Can creatine supplements make your hair fall out? This was a question I was recently asked and to be honest, it was a first. In over 20 years of investigating supplements, nobody ever asked me this before. Creatine and hair loss? Really? Is that even a thing? Sure enough, a quick search for this question, revealed some interesting research. If you take this popular supplement and wondered if it was linked to hair loss or was just a myth, this review will help you better understand things and explain it to others if you are ever asked this question.
Other Creatine Reviews
Creatine is the most highly researched supplement on Earth and people always have questions about it. See these other creatine reviews for more insights:
- Does Creatine Cause Injuries?
- Do You Need To Cycle Creatine?
- Is Creatine Safe For Kids?
- Is Creatine Good For Women?
- Creatine Nitrate Review
Creatine And DHT Research
If you search for answers to creatine and hair loss, you will soon find many people saying it does this. The logic behind why people say this is linked to DHT (di-hydro-testosterone), a molecule well known to be associated with hair loss. The logic goes like this:
- Hair loss and male pattern baldness is linked to the buildup of DHT.
- Creatine supplements appear to increase DHT production.
Sounds good so far but does creatine really raise DHT levels?
Here's the evidence everybody talks bout:
In one study researchers in South Africa noted that, in 20 male rugby players, creatine supplementation was associated with a significant rise in DHT levels. This was not seen in men taking a placebo.
In this 3 week investigation, DHT levels rose 56% during the loading phase (1st week / 25g per day) and remained 40% higher than normal during the maintenance phase (5g per day) for the remaining 2 weeks of the study.
So, according to this investigation, creatine raises DHT levels. Sounds plausible, but when I read the study, some things jumped out to me such as…
As I see it, this intriguing investigation has some issues which are worth bringing up:
1. The study did not look at hair loss. Rather, it just said DHT levels where higher the guys taking creatine.
2. The study involved only 20 guys. Generally the more people in a study, the more believable the results are.
3. Testosterone level did not change. If DHT increased, wouldn't it make sense testosterone would go up too? After all that's where DHT comes from.
4. This study was performed in 2009. As far as I can tell, nobody else has tried to replicate this study. What's up with that?
This investigation was performed at Stellenbosch University in south South Africa. I love it when universities do research, the fact that it was not followed up by a larger investigation made me wonder if this was somebody's masters thesis or dissertation?
That might explain why it was never replicated. In other words, the student, did the experiment, published the results, graduated college and got a job. That's speculation of course but it might explain the lack of follow up.
More importantly, this study of 20 male rugby players seems to be the only investigation ever to look at creatine and DHT levels. Because it's just a single study, I think we need more research to know for sure what's going on.
But what about actual hair loss from creatine? Does that really happen?
Let's look at that next.
Creatine And Hair Loss Evidence
If we set aside the research on DHT, what about the more important question: hair loss? To find out, I searched clinical databases for:
- Creatine hair loss
- Creatine male pattern baldness
- Creating alopecia
I could not find any studies on this topic.
Of course, lack of research does not technically mean the supplement is innocent. Rather, it just means nobody has taken a good look at it yet. Given the tantalizing DHT research, I'm surprised by this.
On a personal note, I teach a lot of classes to personal trainers, many of whom are taking creatine supplements. Because fitness trainers need to understand it (it's an energy system), I discuss this stuff in every class. In over 700 classes I have conducted, not one person has ever told me they noticed more hair loss after taking this supplement. That's not necessarily proof it doesn't promote balding. Rather, it's just an observation. Take it for what it is.
Creatine And Hair Loss Video Review
Here's a quick video I created about this review.
Does Creatine Raise Testosterone Levels?
OK, since there seems to be only one study on DHT levels, we know DHT is a metabolite of testosterone. So, if we had proof creatine raised testosterone, then this might help shed light on whether it raised DHT levels. So what does the science say?
Researchers in Belgum saw no change in testosterone or growth hormone levels compared to a placebo when they gave creatine to 11 healthy males who also lifted weights. Likewise the rugby study summarized above saw no change in testosterone levels either.
On the other hand, researchers in New Jersey did see an elevated total resting levels of testosterone from creatine in their 10 week study of college football players. While this is interesting, there was no improvement in free testosterone and the change they saw was not significantly different than the other groups.
Researchers in Iran also noted higher testosterone levels when the supplement was combined with strength training exercise. This study involved 20 active young men.
So, what's my opinion of all this? I had to take a wild guess, I'd say creatine supplements probably do not raise testosterone levels. Take that for what it's worth.
Supplements For Hair Loss
Hair supplements are very popular. In case you missed them, here are reviews of the hair loss and gray hair supplements I've looked at:
- Viviscal Review
- Castor Oil Review
- Hair Essentials Review
- Halo Beauty Review
- Alma Fruit (Indian Gooseberry) Review
- Black Seed Oil Review
- Pseudocatalase Review
Many of these reviews have a LOT of comments from people who have used them. The Viviscal review in particular is very popular.
What About Women?
There is no doubt, men get the lions-share of research when it comes to creatine. While there have been some investigations of women and this supplement, it's not as much as I'd like to see and none of them to my knowledge have ever looked at whether it made hair fall out -or raised DHT levels. So, even if the study of rugby players cited above is true, whether it raises DHT in women or not is unknown.
As an aside, I we need more female-based dietary supplement research. This is a unspoken bias that cannot continue. It's possible women metabolize supplements differently than men. But, that's a discussion for another time.
Creatine And Hair Loss: Fact Of Fiction?
Without good studies, it's hard to know if creatine causes hair loss or not. Just because one study from many years ago found it may raise DHT levels does not necessarily mean hair loss would occur. As for raising testosterone levels, for now, I'm not buying it. If you take this supplement and have not noticed any more of your hair falling out, then I would not worry about it.
But, if you want to play it extra safe, stick to using only the maintenance dosage (2-5 g per day). For what it's worth, I've never believed the loading phase was needed. So if nothing else, this will save you some money.