Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss? Let’s Reveal The Truth 2024

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

does creatine cause hair loss

Creatine monohydrate is a widely used and well-researched supplement that is often taken by athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts to help improve athletic performance and to build lean muscle mass.

However, according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,[1] this is one of the most common questions they receive: Does creatine cause hair loss? Or how fast does creatine cause hair loss? We are here to answer these questions with science-based explanations. 

Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?

According to systematic research, creatine does not seem likely to cause hair loss because no study shows that creatine leads to hair loss. Hair loss due to creatine use was first speculated on due to a single study[2] on athletes taking 25 grams per day for seven days followed by five grams for an additional 14 days which led to an increase in dihydrotestosterone or DHT levels. DHT levels have been linked to hair loss, but it is important to know that this study has not been replicated, and intense exercise can also raise DHT levels.

This myth continues today with questions still remaining and internet misinformation abounding.

To understand why creatine was seen as a possible cause of hair loss, we should examine what creatine is and how creatine affects hair growth.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is produced in your body from the amino acids glycine and arginine, or you can obtain it from dietary sources such as meat or supplements. Creatine is naturally found in the structure of muscle cells. It helps to increase the energy that your muscles produce during strength or high-intensity exercise. Therefore, people trying to increase their muscle mass commonly take creatine supplements. 

In 2017, the International Society of Sports Nutrition[3] published an updated position on the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. The position indicated that creatine was safe in long-term supplementation—— (up to 30 grams per day for five years), and amounts of 3 grams per day were considered healthful. 

Studies[3] revealed that creatine levels in muscles could be increased by creatine supplementation, leading to enhanced exercise performance at high intensity. Besides its effects on sports nutrition, creatine benefits exercise recovery, injury prevention, neuroprotection, and rehabilitation. Furthermore, creatine has newly examined effects on neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, aging, and pregnancy, among other conditions.

A normal diet includes one to two grams of creatine per day. 

Can Creatine Cause Hair Loss?

The reason for this debate stemmed from the one research study mentioned earlier. The hypothesis is that creatine leads to a significant increment in serum DHT levels and may lead to hair loss via an increase in this hormone. But what is the truth? 

Why Does Testosterone Matter?  

Dihydrotestosterone,[4] or DHT, is a product of the testosterone hormone, produced with the help of a specific enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydro-testosterone. 

In males, dihydro-testosterone binds to specific receptors occurring in hair follicles. These connections may cause hair follicles to shrink, leading to hair loss.[5] 

Can Creatine Increase Dihydro-Testosterone Levels?

The originating question revolves around the ability of creatine to increase the levels of DHT. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the first study showing that creatine may lead to increased testosterone levels started these debates, which are still ongoing despite the lack of research to support these debates. 

In the mentioned study,[6] researchers examined creatine supplement effects on 20 rugby players in college. This experiment resulted in increased serum dihydrotestosterone levels over time, as mentioned earlier.  

There are several statements mentioned in this review[7] written by Ustuner et al. relative to the fact that increased serum DHT levels might be related to baldness. But neither of these articles shows strong proof of creatine’s effects on baldness. It was stated as a theory, and fourteen years later, no further studies have been replicated to prove that creatine has any effect on hair loss.

What Is The Final Thought For Hair Loss?

Even if creatine supplementation increases the enzyme activity in transforming testosterone to dihydrotestosterone and leading to an increase in dihydrotestosterone levels in the blood, no study has reported a direct relation with hair loss. 

Furthermore, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition[1] report, 12 studies investigated creatine supplementation’s effect on testosterone levels. Only two of them showed slight increases in testosterone levels. Still, the remaining ten studies didn’t show any changes in testosterone concentrations. 

Side Effects And Safety Tips When Using Creatine

It doesn’t mean that creatine use is totally safe in every case, and you can consume without boundaries.

Here are the facts about the frequently asked side effects of creatine. 

Edema/Water Retention

Creatine has osmotic properties, which means that a rise in the body’s creatine levels could potentially lead to greater water retention.

While there is evidence to suggest that creatine may increase water retention[1] in the short term, it may not necessarily lead to water retention over the longer term.

Muscle Cramps

Studies are limited about muscle cramps, but a survey[2] of 219 athletes found that 38% of the 90 participants who reported using creatine experienced negative effects such as cramping. However, this study failed to compensate for other supplements the players were taking, and over 91% exceeded the recommended 5 grams per day of supplemental creatine.

Kidney Function

Some concern is that taking high doses of creatine could lead to kidney damage. However, the evidence to support this claim is limited and mixed. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition,[1] taking creatine supplements in recommended doses does not cause kidney damage in healthy people.

It’s important to note that people with pre-existing kidney problems should be cautious when taking creatine. If you have any concerns about the potential effects of creatine on your kidneys, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking it.

Weight Gain

The loading phase of creatine supplementation, which involves taking 20 grams per day for five to seven days, may lead to a one to three kilograms increase in body mass due to increased water retention.[8] This means you can see weight gain on the scale, but you should remember that it might be only water retention.

In fact, a meta-analysis[9] has shown that creatine supplementation can result in a reduction in body fat percentage in older adults. However, the difference in total fat mass loss is small. 

Women’s Health

It is frequently asked whether creatine affects women’s health or if creatine supplementation can cause hair loss in females. Based on scientific evidence, there is no additional negative effect of creatine use at recommended doses in women. However, female athletes need to pay attention to their overall nutrition.

In particular, there can be several physiological consequences if the energy and nutrient needs of female athletes (resulting from high-intensity exercise efforts) cannot be met. 

Safety Tips

It is important to use creatine safely and responsibly to minimize the risk of potential side effects. Here are some safety tips for using creatine:

  • Start With A Lower Dose: Creatine should be taken gradually, starting with a lower dose (3-5 grams per day) and gradually increasing to the dose of 20 grams per day if needed. The International Society of Sports Medicine recommends taking 5 grams four times daily for five to seven days for saturation, but this should be started slowly to avoid potential cramping and bloating. Ingesting creatine with carbohydrates or carbohydrates and protein can aid in creatine retention. Maintenance doses are 3-5 grams, and for larger athletes, 5-10 grams per day.
  • Stay Hydrated: Creatine can cause your muscles to retain more water, leading to dehydration. Maintaining proper hydration by drinking enough water when consuming creatine is crucial.
  • Monitor Your Kidney Function: Creatine can affect kidney function, so it is important to monitor your kidney function regularly if you take creatine. Kidney function can be monitored by your doctor through blood tests such as glomerular filtration rate, or you can monitor the color of your urine, which will be pale yellow if not dehydrated.
  • Avoid Mixing With Other Supplements: Creatine should not be mixed with other supplements, such as caffeine or alcohol, without first consulting with your doctor or registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition.
  • Consult With A Doctor: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you should consult your doctor before starting a creatine supplement regimen.
  • Stick To Recommended Doses: Overdosing on creatine can cause serious side effects, so it is important to stick to the recommended doses.

Treatment For Creatine-Related Hair Loss

There is no direct evidence to suggest that creatine supplementation causes hair loss, but if you feel that the creatine that you use leads to hair loss, you can consult your doctor. 

Furthermore, the type and intensity of the exercise, the individual’s overall health, and genetics can all play a role in the likelihood of hair loss.

In some cases, intensive exercises, such as marathon running or bodybuilding, can cause a temporary condition in which hair goes into a resting phase and falls out. This type of hair loss is usually temporary. It typically stops when the cause (in this case, intensive exercise) is addressed.

If you are an athlete or doing regular exercise, these healthy habits may help you with your hair health: 

  • Maintain A Balanced Diet: Eating a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help support healthy hair growth. Make sure to include plenty of protein, iron, vitamins A, C, and D, and other essential nutrients for healthy hair.
  • Manage Stress: Stress can cause hair loss, so it is important to manage stress through exercise, meditation, or therapy.
  • Avoid Tight Hairstyles: Steer clear of tight hairdos: Hairstyles that are tightly woven, like braids, ponytails, and cornrows, can lead to hair breakage and loss.
  • Consider Dietary Supplements: Certain supplements taken in consultation with your doctor and registered dietitians, such as biotin, iron, and fish oil, may help promote healthy hair growth

Conclusion

There is no direct evidence to suggest that creatine supplementation causes hair loss. A variety of factors, including genetics, hormonal imbalances, hairstyles, and nutrient deficiencies, can cause hair loss. While some people have reported hair loss as a side effect of taking creatine, this is not a common or well-established side effect.

However, it is important to remember that everyone’s body reacts differently to supplements, and individual responses can vary. If you are concerned about hair loss or any other potential side effects of creatine supplementation, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional.


+ 9 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A.R., Kreider, R.B., Rawson, E.S., Smith-Ryan, A.E., VanDusseldorp, T.A., Willoughby, D.S. and Ziegenfuss, T.N. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, [online] 18(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w.
  2. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show? [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  3. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  4. Bartsch, G., Rittmaster, R. and Klocker, H. (2002). Dihydrotestosterone and the concept of 5α-reductase inhibition in human benign prostatic hyperplasia. World Journal of Urology, [online] 19(6), pp.413–425. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-002-0248-5.
  5. Trüeb, R.M. (2002). Molecular mechanisms of androgenetic alopecia. Experimental Gerontology, [online] 37(8-9), pp.981–990. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/s0531-5565(02)00093-1.
  6. van der Merwe, J., Brooks, N.E. and 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, [online] 19(5), pp.399–404. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/jsm.0b013e3181b8b52f.
  7. Ustuner, E.T. (2013). Cause of Androgenic Alopecia. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, [online] 1(7), p.e64. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/gox.0000000000000005.
  8. Deminice, R., Rosa, F., Pfrimer, K., Ferrioli, E., Jordao, A. and Freitas, E. (2015). Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water in Soccer Players: a Deuterium Oxide Dilution Study. International Journal of Sports Medicine, [online] 37(02), pp.149–153. doi:https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0035-1559690.
  9. Forbes, Candow, Krentz, Roberts and Young (2019). Changes in Fat Mass Following Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training in Adults ≥50 Years of Age: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, [online] 4(3), p.62. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/jfmk4030062.
Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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