There are many stories of gym bros claiming creatine causes hair loss, but there is no scientific evidence that proves this.
Hair loss is arguably one of the most stressful conditions that can affect both males and females regardless of their age. The prospect of having to live without your hair can result in lots of anxiety, stress as well as low self-esteem.
This is the main reason why a significant number of hair loss victims seek immediate hair loss treatment to help reverse their condition.
There are many potential causes of hair loss, ranging from genetics, hormonal changes, to the natural aging process and even diet. Recently I’ve been asked by many of my patients —particularly those who lift and consume supplements— if creatine contributes to hair loss.
The short answer is no. Allow me to explain why.
What is creatine?
If you are a bodybuilding enthusiast, chances are you've heard something about or have used creatine. To put it simply, creatine is a naturally occurring substance that is a source of energy for your muscles and is available in most diets, including seafood and red meat. Creatine is a highly popular supplement among both bodybuilders and athletes and is commonly used to enhance performance.
It is imperative to note that hair loss in males is most commonly due to an increased level of DHT, a version of testosterone that is relatively powerful. This hormone results in the shrinking of the hair follicles, eventually leading to unwanted loss of hair. We sometimes refer to this as male pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia.
So, does creatine cause hair loss?
Firstly, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that creatine is responsible for hair loss in men. This creatine-hair loss myth possibly originated from a particular 2009 study in South Africa whereby a group of college rugby players took creatine daily for 21 days.
It was revealed that the participants' level of dihydrotestosterone, or DTH, -a byproduct of testosterone- was significantly high. When present in high concentrations, DTH can potentially result in the shrinking of hair follicles, shortening the hair growth cycle, ultimately causing your hair to thin.
Since then, there have been numerous clinical studies aimed at examining the impact of creatine supplements on the levels of testosterone, and so far, no single study has replicated the results or findings of the South African study.
I should also mention that creatine is essentially an amino-acid derivative. It is thought to boost strength, muscle mass, and help your muscles recover relatively faster during workout sessions.
It is a generally safe supplement that can potentially help athletes achieve bursts of speed as well as energy, particularly during short bouts of high-intensity activities such as sprinting and weightlifting.
Depending on who you ask and the person’s medical condition, creatine may cause side effects such as:
- Weight gain
- Digestive problems
- Kidney stones
It is NOT recommended for pregnant women, children under 18 and those with kidney or liver disease.
In terms of hair loss, at this point, there is no concrete research that proves creatine contributes to hair loss - though a select few think otherwise. More research is needed in order to guarantee such claims.
What really causes hair loss?
Bearing in mind that there are numerous types of hair loss, finding the main cause can sometimes prove a daunting task. Male pattern baldness, also referred to as androgenic alopecia, is the most common type of hair loss in males. Research shows that at least 50% of all men aged above 50 will be affected by male pattern baldness at some point in their lives.
Some common causes of male pattern hair loss include;
Studies have proven that male pattern baldness is associated with male sex hormones known as androgens. Androgens boast numerous functions, including regulating hair growth. Each hair follicle on your head has a growth cycle.
With male pattern baldness, this growth cycle starts to weaken, and the hair follicle shrinks, producing fairly shorter and finer hair strands. Ultimately, the growth for each hair stops, and no new hair grows in its place.
Hormonal changes can also trigger hair loss. Testosterone injections are a popular hormone replacement for men with low testosterone levels.
Testosterone boasts numerous potential benefits, including improved sexual function, mood, and strength, bone health, among others. As mentioned, low levels of DHT lead to hair loss; it can effectively stop a hair follicle's growth phase. This stop can become permanent.
These include high blood pressure, heart disease, enlarged prostate, obesity, diabetes, among others.
These include those used in the treatment of depression, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart problems.
Studies have also shown that stressful events, whether forced by physical or emotional stress, can potentially lead to unwanted hair loss.
It is also important to mention that nutritional deficiencies can cause hair loss problems. If you didn't know, optional levels of iron and other essential nutrients such as Vitamin D are critical for optimal health, as well as hair growth.
What can I do to address my hair loss?
If you are looking to address your hair loss concerns, there are numerous treatment options out there. You will need to consult your doctor to help select the best treatment method that suits your needs and budget. Hair loss treatment options range from oral medications, hair transplant surgery, and laser therapy.
At Dr Ben Medical, we use Regenera Activa as a hair growth treatment.
The bottom line
While creatine may affect DHT levels, which is known to play a role in hair loss in males, there is no concrete evidence to substantiate this particular claim.
Generally, creatine is known to be a safe and effective supplement that helps in muscle growth and strength. There are many anecdotal stories on the internet where some men claim to have suffered hair loss after using creatine. But these are false claims with no substantial evidence.
Of course, like any other drug or supplement, it is always good to consult your doctor before using one, to ensure you know and understand all the potential side effects of a drug before you use it.
Also, if you are currently suffering from hair loss, there is no need to worry because there are many hair loss or hair thinning treatment options available that can help to alleviate your symptoms. While you can't prevent male pattern baldness, there are also numerous ways to slow down this process.
- van der Merwe, J., Brooks, N. E., & Myburgh, K. H. (2009). Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 19(5), 399–404. https://doi.org/10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181b8b52f
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 11/11/21