science

Can Taking a Creatine Supplement Cause Acne? A Scientific Explanation

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

4 min read

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While creatine is known for its athletic benefits, some worry that it can cause acne. Read on to learn what the science says.

Creatine is a natural supplement that’s widely used to support athletic performance. It boasts a range of health benefits. Some anecdotal reports, however, suggest that creatine could be connected to increased acne. Of course, acne is something that afflicts everyone from time to time, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Still, you might think twice about taking a supplement that you know will create acne or make it worse. Let’s take a step back and look at these claims.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid made by your liver, pancreas, and kidneys, and then delivered mainly to your brain and muscles. You can also boost creatine intake by consuming more seafood and red meat. Creatine is a popular supplement – typically as creatine monohydrate – used to support athletic performance to grow muscle mass.

Types of creatine

There are two major types of creatine: creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL.

Creatine monohydrate is the most popular, most effective, most cost effective, and most researched form of creatine supplements. It’s creatine with a single molecule of water attached to it.

Creatine HCL, or creatine hydrochloride, is creatine that’s bound with hydrochloric acid. One effect of this pairing is that the supplement has enhanced solubility and a better overall absorption rate than creatine monohydrate. It’s broken down more quickly in your body and more easily absorbed by your muscle cells.

Some additional forms include: liquid creatine, buffered creatine, ethyl ester creatine, magnesium chelated creatine, creatine nitrate, creatine citrate, creatine malate, creatine malate, creatine pyruvate, creatine alpha ketoglutarate, sodium creatine phosphate, PEG creatine, creatine gluconate, and a synthetic form called cyclocreatine.

The relationship between creatine and acne

It’s a common question for potential creatine users: Does creatine cause acne?

There’s some anecdotal evidence of a connection. But what does the science say? One study found that those using creatine experienced increased levels of DHT, a hormone that has been connected to acne. But even though the subjects of this study experienced increased DHT levels, their DHT levels were still within normal limits.

To date, there are no studies of the effects of creatine that demonstrate a direct connection between creatine and acne. Acne has not been among the listed side effects for study subjects. While anecdotal reports are worth considering, it is more plausible that the acne in those cases emerged because of other causes. The most common causes of acne are stress, diet changes, and hormone changes.

Other possible side effects from taking creatine

While acne isn’t a likely side effect from creatine, there are some other possible side effects to watch out for. Some examples include nausea, bloating, or loose stools.

One study examined the effects of creatine supplementation on the kidneys of athletes. Creatine didn’t seem to have any adverse effect on people without underlying kidney issues. However, the researchers did suggest that people with pre-existing kidney issues should avoid creatine. Another study found that creatine supplementation could increase problematic water retention over the short term, while the issue tends to resolve over the long term.

Benefits of taking creatine

Creatine boasts a number of health benefits, particularly for those engaged in athletic activity.

One study found that creatine supplementation helped lead to increased muscle strength in athletes involved in four weeks of resistance training. Another study yielded similar results: The study found that creatine supplementation can amplify the effects of resistance training, improve quality and benefits of high intensity speed training, and improve aerobic endurance performance. It also found that creatine can produce positive effects regarding strength, power, muscle mass, and neurological function.

A review of existing studies assessed the efficacy of creatine in exercise, sport, and medicine. The review showed that creatine monohydrate, in particular, has a number of therapeutic benefits for people of all ages and is the most effective nutritional supplement available to athletes trying to increase body mass and increase high intensity exercise capacity. Creatine helps support:

  • strength
  • sprint ability
  • muscle endurance
  • ballistic power
  • fatigue resistance
  • muscle mass
  • recovery
  • brain performance

Final thoughts

So, if you came to this article wondering if your creatine supplement will lead to an acne outbreak, you can put your mind at ease. The evidence just isn’t there. As a matter of fact, creatine is considered one of the safest and most effective supplements out there. If you’re looking to build muscle, get more benefits out of exercise (like resistance training), fight fatigue, boost brain performance, and increase muscle endurance.

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