Let’s find out whether creatine causes hair loss
A quick pop quiz: Would you like to have big muscles or a head full of hair?
If you’ve known about creatine or read about it on online message boards, then you’d know that you can’t have both of them. For the uninitiated, creatine is a premium muscle-builder out there that supposedly comes with one of the biggest side effects — a bald head.
Or is it so?
Notice that we’d used the word “supposedly” because it’s a general belief that this muscle-building supplement causes hair loss in men. Just look at online forums where creatine is a red-hot topic, and you’d come across a slew of anecdotes connecting the supplement’s use with hair loss.
But the hive mind of bodybuilding communities isn’t the right place to get a handle on the connection between creatine and hair loss. But doubting any health or bodybuilding group doesn’t mean that it’s not having intelligent people — of course, there can be health groups with researchers and experienced bodybuilders. But then again, the time spent on finding such groups and checking their credentials can even be invested in understanding more about creatine.
The only remote connection between hair loss and creatine can be found in a small study involving a bunch of rugby players. (More on this later.) So, you can see the extent of the research done on this topic. And, frankly, the information connecting the muscle-builder with hair loss on the internet is entirely hearsay.
Long story short: There’s no solid evidence that connects creatine supplements with hair loss. On the opposite, there’s no study showing that hair loss isn’t a potential side effect of consuming the muscle-building supplement.
Which is why, we’re doing this explainer where we’ll dig deeper into figuring out the link between creatine and going bald. Let’s get down to the details.
Creatine is one of the most popular and well-researched bodybuilding supplements out there. This supplement is basically found in its raw form in animal products including red meat. These supplements are so commonly available that you can find them in almost any big box near your location.
A lot of studies have linked creatine to improved strength, enhanced muscles and athletic performance, and better post-workout recovery. You can find a lot of creatine varieties today on the market, but monohydrate is the cheapest of the lot and is as effective as its other expensive siblings.
As far as the side effects of creatine supplementation go, water retention is the most common one. Other possible side effects of the supplements are nausea, stomach problems, dizziness, muscle cramps, heat intolerance and dehydration.
Because it has its fair share of side effects, creatine isn’t recommended for people having kidney problems or related diseases. To make things even more interesting, leading online sources for supplements and reputable online health studies don’t list hair loss as one of the possible side effects of creatine.
Does science prove that creatine causes hair loss?
There’s just one 2009 study indirectly connecting creatine consumption and hair loss. Published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, the study involved 20 rugby players who were given creatine supplement for 3 weeks.
Another interesting fact about the study was that the involved participants took a huge creatine dose — almost 25 grams — every day for the period. (Generally, a person is recommended to take not more than 5 grams of the muscle-building supplement daily.)
But the most interesting finding of the study linked creatine to a sudden rise in the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the hormone that may lead to male pattern baldness, especially among men who are genetically likely to face hair loss — and DHT is produced after converting the body’s testosterone.
However, the study never proved that creatine is directly related to hair loss. To top it all off, the study was quite small and covered just a narrow time frame.
Anecdotal evidence linking creatine to balding
Long story short: it’s quite possible that creatine can easily interfere with hair growth in one way or the other — it’s just that there’s no scientific evidence to back that claim. But just because nobody has yet proven that creatine consumption results in hair loss, it can’t be ignored either. And then there are many people out there who really swear by the fact that this muscle-building supplement will gradually mow down the hair on your head.
On online boards that are geared toward creatine only, you’ll notice hundreds of comments that show anecdotal stories that can be based on anyone’s personal experience. But the only problem with these stories is that both hair loss and creatine supplements may or may not be interlinked. The thing is, the people who are sharing their personal experiences online may be actually predisposed to hair loss way before they switched to the supplement in question. We won’t ever know any of these background facts.
A common thread in these anecdotal references is related to the recovery after consuming the supplementation. People often say that once they stop taking creatine, the alleged side effects of thinning hair also slow down or stop altogether.
It’s likely that creatine may affect the DHT levels in your body. And higher DHT levels will likely accelerate the hair-loss process especially if you’re susceptible to the condition. But the single study that linked DHT and creatine comes with many flaws. For example, the sample size of the study was quite small — besides, the participants took a ridiculous amount of creatine, which anyone wouldn’t take in general. To make things even more complicated, the study never mentions the phrase “hair loss.”
And if you check online forums, you’ll see almost everyone who’s consumed this muscle-building supplement has their heart-rending stories of thinning hair. The only problem is, the online forums are even packed with people who claim that they haven’t really experienced hair thinning after consuming creatine.
In short, it’s safe to presume that creatine is a muscle-building supplement that’ll improve your muscle strength and athletic performance without messing with your hair growth. And that’s because of the lack of evidence connecting this muscle-building supplement with hair loss. So, you can go ahead and consume the recommended amount of creatine without overthinking about going bald anytime soon.
But if hair loss is your primary concern, then there are multiple medical ways of solving that problem.