Creatine: Gaining Muscle and Losing Hair?
Creatine is a popular workout supplement used by many individuals and athletes to enhance exercise performance and increase muscle mass. Chances are you or someone you know has used or is using creatine.
Although creatine is found naturally in our bodies and may have therapeutic uses for treating some medical conditions, using creatine as an exercise or muscle mass enhancer may not be good for you or your hair.
In my practice as a hair transplant surgeon I have definitely seen patients with hair loss associated with creatine supplementation.
Men who experience male pattern balding (genetic hair loss) will generally have hair loss in the male pattern distribution. Male pattern balding is the common form of balding you see in 40% of men. This hair loss can occur in a certain pattern ranging from Norwood Class 2 all the way to Norwood Class 7 (see link: http://www.hairtransplantseattle.com/service-male-hair-transplant/). Men experiencing genetic hair loss will lose their hair only in specific areas until they have exhausted all the hair that contains the enzyme 5 alpha reductase (the enzyme that converts Testosterone to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone)) At that point hair loss will slow and remain somewhat stable, especially if the patient adheres to a fresh and healthy diet. The hair that is not affected by the 5 alpha reductase usually remains strong and healthy.
The patients that I’ve seen who have been using creatine are not only affected by genetic male pattern hair loss but also experience a more generalized form of hair loss that is not restricted to the male pattern area. With creatine the hair loss is even seen in the stable hair that is generally not affected by male pattern balding. Hair is often finer as well as thinner over the entire head.
One study shows that DHT levels increase with creatine supplementation (see link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19741313) implicating this as a cause of increased hair loss. I believe the damage to hair is more generalized but this study points out enough of a reason to avoid creatine.
Another Brazilian study showed that total antioxidants in the body were reduced while on creatine (see link: http://www.jissn.com/content/9/1/56). The reduction of antioxidants in the body causes an increase in oxidative stress and in turn damages our cells and DNA. This, I believe, is the root cause of the hair loss in men taking creatine and why their hair is thinner and finer over their entire head and not just in the male pattern area. Hair follicles are rapidly growing and do much better in an environment free of oxidative stress.
So if you’ve ever wondered why your physique is getting stronger and looking better but your hair is getting finer and thinner it could be time to stop taking creatine.
Action Item: Keep your hair and your health; avoid creatine supplements. If you do take them that you will increase oxidative stress, not just on your hair but throughout your whole body. Oxidizers like creatine are the opposite of good nutrition.