A rumor that creatine can cause hair loss has been circulating on the internet on various exercise forums and the creatine reddit page. The rumor seems to have originated from a 2009 study of rugby players taking creatine, where the players were shown to have increased levels of Dihydrotestosterone known commonly as DHT, a hormone that has been linked to hair loss symptoms.
The real question is: does creatine cause an increase in DHT that would be enough to cause hair loss in individuals that were not already genetically predisposed to hair loss or male pattern baldness?
There is no scientific research proving that creatine supplementation causes hair loss. There is also no study proving that creatine causes an increase in DHT significant enough to cause hair loss.
One 2009 study of a rugby team did find that creatine supplementation is associated with an increase in a hormone called DHT, which can contribute to hair loss. The takeaway is that the creatine did not increase the DHT levels to anything that would actually cause hair loss. Individuals already experiencing hair loss have increased DHT levels, so creatine supplementation could potentially increase their DHT levels a small amount, but it’s unlikely that it would be anything measurable (1).
According to the scientific studies and evidence around creatine, creatine is safe to use as a supplement for most adults. Since creatine use may lead to increases in DHT levels, even though it’s a minor increase, one may wish to avoid using creatine or talk to your doctor before using it if you’re genetically predisposed to male pattern baldness or hair loss.
The increase in DHT hormone levels occurs within the first month of creatine use. That’s not to say that hair loss will occur that quickly.
As we saw in the previous study mentioned, the only people that will see a measurable increase in DHT are those men that had significantly lower than normal DHT levels to begin with. These men should still not expect to experience hair loss unless they already have male pattern baldness or genetic hair loss.
Since creatine is already naturally occurring in the human body, and is present in red meat and other foods, creatine supplementation is safe for the vast majority of people. The most common case in which people experience negative effects of creatine is when they’re not drinking enough water (2).
Creatine is effective in helping muscles retain water. If you’re not consuming enough water, your body will need to draw water from elsewhere, which could cause dehydration. Simply put, when supplementing with creatine, drink more water. Being hydrated ensures your muscles can retain enough water to increase your strength.
The DHT increase from creatine is insignificant for the vast majority of people, including women. The only time a measurable increase in DHT occurs is when the men were already far below a normal DHT level. From the 2009 study: “The people in the study who received the creatine started out with baseline DHT levels 23% lower than the placebo group, and their measured increase in DHT “remained well within normal clinical limits.” In other words, their DHT levels started out low and they stayed low. Keep in mind that statistically significant does not necessarily mean physiologically meaningful.
Unfortunately there are no studies on the effects of creatine (related to DHT) for women specifically, but it’s safe to assume that females also experience a negligible increase in DHT, the same as males. For this reason, women shouldn’t need to worry about hair loss when supplementing with creatine monohydrate.