Does Creatine Cause Acne? (Hint: No Clear Answer)

Creatine is not new to the supplement world, however, research is somewhat limited on the subject in regards to skin health. But does creatine cause acne? There is no current connection in the literature between creatine consumption and acne.

What we do know from research is that it has been scientifically validated as an ergogenic supplement for athletes. Creatine as a supplement may continue to grow into other areas of health however further research is needed.

What is Creatine?

Creatine’s popularity continues to grow and is one of the most researched natural supplements. Creatine itself is a compound that contains nitrogen and is formed of three amino acids (arginine, glycine, and methionine).

It is produced in the body and stored in skeletal muscle with small amounts in other organs such as the liver, kidneys, and brain. It is naturally broken down throughout the day at the amount of 1-2g or 1-2%.

When more creatine is needed beyond natural production it must be consumed by food or supplement form (as creatine monohydrate specifically). Dietary forms of creatine include meats and fish.

Humans need approximately 1-3g of creatine daily. This need is met from our diet most of the time.

Creatine came into the picture around 1990 as a supplement option. Throughout its history, opinions varied on its efficacy and safety. Research over the years has however verified its safety when used correctly.

Despite the large body of available research related to creatine supplementation, our knowledge regarding the specific mechanisms of action in the human body is considered somewhat unclear.

When used for supplementation, it can be found in powder form for beverages and shakes.

Creatine Supplementation

Who would want to supplement with creatine?

As mentioned prior, creatine has been a popular supplement for athletes in efforts to improve performance in terms of both quality and quantity. In fact, creatine has been noted to be one of the most used supplements for elite male athletes, alongside protein powders, caffeine, and branched-chain amino acids.

In 2007, the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported creatine to be the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement available to athletes for increasing high-intensity performance and increasing muscle mass during training.

Creatine is also considered safe and possibly preventative for injury. Furthermore, no research has found long-term use of creatine to have long-term side effects.

It is not uncommon to find creatine in combination or as part of other supplemental products as well. For example, you have the option to find creatine as a stand-alone product, or as an ingredient in a combination type supplement. A population combination is creatine, protein, and carbohydrate.

Creatine may also be found in a pre-workout type product. When taken 10 minutes prior to exercise, this type of supplement has been found to help with endurance.

Another purpose of supplementation has been towards improving neurological and cognitive function, as creatine has been associated with higher neurophysiological performance. Furthermore, it has been evaluated to be a possible therapeutic agent for medical conditions like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.

The research in this area of medicine does have limitations and conducting more in the future is needed to establish ideal dosages.

Is acne a concern with supplementation?

Again, there is little to no scientific evidence connecting creatine to causing or worsening skin conditions such as acne. Although there have been claims suggesting creatine to possibly improve skin health by preventing the look of aging skin, there is currently insufficient evidence to conclude this.

Is supplementation necessary?

From an athletic or sports performance perspective, no.

Most Registered Dietitians will agree that creatine is just in fact a supplement. It cannot replace a well-balanced diet with appropriate macronutrient distributions for optimal performance.

If you’ve spoken with your Registered Dietitian or other healthcare professional and it has been recommended for you to use creatine as a supplement, sticking with a certified product is ideal for best quality. Informed Choice or NSF can be found on certified products for example.

A typical creatine supplementation protocol may include an initial loading phase, followed by decreased and consistent dosages following. Again, work with your dietitian or doctor for specific dosage recommendations. 

You can also expect weight fluctuations when using creatine related to muscle hypertrophy occurring. Drinking adequate water is highly recommended as well.

Most reported side effects of creatine are just anecdotal, meaning no scientific evidence has been established reporting significant long or short-term concerns.

Summary

The research is insufficient connecting creatine to causing acne at this time.

If you are currently using creatine as a supplement for sports performance purposes and wondering if it is impacting your skin health, the chances are unlikely from what we know.

Since the regulation of supplements is not required in the US, it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional or dietitian to verify its safety, especially if you are taking other medications.

Another recommended step when choosing a creatine product is to make sure it’s verified by a third party such as NSF.

If you are interested in adding creatine supplementation into your routine, the research does support its safety. Again, touch base with your medical team to verify an approach that is ideal for you.

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elizabeth merril has a MS and RDN
Analyzed by Elizabeth Merrill, MS, RDN

I’m a Registered Dietitian on a mission to help individuals make nutrition less stressful in their busy lives. I have three years of experience in the field. Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn. Read more of Elizabeth's articles.


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