Creatine has been long used for gaining muscle and enhancing strength but the rumour about hair loss can hold people back from adding it to their diet. In this article, we try to debunk the myths about creatine and hair loss that help you decide if adding creatine to your diet is worth it.
If you’re a gym buff you’ve probably heard about creatine and the floating rumour linked to hair loss. So, what’s it going to be? Big, toned muscles or a shiny, bald head? Worry not, creatine does not directly affect hair loss, let’s debunk some myths about hair loss and creatine.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a popular nutritional supplement mostly used by athletes or people looking to bulk up. It is an amino-acid derivative naturally found in red meat, fish, or in a supplement store. It facilitates the recycling of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the cell’s energy currency. This helps in replacing energy in the cells of the brain and muscle. It is stored in your skeletal muscles as phosphocreatine, which can be later during physical activity as energy for muscle contractions.
Creatine is linked with increased muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance and hence is very popular with athletes and bodybuilders. This is taken to enhance performance, build muscle and gain strength. It can be found in various forms, like powders, liquids, and tablets.
Is creatine linked to hair loss and balding?
There isn’t much research into the correlation between creatine and hair loss, much of the evidence is anecdotal. This means the rumour of creatine causing hair loss comes from personal experiences and testimonies.
But the majority of speculation can be attested to one particular study in 2009 in South Africa by van der Merwe, which examined rugby players who took creatine every day for three weeks. These players showed a significant increase in the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT, a hormone that is the main culprit for hair loss. If present in high concentration, it causes hair follicles to shrink and shortens the hair growth cycle, especially if you are genetically predisposed to hair loss. But this study did not assess hair loss among the players, thus we cannot observe the effect on hormone levels.
There were twelve other trials conducted to study the relationship between creatine and DHT levels, but none of them replicated the same results as the study in South Africa. Only two studies showed minor changes in DHT levels, hence the current data does not indicate that creatine increases total testosterone or DHT levels that cause hair loss or baldness.
Creatine and DHT
DHT is a metabolite of another hormone called testosterone. Testosterone plays a crucial role in body hair and muscle mass. DHT causes damage to hair follicles and shrinks them. An abundance of this hormone could result in hair loss. Hair has a growth cycle of its own. DHT causes the cycle to grow shorter which causes hair to grow thinner and slower.
Testosterone needs to be converted into DHT; creatine might increase this process. When you begin taking creatine supplements it converts testosterone into DHT faster in your system. The increased levels of DHT in your body speed up the hair loss process. This weakens the hair follicles, making them more susceptible to damage and falling out. Hence over time, creatine causes some hair loss in individuals. But owing to the data above, this process happens in small, minor stages and does not directly affect your hair growth cycle. Contributing factors like genetics, age, stress, and medications can also aid hair loss.
Can creatine cause hair loss?
Regular use of creatine can cause some hair loss over time. The process however is indirect, it works by increasing the DHT levels in your body. It can disrupt the hair growth cycle and cause permanent damage to it, making it difficult to regrow your hair. The increased rate of DHT levels binding to hair follicles accelerates the hair growth phase. This leads to thinner and weaker hair follicles, which leads to rapid hair loss. However, this is not the case for all users, some might experience hair loss while some might only notice little to no change. If you are genetically inclined towards male pattern baldness, you might want to reconsider or talk to a dermatologist before adding creatine to your regular diet.
Creatine and women
Hair loss is a far bigger problem for men than women. Women rarely face complete balding, however, they do suffer from excessive hair fall and thinning. Women have lesser DHT levels, so hormonal hair loss is less common in women.Insufficient amount of testosterone levels in women make them less prone to hair loss. Hence, women taking creatine do not need to worry about adding it to their diet.
How can you prevent hair loss while using creatine?
When you are experiencing hair loss after you start using creatine and you cannot switch your medication, in that case, there are several medications available to effectively treat hair loss. There are various drugs that can balance your DHT levels and restore your hair growth. Let’s look at some ways to prevent hair loss while using creatine
The easiest, most convenient way of dealing with hair loss is to start with medication. Most popular hair loss medications are minoxidil and finasteride. Make these medications a part of your daily routine. They are scientifically backed to improve the quality and volume of hair. These are readily available at pharmacies and stimulate hair growth.
These are available in the form of pills, gel, solution, and foam. Both medications have scientific evidence backing their efficacy rate. Minoxidil is available in foam and a solution. Pick the one that suits you the best. Consult your doctor for your appropriate dose.
- Minoxidil solution: One ml of the solution twice a day
- Minoxidil foam: Half a capful of the foam twice a day
Finasteride comes in tablet form. Various generic medicines are available, consult your doctor for the best option. If you are taking Finasteride to treat male pattern baldness, take a tablet once a day around the same time. You will see the improvement after 3-12 months as hair growth happens gradually. But if you do not see any improvement after 12 months, consult with your doctor for alternative options.
By making small, simple lifestyle changes like adding more protein to your diet or working out 3-5 times a week can help increase blood flow and oxygen to your hair and give it the nutrition it requires to enhance hair growth.
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy is a procedure where they take a small amount of your blood from the arms and it is spun through a centrifuge to concentrate the platelet-rich plasma in the scalp. The idea is to increase the concentration of specific bio proteins or hormones in an area to speed up hair growth.
·Massage your scalp
Massaging your scalp daily with essential oils increases the blood flow to the scalp, which in turn strengthens the hair follicles and makes them susceptible to future damage. Repeat this every day for at least 5 mins for better results.
·Vitamins and supplements
If you are facing hair loss due to nutritional deficiencies, it is time to turn to vitamins and supplements. When you lack certain vitamins and nutrients that help in hair growth, your hair becomes susceptible to breakage. These vitamins and supplements help in hair restoration by providing your body with the necessary nutrients for hair growth, thus strengthening your hair follicles.
·Low-level light therapy
LLLT is a treatment that uses laser light to stimulate hair growth and strengthen hair follicles. It helps combat hair loss and improve your hair health. It also improves the volume and appearance of your hair giving it a more natural look. It is FDA-approved and has no side effects. The therapy is painless and is proven to be beneficial to many patients suffering from hair loss
Hair transplant might be the last resort to get rid of hair loss. It involves taking small sections from the back of your head to areas where growth is halted. It is an effective and permanent solution for hair loss. This is a safe surgery and could last between 4-6 hours. Hair transplant surgery gives a natural look, unlike hair plugs
Creatine side effects
Using creatine comes with some side effects and safety concerns like any other drug. Most of them occur as your body adapts to these medications, however, if they persist for more than two days, contact your doctor. Stick to the recommended dose on the label or as advised by your doctor to reduce the risk of side effects. Let’s take a look at what the side effects are
- Water retention
- Hair loss
- Muscle cramping
- Kidney problems
- Weight gain
- Gastrointestinal pain
- Heat Intolerance
When should you approach a doctor?
As discussed above creatine doesn’t directly affect hair loss, but if you experience hair loss, balding, or spots, you should immediately seek medical help. Hair loss can be assessed by a dermatologist. You will be asked about your family history and a “pull test” might be used. For better, accurate results your dermatologist might also do a scalp biopsy and run some blood tests to evaluate scalp health and rule out medical issues.
The quicker you address the symptoms, the easier it will be to prevent permanent damage. But if your hair fall is minimal, some at-home remedies can prove to be useful. If you want to improve your hair health, it is important to stay consistent with your efforts. Results take a few months to be noticeable, so don’t lose hope.
Creatine is a good supplement for gaining muscle, improving performance and enhancing strength. However, it can sometimes lead to indirect hair loss, the link between creatine and hair loss doesn’t have conclusive evidence so a medical review should be taken before adding it to your diet, especially if you have a history of male pattern baldness. It is also important to stick to the exact recommended dose given by your doctor to reduce the potential of side effects.