Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Creatine is just a part of your routine. You pop a gummy or scoop some powder into a smoothie, then hit the gym.
You know what else is becoming a part of your routine? Finding more hair on your pillow and more exposed skin with a receding hairline or growing bald patch.
But does creatine cause hair loss?
While internet forums may lead you to believe it can, scientific evidence says otherwise. In fact, the idea of creatine baldness may stem from one study — yes, one — that isn’t even conclusive.
We’ll dive into the research on creatine hair loss to put your mind at ease.
Creatine is a natural chemical found in the body. You can also find it in red meat, seafood and practically any store selling supplements.
Used to improve physical performance and muscle mass, it’s popular among bodybuilders and lovers of high-intensity exercise.
As a dietary supplement, creatine may help with:
Muscle strength and power
Athletic performance in domains like sprinting, rowing, jumping and soccer
Gains in fat-free mass
One paper highlights that there are about 300 studies looking into creatine and its effects on physical performance. Of those studies, about 70 percent report statistically significant results — and those results are positive. And no study reports a statistically significant worsening of performance on creatine.
There are many types of creatine out there, including creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester and buffered creatine. Creatine monohydrate has been found to be just as effective as other forms of the supplement, if not more.
Creatine has a good safety profile, and it isn’t thought to lead to kidney damage in healthy individuals. But those with pre-existing kidney issues should speak with a healthcare provider before taking the supplement.
Potential side effects of creatine supplementation include:
Weight gain from water retention
Notice hair loss isn’t on that list? Let’s dive into that next.
It’s not entirely clear whether creatine causes hair loss. We know that’s an annoying answer, but here’s what science has to say on the matter.
Most of the worry around creatine and hair loss comes from one study. One. And the evidence — if you can call it that — is weak.
The 2009 study in question looked at college-aged rugby players who took a creatine supplement or a placebo for 21 days.
Testosterone levels didn’t change for those who took creatine, but their DHT was up 56 percent by the seven-day mark and remained 40 percent higher than baseline levels after the full 21 days.
DHT can bind to androgen receptors in any susceptible hair follicles you may have. This causes the follicle to shrink and the hair to fall out.
In the study, researchers concluded that creatine may increase the rate testosterone is converted into DHT.
So creatine might increase DHT, and this might spell bad news for your hairline. But this is far from concrete evidence. The study was small — only 20 participants — and a specific link between creatine and hair loss wasn’t studied.
A 2021 review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition backs us up. It says the increased DHT levels in the rugby player study were well within normal clinical limits.
Even more damning? Pre-supplementation, DHT levels were 23 percent lower in those who took the creatine supplements than those who took the placebo. This may account for the large difference in DHT levels between the two groups at the end of the experiment.
The 2021 review included 12 other studies on creatine and testosterone. It concluded that the current evidence doesn’t indicate creatine supplements increase testosterone or DHT — or that they cause hair loss or baldness.
One more time for the people in the back: There’s no real evidence hair loss is a side effect of creatine.
Just to hammer it home: There’s no evidence linking creatine to hair loss. So if you’re suffering from hair loss or thinning, don’t throw out your creatine supplements just yet.
Here’s what to do.
We know it’s embarrassing to talk about, but speaking to a healthcare provider about your hair loss symptoms is a great place to start.
Whether it’s rapid hair loss that hit you out of nowhere or something gradual you’ve been noticing since you turned 25, you may be able to fix it.
A medical professional can run tests to try and determine the underlying cause or recommend hair loss treatments to get you back to a fuller head of hair.
Hair loss can be caused by a whole host of factors that go far beyond creatine.
Common reasons for hair loss in men include:
Medications like beta-blockers, retinoids or cancer treatments
Vitamin deficiencies such as iron or zinc
Hairstyles that tug on your scalp
Genetics (thanks, Dad!)
Before you blame your supplements, consider any medications you’re on or if you’re going through a stressful time in life. And take a look at your dad’s hair — or the lack of it.
To rule out other causes, consider getting tested for vitamin deficiencies or underlying illnesses that could be behind your hair loss.
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Depending on the cause, you may experience permanent or temporary hair loss. The good news is many types of hair loss are the temporary kind, and they can be fixed.
Lifestyle changes can help with hair health. These include:
Lowering stress levels
Eating a healthy diet with enough nutrients and overall calories
Using gentle shampoo and moisturizing conditioner
Avoiding hairstyles that pull on your scalp (aka no more man bun)
These changes are good to keep in mind at all times, but especially if you want to prevent hair loss while taking creatine.
There’s also medication. Medications to treat hair loss include:
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, minoxidil can help with early hair loss — another reminder to speak to a healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms — but it cannot help those who are fully bald.
This medication can help with new hair growth and prevent further hair loss. But you need to be patient with minoxidil. It can take about six to 12 months to work.
Finasteride can also help slow hair loss and stimulate new hair growth. But it’s not a quick fix, either. It can take roughly four months to see improvements, and it works best if you start taking it when you first notice hair loss.
Other treatment options include:
Learn about the cost, time and side effects of hair transplants in our blog.
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The final verdict is this: There’s no definitive evidence creatine makes you lose hair. But there’s also no solid proof it doesn’t cause hair loss. Annoying, we know.
Evidence that creatine could cause hair loss is thin. There’s one (we repeat, one) scientific study suggesting creatine can increase DHT, the hormone linked to male pattern baldness. But that study has its problems, and it’s not enough to reach a guilty verdict.
Creatine is generally considered a safe supplement. And it’s been shown to help with muscle strength, athletic performance and recovery. So don’t rule it out.
Creatine isn’t the only culprit. Stress, a vitamin deficiency or simply genetics are all potential causes of hair loss — and they have real evidence behind them. Something else you’re taking before the gym, like a pre-workout supplement, could even be to blame.
If you notice signs of balding or hair thinning, speak up. A healthcare provider can recommend treatment options to slow hair loss and promote hair growth.
And if you’re looking for more ways to get your hair back, check out these science-backed tips for hair growth.