Creatine is a popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders, but there is some concern that it may cause hair loss. Let’s take a closer look at the evidence to see if there is any merit to this claim.
What Is Creatine?
The scientific answer is that creatine is an organic compound commonly found and used in brain and muscle tissue.
The simple answer is that creatine is a popular amino acid used in supplement form among athletes and dieters alike. This is because creatine is useful in increasing muscle mass and strength, and overall performance at the gym.
And because of its link to the brain, creatine supplements are also useful for improving brain function, and can help to lower your blood pressure too! But you can also get your daily dose of creatine from certain foods, including red meat and seafood.
What Causes Hair Loss?
Hair loss can happen for any number of reasons, including age, genetics, stress, and an assortment of health conditions. A snapshot of what can cause hair loss includes:
Family History or Your Genetics
Whether you are male or female, your genes can cause hair loss, especially as you age. This is primarily due to a lack of nutrition to your scalp, which causes additional loss of hair follicles and stunted hair growth.
Hormonal Changes and Other Medical Conditions
Hormonal changes can happen for several reasons, including pregnancy, menopause, taking certain medications or stopping medications, and so on.
Medical conditions that can cause hair loss include high blood pressure, lupus, alopecia areata, rheumatoid arthritis, an irregular thyroid, and even depression, to name a few.
The list of medications and supplements that can cause hair loss is extensive but includes vitamin A, antibiotics, anti-clotting drugs, immunosuppressants, antidepressants, and select weight loss drugs.
Many cancer patients can and will tell you the stories of how their hair loss experience went, and hair loss due to chemotherapy is quite common.
Whether it be day-to-day stress or a traumatic experience, stress fluctuates hormone levels and can lead to hair loss. Stress can also impact the body in ways most people wouldn’t expect, including potentially any of the symptoms listed later in this post.
Multiple ingredients go into the formulas that make up all of the available hair products on the market today. Some of these ingredients can be responsible for hair loss, including sulfates, formaldehyde, and methylene glycol. Even if your shampoo bottle label says “sulfate-free,” be sure to read the ingredients label, too.
Out of all of these causes, the question remains: does creatine cause hair loss? And the answer to that is not exactly. This is a common rumor, among the many others, surrounding creatine supplements and people who are taking creatine supplements that many are looking to put an end to.
Currently, no studies have uncovered a direct correlation between creatine supplementation and hair loss.
How Does Creatine Work?
Since creatine supplementation is most common among athletic people, most of creatine’s benefits are seen in workouts. Creatine increases the amount of phosphocreatine found in muscles, which helps in your energy supply while working out.
Creatine supplements help in multiple ways, including:
Taking creatine supplements helps you to reach another level of workout intensity. Because of the following reasons below, creatine can increase the volume of your workouts, which improves the likelihood of building long-term muscle mass.
The entire body can function because our living cells are constantly sending signals to each other, which allows the body to function as one unit. So, creatine supplements provide a boose in cell signaling to the muscle tissue.
Taking creatine supplements also helps to slow the breakdown process of proteins. Muscle mass increases because this breakdown process takes longer.
Our bodies are comprised of mostly water, so our cells need to stay hydrated to function properly. Creatine supplementation can improve the hydration in cells by lifting our bodies’ water content within muscles.
Research has shown that taking creatine supplements increases the hormones necessary when working out, which can improve overall athletic performance. The most common three anabolic hormones include testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1.
Taking creatine supplementation enhances the body’s way of lowering myostatin levels. Myostatin is a protein that slows muscle growth, and is a form of myokine. So, creatine monohydrate is helpful in further suppressing the muscle degeneration process.
Who Uses Creatine?
Creatine is most popular amongst bodybuilders because of how well the supplement helps in high-intensity workouts. For the same reason, athletes also use creatine supplements.
However, there are other uses for creatine supplementation, including strengthening the muscles for those who have suffered heart failure, and other muscle-related conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Yet, these uses haven’t been proven by research or approved by the FDA.
Side Effects of Creatine
It’s important to recognize that when used properly, creatine doesn’t typically present side effects. Always read the directions and warning labels on creatine supplementation products, including creatine monohydrate powders and creatine supplements. All of the listed side effects below are merely more likely to occur when taking creatine supplements.
Because creatine supplementation affects how the body hydrates, you may notice a bit of water retention in some areas of the body, most likely in areas of muscle mass, if you are using creatine for working out. Water retention, however, increases your risk of experiencing dehydration and cramping.
While some have reported this side effect to be a direct result of taking creatine, there is very little to support this claim. The “does creatine cause hair loss” rumor mill persists, though. However, if you are older and are using creatine, then your DHT levels make be impacted, therefore affecting your hair growth and hair follicles.
If you have been going through a creatine loading phase, this may result in muscle cramping as your body tries to compensate. It’s important to note that in most cases, creatine loading isn’t necessary and can lead to other side effects.
Muscle cramping can also happen due to creatine stunting hydration.
Because creatine supplementation encourages your muscle to withstand more force and weight when working out, you might feel compelled to push your body beyond its limits. Fatigue is only natural after doing so.
At some point, after exhausting yourself, you can overwork your body to the point of illness, including the induction of fever. It’s also important to note that creatine can lower your body’s natural heat tolerance.
One of the rare symptoms is nausea, and this could be a result of muscle contractions, which can also impact your stomach and other parts of your body.
Since creatine may lower the body’s ability to hydrate itself or hydrate slower than normal, you may also experience dizziness. However, creatine isn’t connected to severe dehydration, so there could be an underlying cause.
Water retention is mostly to blame for any weight gain that you might see when using creatine supplements. Weight gain and water retention are most commonly temporary, though.
However, the only type of weight gain that creatine monohydrate has shown to produce is the production of weight in the form of lean muscle mass.
This is a rare symptom of using creatine monohydrate. Cramping and other pains may happen due to the extra boost your muscle mass is experiencing, but creatine should not cause gastrointestinal pain. No study has found a link between creatine and problems with the gastrointestinal tract or kidneys.
As mentioned earlier, water retention can lead to dehydration. However, studies have shown very little connection between creatine supplementation and both water retention and dehydration, in addition to cramping and unwanted weight gain.
Water retention can actually lower your tolerance to heat. However, there is little evidence to support that creatine may be the cause.
How Fast Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
The exact speed of hair loss due to creatine isn’t known, as the studies that have been conducted did not measure how much hair was lost compared to average hair loss. However, it is known that during a creatine loading phase, you are at higher risk for quickened hair loss. This is due to DHT’s connections to hair follicles and how creatine monohydrate quickens the hair growth phase.
Again, the direct connection in the “does creatine cause hair loss?” debate lacks evidence.
Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
No, there is no direct correlation between taking creatine and hair loss. However, it is possible that taking creatine can impact your hair growth when taken in excess or improperly, as can other medications and dietary supplements.
If you are taking creatine supplements, and over a certain age, for an extended time (approximately over five months), then you might notice a decrease in hair. This distinction will be explained further on in the post.
Can You Regrow Lost Hair?
It is possible to recover from hair loss that results from a variety of reasons. One primary way is to make alterations in your dietary habits.
By increasing your intake of protein and dietary supplements, you should start to see some recovery from hair loss. Vitamins to increase your intake include A, B, C, D, E, and zinc. Iron is also a good vitamin to increase intake of, especially if you are an older woman.
Over-the-counter medications are also commonly prescribed by physicians, including minoxidil. This is included in creams and oral medications and is an FDA-approved way of treating hair loss.
Light therapy is another option to consider discussing with your doctor. You can purchase the equipment yourself, but this can be an expensive route. Light therapy decreases the inflammation in your hair follicles and can stimulate hair growth in targeted areas.
Lastly, if you are in the beginning stages of hair loss, or have regrown your hair back, then it’s important to maintain your hair and scalp. Hair and scalp maintenance involves using heat tools and other harsh treatments, including bleach and tight hairstyles, less often.
Any of these can cause inflammation that leads to additional hair loss and should be avoided when possible.
When to See a Doctor
When used as instructed by adults, creatine supplementation is ethical and safe to use, so there shouldn’t be an immediate reason to see a doctor. However, if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, then it’s safer to have a doctor determine the cause and stop creatine supplementation for the time being.
If you are experiencing hair loss, whether combined with other symptoms or not, you should visit your general physician. If you are experiencing rapid hair loss, such as losing entire patches of hair from your head or any place on the body, then schedule a visit immediately.
If you are looking for advice on recovering from hair loss, talking with a physician can point you in the right direction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)?
The body naturally converts testosterone into DHT, which is related to hair growth. DHT is the chemical in the body that attaches itself to hair follicles, offering a brief time of growth for the hair. As we age, our DHT levels decrease, and so our hair grows slower.
DHT is present in both men and women, in varying amounts, and is known as an androgen, or a “sex hormone,” which contributes to the growth of hair follicles all over the body. If your body naturally has a lower DHT level, then you will have a higher chance of experiencing hair loss.
Men see this more frequently than women, especially as they get older, but it can happen to women as well.
What Relationship Do Creatine and Dihydrotestosterone Levels Have?
Although there isn’t a direct correlation between hair loss with creatine, creatine does have a connection to DHT levels. Studies have found that creatine loading can increase the body’s DHT levels by 50%, while the testosterone ratio remains low. This increase in DHT quicken how fast hair can fall out, speeding up the hair growth phase.