Creatine is not new to the supplement world; however, research is somewhat limited when it comes to the potential effect this supplement might have on the skin.
So, with that said, there is no current connection between creatine and acne; however, there are anecdotal reports of acne occurring as a potential side effect due to supplementing with creatine.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll discuss what creatine is, the potential effects of creatine on the skin, and provide some tips for maintaining clear skin while supplementing with creatine.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid naturally produced in the body’s muscles, brain, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
An essential component of our health and well-being, creatine helps maintain a continuous supply of energy to working muscles, increases muscle strength and power, and can help with cell regeneration and recovery.
While naturally produced in our bodies, creatine can also be taken through foods such as seafood and red meat or as a supplement to help improve athletic performance, build strength, and increase muscle mass.
Creatine as a supplement started becoming popular around 1990 in the form of beverages, shakes, and powders.
Throughout its brief history, opinions varied on its efficacy and safety. However, research over the years has found that supplementing with creatine is safe, healthy, and can provide multiple health benefits.
Types of Creatine
Creatine supplements come in various forms, with most falling into three categories:
- Creatine monohydrate – the original form used in supplementing referred to as the “gold standard” for its effectiveness and safety.
- Creatine ethyl ester – a newer type of creatine supplement designed to be more water-soluble and provide better absorption, making it suitable for those with digestive issues.
- Creatine hydrochloride – a type of creatine salt that has been shown to increase muscle strength quicker than other forms, making it most effective for bodybuilders, wrestlers, etc.
Choosing which form of creatine is best for you will depend on your individual needs, goals, and preferences.
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Besides being beneficial for cell regeneration and recovery, creatine can also benefit your overall health in multiple ways.
Here are some benefits of supplementing with creatine:
Creatine supplementation can help increase muscle mass and strength.
Additionally, creatine also decreases protein breakdown, which helps preserve muscle mass, eventually leading to greater muscle gains through exercise.
Promote Bursts of Energy & Athletic Performance
Creatine can promote short bursts of energy, thus improving strength and athletic performance. This is because creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy-carrying molecule in our cells.
This can be especially beneficial for athletes involved in power sports, such as wrestling and bodybuilding; however, creatine doesn’t have a noticeable effect on aerobic endurance, meaning it won’t help you run longer distances.
Assists with Recovery
One of the primary effects of creatine (both naturally produced and taken as a supplement) is to help with recovery following physical activity.
While it’s thought this is due to an increase in ATP production, more research is needed to confirm this effect.
Promotes Collagen Production
Finally, creatine supplementation has also been observed to stimulate collagen production and glycosaminoglycan, a chain-like disaccharide that connects two collagen fibers and gives collagen its strength.
In other words, creatine may have the potential to improve skin elasticity and reduce some signs of premature aging, such as lines and wrinkles.
Side Effects of Creatine Supplementation
While creatine can have many benefits for the body, using it in high doses for a long time can result in some uncomfortable adverse effects.
The main side effects of creatine supplementation may include the following:
Creatine can exacerbate dehydration because it increases water retention in the body. This can lead to bloating, cramping, and nausea.
Some research indicates that those who take creatine supplements can see an increase as high as 50% in their DHT levels.
This can cause a significant hormonal imbalance and lead to inflammation in the body, which can manifest in physical symptoms like hair loss and inflammatory skin conditions.
Muscle strains are another side effect of creatine, especially for those that take this supplement in higher doses.
High doses of creatine supplementation may cause an imbalance in electrolytes, leading to dehydration and increased fatigue and headaches over time.
Due to the muscle strain creatine can cause, some users report experiencing cramps in their legs and arms.
Does Creatine Cause Acne?
There is little scientific evidence connecting creatine to causing or worsening skin conditions such as acne.
However, it has been noted that creatine can increase the production of DHT, a byproduct of testosterone and one of the responsible hormones for acne.
DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is an androgen hormone produced by testosterone that binds to androgen receptors within the skin and increases sebum production.
This hormone is responsible for triggering the oil glands in the skin to produce excess oil, which can then clog the pores and create an environment for the acne-causing bacteria to thrive.
The immune system will then detect the overgrowth of bacteria and begin to fight it by releasing inflammatory chemicals, which leads to redness and swelling.
Therefore, it is possible that creatine can cause acne for some individuals, although this generally depends on the dosage, and those who are taking higher doses of creatine may be more susceptible to developing this inflammatory condition.
How to Reduce Acne While Taking Creatine?
If you’ve been noticing an increase in pimples or have started dealing with deep, cystic, and inflamed acne after starting creatine supplementation, there might be a possibility for this supplement to be the cause.
If this is the case, here are some steps you can take to help keep your skin clear while still taking creatine:
Reduce Creatine Consumption
As we already mentioned, those taking high doses of creatine may be at a higher risk of developing acne due to the hormonal imbalance this supplement can cause.
Therefore, consider reducing creatine consumption to lower doses, as this may help balance your hormones and reduce inflammation.
Check for Allergies
While creatine allergies are rare, they are still a possibility, and one of the main symptoms of an allergic reaction is skin inflammation in the form of rashes.
Additionally, check your creatine supplements for other potential ingredients you might be allergic to or sensitive to, as this could also be causing the inflammation that looks like acne.
Adjust Your Diet
If you suspect creatine is causing your acne, adjusting your diet to include more antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying foods and drinks can help reduce inflammation in the skin.
This includes adding more fruits, vegetables, probiotics, and omega-3 fatty acids and reducing processed and sugary foods.
If you want to change your diet and heal your skin, but don’t really know where to start, make sure to check out GoodGlow’s ebook, which is a detailed guide that will help you eliminate certain foods and make diet changes that will improve your skin’s health and appearance.
Have an Excellent Skincare Routine
A skincare routine consisting of products that address your skin concerns while still being gentle and nourishing can help reduce inflammation and control the overgrowth of bacteria on the skin and inside the pores.
Therefore, no matter what you consume or supplement with, using gentle cleansers, acne treatments, moisturizers, and of course, sunscreen daily can help improve your skin’s health and reduce acne breakouts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Supplementing with creatine is unlikely to help clear up your skin and reduce acne.
However, creatine is also a component that’s beginning to find its way into skincare products, and while it’s not proven to have an effect on reducing acne-causing bacteria and preventing proliferation, other ingredients in some of these products might help improve the appearance of this inflammatory condition.
That said, checking the ingredient list of any skincare product you want to try and avoiding anything that contains heavy oils, butters, waxes, and emollients, is always a safe choice.
Creatine can cause dehydration if taken in high doses, and this can make the skin look dry, sallow, and prematurely aged.
Therefore, if you notice your skin looking drier than usual after taking creatine supplements, consider reducing the dosage or drinking more water and electrolytes.
Yes, creatine may interact with some medications and supplements, which is why talking to your health provider before starting creatine, especially when on medications, is always the best course of action.
Your healthcare provider will be able to give you a better overview of how creatine could potentially interact with any medications you are taking or if there’s anything else you should know about before trying this supplement.
Supplementing with creatine isn’t necessary from an athletic or sports performance perspective.
Most registered dietitians will agree that creatine is just a supplement and cannot replace a well-balanced diet with appropriate macronutrient distributions for optimal performance.