Can Taking Creatine Cause Acne or Make it Worse?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Your body converts creatine to phosphocreatine, which your muscles use for energy. Therefore, taking a supplement can give your muscles more energy and improve athletic performance. There’s also some evidence that creatine can help with a variety of health conditions, such as certain brain disorders and congestive heart failure.

Creatine is not a steroid, and there is no evidence that it causes acne or other skin issues, or that it makes acne worse.

Creatine and acne

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There is no proven connection between creatine and acne. In fact, creatine may actually have benefits for your skin, especially to help fight against the effect of aging. There’s some evidence that creatine can reduce sagging skin, wrinkles, and sun damage.

Many people think creatine is an anabolic steroid, which is a type of drug that can also be taken to help build muscle. Creatine is not a steroid.

While creatine is an amino acid made naturally by your body and found in food, steroids are synthetic drugs that are chemically similar to testosterone. Steroids can cause acne, and confusion between the two may be one reason why people think creatine can cause acne.

In addition, the main benefit of taking creatine is that it allows you to exercise harder and for a longer period of time. This can make you sweatier than you normally get during exercising, which can cause acne.

Other purported creatine side effects

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Creatine is generally considered a very safe supplement. However, potential reported side effects include:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramping
  • diarrhea
  • dehydration
  • weight gain
  • bloating
  • heat intolerance
  • gastrointestinal pain
  • kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • compartment syndrome
  • kidney stones

There is little evidence to support any of these side effects in healthy people taking creatine supplements. In fact, extensive research and recent review of creatine shows that it’s both safe and effective for building muscle mass. However, if you have a history of kidney or liver problems, you should talk to a doctor before taking creatine supplements.

Although creatine itself is safe, some bodybuilding products that claim to not contain hormones may actually be mixed with substances like anabolic steroids, which can cause side effects.

What are the benefits of taking creatine?

Creatine is considered one of the most effective supplements to help athletes, bodybuilders, and others build muscle and body mass.

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Specifically, creatine increases your capacity for high-intensity exercise by helping your muscles produce more energy. This increased energy helps you exercise longer and harder, which then helps build more muscle.

Creatine is mostly effective for helping increase your ability to do strength exercises, such as weightlifting. Evidence for its effectiveness for cardio exercises is mixed. However, because it causes water retention, creatine can help you exercise in the heat.

Creatine can also assist in recovering from injury more quickly by helping heal muscle damage.

Beyond its benefits for athletes, creatine may also have clinical benefits, although the evidence for these benefits is less clear. Potential clinical benefits include:

  • improving clinical markers in neurodegenerative diseases, such as muscular dystrophies, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • treating congestive heart failure
  • treating creatine deficiency syndromes
  • lowering cholesterol
  • lowering blood sugar, which can help prevent diabetes
  • minimizing bone loss
  • treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • reducing mental fatigue
  • improving cognitive performance
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There is also some evidence that creatine supplementation has benefits in pregnancy. Researchers suggest that it may improve survival and organ function if a newborn is deprived of oxygen during birth. It may also positively impact fetal growth and development.

Takeaway

There is no known link between creatine and acne, or any evidence that creatine can make acne worse. In fact, creatine is considered one of the safest and most effective supplements to help you build muscle.

Although there is a lack of evidence for many of the reported side effects of creatine, it’s important to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements. They can help make sure you’re using a supplement and exercise program that’s right for you.

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