determine whether or not creatine can cause hair loss. It is possible that creatine may affect hormones and enzymes that are involved in hair growth.
Therefore, it is important for individuals considering creatine supplementation to weigh the potential risks and benefits and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.