In this article you’ll learn whether taking creatine (CR) supplements will increase your risk of hair loss. There is some evidence to suggest it does.
Creatine is a chemical found normally in bodies, and is also commonly used by athletes and individuals who exercise and work out on a regular basis.
There is a belief that the extra energy provided by CR use and the uptake of water by the muscles will promote muscle growth and provide energy to the body.
While there is limited research on the long term effects of CR use, there is the potential for negative side effects which include the possibility of hair loss and thinning hair.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of a connection:
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What is Creatine?
CR is a naturally occurring chemical that can be found in the human body, typically in the brain and in the muscles.
It is also available as a powder supplement, and is commonly touted for its ability to assist in muscle growth for individuals who regularly work out.
The substance itself is a nitrogenous organic acid that helps to supply organisms with energy, particularly in the muscle cells.
It promotes energy production through the formation of ADP, or adenosine triphosphate, which is the substance utilized by cells to perform everyday functions.
While IT is a widely used supplement, there remains a need for further scientific investigation on the overall impact of its use.
How CR Could Lead to Hair Loss
Firstly let’s take a look at these videos from Nick who shares his experience using creatine and how it affected his hair:
He then gave an update 1 year later:
Now let’s look at some scientific studies on the matter.
While there is a lack of significant research to fully understand the effects of its use, the understanding of the mechanism of action suggests the potential for the promotion of numerous underlying causes of hair thinning.
While it use may not directly cause the loss of hair, its use may accelerate balding in individuals who may already be prone to alopecia or male-pattern baldness.
One of the commonly identified underlying causes of thinning hair is the action of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a derivative of testosterone.
The Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine published findings that suggest that short term this compound use increases the rate of conversion from testosterone to DHT.
Individuals participating in the study used the supplement for a period of three weeks, and the experimental group showed higher rates of converting testosterone to DHT as compared to the control group.
The increased levels of DHT can lead to numerous negative outcomes, including shedding and thinning hair.
This was the result of the study:
After 7 days of creatine loading, or a further 14 days of creatine maintenance dose, serum T levels did not change. However, levels of DHT increased by 56% after 7 days of creatine loading and remained 40% above baseline after 14 days maintenance (P < 0.001). The ratio of DHT:T also increased by 36% after 7 days creatine supplementation and remained elevated by 22% after the maintenance dose (P < 0.01).
The journal Advances in Dermatology and Allergology published findings that link high levels of dihydrotestosterone to cases of alopecia and baldness in both men and women.
As a highly potent androgen, dihydrotestosterone is hypothesized to impact the sensitivity of hair follicles in the androgen phase of growth.
As the androgen phase is early in the hair growth cycle this will commonly lead to the hair falling out and unable to grow back without treatment.
Review of the available research has led numerous professionals to conclude that the use of this supplement is most likely to have a significant impact on individuals who are genetically predisposed to hair loss, alopecia, and pattern baldness.
Another study has shown that CR use is likely to reduce antioxidant levels in the body, which can have a variety of negative impacts on physical health.
Lower levels of antioxidants are likely to lead to damaging stress on cells and DNA throughout the body.
Healthy hair growth requires effective cell activity, including cell division in the hair follicle.
It has been suggested that the negative impact of the supplement use on antioxidant levels could lead to the reduced capacity for hair to grow strong and healthy.
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Creatine monohydrate has the capacity to draw water from various parts of the body and storing it in the muscle tissue, which can lead to dehydration and dry skin.
If the scalp begins to become dry it can lead to unhealthy hair follicles, as well as thinning hair.
Dry skin can more easily become inflamed as well, which can often lead to brittle and unhealthy hair.
The scalp supports the hair follicle, providing the necessary nutrients for hair growth, and unhealthy skin on the scalp will negatively impact the growth of hair and potentially lead to hair thinning.
This effect of using the supplement can be counteracted through appropriate increase in hydration, however it can become serious if the amount of water consumed is not increased.
Based upon current understanding of the effects of CR use on the body, it is possible that its use will have numerous negative impacts on hair growth.
While it use may not directly lead to hair loss in and of itself, the effects on the body of long term creatine use may lead to unhealthy hair growth, thinning hair, receding hairlines, and increased rates of hair fall.
Potential Side Effects of CR Use
There is a lack of available research and information on the long term effects of supplementation, and it is not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or expecting to become pregnant.
Individuals who have a pre existing kidney condition or a disease such as diabetes should not use CR products. Medical professionals recommend that creatine not be used for a period of time to exceed five years.
Signs and symptoms of creatine side effects;
- Stomach pain
- Muscle cramping
One of the mechanisms of action of CR is that it draws water from parts of the body and concentrates it in the muscles, which can lead to dehydration. It is important to ensure you are drinking extra water when using creatine.
There is also concern that supplementation can lead to a skin condition, which may be serious in some individuals. More research is need to fully understand the impact of the supplement use on the body.
People considering the use of this supplement, or who may have been prescribed its use, should only do so in consultation with a medical professional.
In general, the potential for positive effects of long term CR use may be outweighed by negative side effects.
For example, Julien says:
I personally don’t recommend taking creatine. I noticed significant hair fall in just 12 days of taking 5mgs a day. I dont have any family history of baldness. Some may not react like others but for those of you who have a family history of baldness i’d say this might just speed up the process.
Limited use in consultation with a medical professional is considered to be safe and with limited risk, however this should only be done under specific circumstances.
For individuals seeking the muscle growth and energy provided by using this supplement, they should research the impact of creatine use and weigh the potential for positive and negative effects.
In conclusion, the use of creatine has the potential for negative side effects including hair loss and thinning hair.