There's a reason the phrase, "Does creatine cause hair loss?" is among the most googled questions in the interwebs. Creatine is, after all, one of the most popular sports and nutritional supplements in today's fiercely competitive world. The nexus between this supplement and shrinking hair follicles is almost palpable to the extent that creatine and hair loss is now nearly synonymous and can be used interchangeably. It is also not uncommon to come across professional athletes who swear that they had to come to terms with the reality of creatine hair loss as soon as they decided to bite the bullet for the sake of their careers.
That said, does creatine make you lose hair or this is one of those highly-misconstrued myths that have little or no scientific backing? Let's explore the connection between creatine and hair loss.
What Is Creatine?
Even before delving into the murky waters of creatine side effects hair loss, it is imperative to first of all clear the air about what this compound entails. Creatine is a sports supplement that become widely popular in the early 90s after Linford Christie, a Briton-born track star, revealed that the compound was instrumental in helping him train for his upcoming gold-medal-securing 100-meter sprint. Close to 30 years later, creatine monohydrate is still one of the most studied and most popular endurance supplements you can find online. And this explains why questions such as, "Can creatine cause hair loss?' and "Does creatine make you bald?" are commonplace nowadays.
By itself, creatine has been the subject of more than 500 separate scientific studies. There's arguably no other dietary or food supplement that has received this kind of supportive data in the recent past. For this reason, it's quite ironic that creatine has been a soft target for a myriad of myths and misconceptions, most of them revolving around the question of, "Does creatine monohydrate cause hair loss?"
As much as research on this subject is still ongoing, it is also natural for one to wonder why the subject of creatine monohydrate hair loss has received this much attention over the past couple of years. You see, this creatine hair loss myth stems from a study that was apparently conducted back in 2009 in South Africa involving a group of young 20-something rugby players. In this specific study, the young men took creatine-based supplements every day for at least 21 days. According to the results of this study, the subjects showed a 'statistically notable' increase in the level of DHT also known as dihydrotestosterone.
DHT, for those who may not be aware, is the testosterone byproduct that in high concentrations is believed to shrink hair follicles, trigger hair thinning and shorten the growth cycle of a man's hair. But bear in mind that this supposed study was conducted back in 2009 and this begs the question, does creatine cause hair loss in 2021?
According to leading researchers who have been studying creatine balding for ages now, none of the subjects from the study above experienced hair loss explicitly because of taking a creatine supplement. Instead, they were bound (in one way or another) to experience balding at the end of the day since they started with a baseline DHT level well above the usual nominal range.
What are the Possible Side Effects Of Creatine?
Now that we have begun making some inroads in the long-held myth that creatine causes hair loss, it's only natural for one to wonder., are there any creatine side effects hair-related signs that I need to look out for? Here's a quick primer on that.
You see, creatine is found naturally throughout the human body. 95% of your creatine stores is in the muscles and it can be sourced from fish and meat if not synthesized naturally from amino acids in the body. That being said, your natural; creatine levels plus your diet do not usually optimize the muscle stores of this unique compound. While the average stores oscillate around 120mmol/kg, taking creatine supplements can elevate these levels to about 140-150 mmol/kg.
Besides this, during and after a high-intensity exercise, the stored creatine maximizes the production of useful energy in the muscle cells. And this is actually one of the main reasons athletes are likely to find out that creatine has the ability to bump up their level of physical performance during training or in the field.
To most experts, creatine is considered generally harmless if used within acceptable limits since any excess of this compound that is not stored in the muscle stores is promptly excreted via the liver. But this leads to the question, what are the possible side effects of creatine use?
1. Possible Cramps and Dehydration
One of the ways that taking creatine supplements makes you look buff and beefed up after an intense workout session is by driving additional water from your natural stores to the muscle cells. In other words, if you don't replenish your water levels frequently enough, it’s possible to suffer a bit of dehydration especially considering that the shift of cellular water content can be significantly higher in people who are just starting to take this supplement.
It gets even worse during hot weather when you are more likely to lose a significant amount of water through sweating. Fortunately, you can stave off any possible dehydration or cramping by taking a bit more water than usual when working out in such adverse conditions.
2. Possible Weight Gain
One of the major changes that most people who start taking creatine supplements are likely to notice is the notable weight gain that coincides with its usages, especially if they start working out. In fact, it is not unusual to gain as many as 6 pounds after just a week of loading up on creatine (a dosage of about 20 grams per day). Studies show that over the long term, this significant increase in body weight can continue so long as the user keeps consuming creatine and hitting the weights hard.
Be advised though that this weight gain is mostly a result of increased muscle gain and not a pile-up of body fat. Therefore, for most athletes, this does sound less of a side effect and more of an upside since additional muscle is an adaptation that can help drive sports performance upwards.
3. What About the Livers and Kidneys?
One of the misleading myths about the possible side effects of creatine use tends to pirouette around either kidney or liver function. And this originates from the fact that creatinine is typically used to diagnose and rule out liver and kidney problems. Nonetheless, this couldn't be any further from the reality as far as creatine use goes.
Here's the thing, as much as using creatine supplements has the potential to raise one's creatine levels, it does not necessarily imply that is harming your kidneys or liver - at least not in completely healthy individuals. In fact, a length and exhaustive study that involved a group of college-age professional athletes did not find any side effects that are related to kidney or liver function. Having said that, you may want to exercise caution when it comes to heavy creatine use if you already have pre-existing kidney or liver issues.
Investigating the Creatine DHT Connection
There's exists anecdotal evidence that seems to suggest that usage of creatine supplements spikes the levels of a man's DHT (dihydrotestosterone) by a bit of a margin. DHT, if you are not familiar with the term, is a hormone that is routinely derived from testosterone. And unlike testosterone, DHT is a bit more potent and has a greater effect on one's hair follicles.
The significance of the creatine DHT connection is borne out of the backdrop that one's hair follicles have their own unique life cycle. This lifecycle scintillates between the growth phase and a resting phase where the strand falls out only to be replaced with a new one. And if this goes on long enough, it can translate to shorter and thinner hair since there will be more hair strands falling out than those being replaced at any given time.
In addition to this, some men (or even women) tend to have a higher genetic predisposition to hair loss and balding than others. In such cases, the enzyme that oversees the conversion of testosterone to DHT tends to be more active than in others.
Can Creatine Cause Hair Loss?
In the 2009 study mentioned above, the rugby players were put on a creatine supplement regime for about a week. In those 7 days of creatine loading, the researchers found a 'statistically significant increase in the amount of DHT in their bloodstream. Their levels of testosterone, however, did not appear to change. And while this study was conducted under controlled circumstances, it is imperative to note that researchers did not necessarily assess the rate of hair loss in the participating subjects. As such, we can only draw conclusions regarding the changes in hormone levels and not necessarily the impact that the hair follicles sustained.
As far as this study is concerned, a notable increase in the subject's DHT levels was observed. And considering that DHT levels play a significant role in influencing the rate of hair thinning and eventual loss, the increase could put you at a risk, especially if you are already genetically predisposed to hair loss.
Are There Any Creatine Effects on Women to be Concerned About?
Truth be told, there are a lot of mixed opinions regarding creatine effects on women and the supposed side effects. On one side, creatine has been observed to assist help in building lean muscle as it is aids in sustaining higher energy and endurance levels needed to support bouts of intense workouts. In a way or another, using creatine supplements is a no-brainer for women who routinely engage in high-intensity training such as weight-lifting or sprints.
What's more, there is a recent study that seems to suggest that supplementation with creatine supports mental clarity, especially during gruelling workouts by boosting the rate at which a woman's brain soaks up oxygen. This enhanced oxygen uptake can make a significant difference when you're talking about mentally challenging workouts such as dance routines or complex boxing.
As you can see, unless you have a serious underlying kidney or liver problem, creatine-based supplements are not just safe for women to take but also come highly recommended.
Here's How to Prevent Hair Loss While Taking Creatine
You may want to read up on some of the ways to prevent hair loss while taking creatine if you are genetically predisposed to baldness yet are interested in boosting your workouts using this form of supplementation. Here's are some of the things to try as far as staving off shrinking follicles goes.
1. Adopt Hair, Skin and Nail Gummies
You can counter the undesirable impact of rising levels of DHT in your bloodstream by simply investing in a suitable hair supplementation regimen. A good example of such a follicle-stimulating program is one that has Bloommy's Hair Skin and Nails Gummies as its centrefold. The delicious gummies are designed to fill in the gaps in your dietary routine that could be keeping you from having a head full of hair as soon as you start taking creatine-based supplements.
2. Supplement with Biotin
Biotin is the chief building block responsible for making luscious-looking strands of hair appear on your scalp. As such, you may want to ensure that you are not in any way deficient in this highly important micronutrient by taking these Biotin, Collagen & Keratin Capsules from Bloommy regularly.
3. Go Easy on the Creatine
As much as creatine has proven to be critically helpful in helping millions of men sustain incredible strength and muscle growth rates in the gym, it does not mean that you should exceed the recommended intake amounts from the manufacturer. You'd be surprised to learn how many men and women are under the mistaken impression that overloading on creatine will hasten their progress and help them reach their fitness goals faster. On the contrary, all this does is throw your hormonal balance into disarray and put your major life-supporting excretory organs under undue stress.
In Closing - The Takeaway
There's no denying that creatine may have a bit of a significant impact on one's DHT levels. And this is the same hormone with the single largest influence on hair thinning, balding and total hair loss in men or women who are genetically predisposed to premature baldness. Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that the single study that linked DHT and creatine was not without its own unique flaws and limitations such as the size of the sample and the insane amount of creatine involved. Therefore, this means that there's a high chance that normal use of creatine will not necessarily invoke hair loss, particularly if you are not predisposed to male pattern baldness or alopecia.