No, creatine does not cause hair loss (source), no matter how convincing the rumor that it does is. The myth that “creatine causes hair loss” came from a study conducted back in 2009, with 21 male rugby players. But the study didn’t find a link between creatine and hair loss. In fact it didn’t even look at the relationship between the two.
Instead, the study investigated how creatine affected the level of certain hormones in the players, one of which was dihydrotestosterone (DHT). But rather than read the study and get to the “root” of the rumor, numerous people heard a rumor that it was fact and the myth took off as a potential reality. Below we break down the actual study and then share some of the benefits of creatine vs. the rumor that it will cause you to lose your hair.
The rugby study misrepresentation
The 2009 study showed that DHT increased in the players that took creatine vs a placebo. DHT is a naturally occurring hormone in both men and women and high levels of DHT can shrink your hair follicles and shorten the hair growth cycle, resulting in hair loss.
But, and that’s a big but, two things:
- Scientists have not replicated the results of this study.
- DHT is linked to hair loss in MEN, not women.
Female pattern baldness comes from higher levels of testosterone, not DHT. And guess what happened to overall testosterone levels in rugby study that kicked off this whole “creatine / hair loss” urban legend. They didn’t change!
This means, what the un-replicated rugby study really found was that creatine changed the ratio of DHT to testosterone in male rugby players. And that leads us to women that are concerned they’ll lose their hair if they take creatine while training for sports and athletic competitions.
Understanding hair loss in women
Alopecia (the medical name for hair loss) might not feel foxy, but it gets its name from the Greek word for Fox, alopex, and affects more than 21 million women in the US. There are multiple types of alopecia that can be caused by genetics, stress, diet, medications, or even hair style (source).
While the shampoo and conditioner marketers of the world love to wax rhapsodically about “healthy hair,” your hair is dead before it sees the light of day. It’s dead keratin cells. What’s important to combat alopecia is healthy hair follicles.
A typical strand of hair grows in its follicle for years (source). And after working so hard, the follicle will take a break for a few months, allowing the squatter hair to hang out for a few months, before a new hair pushes it out of the way.
You have over 100,000 hairs on your head and each day about 100 will fall out naturally. But genetic hormone mutations can lead to shorter hair growth cycles and short, thin hair growth. Stress is another factor that affects the hormones in your body and the hair on your head. Stress causes your body to produce more cortisol, which in turn disrupts your natural hair growth (source). And the rumor that stress can cause your hair to go gray happens to be based in reality as well.
How you care for your hair is also important. Irritation and damage from improper hair care or treatments can damage hair follicles (source), and hair style choices, especially styles that tightly pull on the hair, can result in something called traction hair loss (source). To combat this, use hair ties that grip tight but don’t pull as hard as elastic, like TELETIES.
Benefits of creatine for women
Since you don’t have to pull your hair out over whether or not creatine will make your hair fall out, you can enjoy the benefits it offers. Creatine can improve bone density and muscle development in women and also benefit brain health and overall mood. And in extreme cases, creatine can help improve depression.
So if you heard the rumor that creatine causes hair loss, don’t go itching your scalp wondering if it's true. Scratching your scalp can break hair and make it appear you’re losing it, but it was not from the creatine!