The Side Effect You Probably Aren’t Aware Of: Does Creatine Cause Acne?

The Side Effect You Probably Aren’t Aware Of

You’re in the gym, pumping iron, feeling great, and then you notice a blemish on your face. You’ve heard it’s possible, but now you’re wondering: does creatine cause acne?

If you’re working out to buff up, there’s a good chance you may be using creatine to boost your muscle mass. And unfortunately, your muscles are probably not the only part of your body creatine affects.

It may also have an effect on your skin- well, probably.

What Is Creatine?

The Side Effect You Probably Aren’t Aware Of: Does Creatine Cause Acne?

Creatine is a substance that occurs naturally in your body. It is produced in the kidney and liver and stored in the skeletal muscles.

Aside from natural creatine, it can also be synthetically produced, such as those in today’s supplements. Aside from this, you can get creatine from meat and fish, too.

Vegetarians, who avoid meat in their diet, frequently turn to supplements to make sure their creatine level is within normal levels. But for bodybuilders, they typically consume creatine in the following forms:

  • Caplets
  • Capsules
  • Powders

Aside from forms, there are also several types of creatine. The list includes:

  • Ethyl Ester
  • Monohydrate
  • Tri-Creatine Malate Buffered
  • Creatine Liquid

While one could argue about creatine causing acne, there is no denying how effective it is. The supplement is well known for giving that extra energy boost so you can easily bang out two or three extra sets in the gym.

It’s also helpful when it comes to addressing muscle fatigue. And for mental performance, creatine can improve memory and cognition.

The supplement isn’t only effective, but it’s convenient, too. All forms are available pretty much at any store and you can buy it without a prescription.

Creatine And Acne

Are there any studies that directly connect acne to creatine consumption? Well, yes and no.

For one, there are a lot of factors at play here, but let’s start with the following studies:

  • The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, in 2006, conducted a study where football players were given creatine or a placebo for over a 10 week period. At the end of the study, their testosterone levels increased by 22%.
  • The Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine assessed rugby players after consuming creatine for 3 weeks. The results indicated that the hormone DHT was increased during this time.
  • The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, around 2008, measured the (IGF-1) insulin-like growth factor of participants after an 8-week timeframe of creatine supplementation. The IGF-1 level of participants increased 24%

So…what does all of those things mean?

All three studies link creatine intake with increased levels of testosterone, DHT, and insulin-like growth factor in your body. And apparently, all three of these hormones are directly linked to acne.

Surprise, surprise!

Dihydrotestosterone or DHT is a byproduct of testosterone. DHT and testosterone both have an effect on your body’s wound healing and sebum production.

Insulin-like growth factor or IGF-1, on the other hand, stimulates sebocytes which result in an increased sebum production.

Does Creatine Supplements Cause Acne?

Although there are these studies that can connect creatine to acne, I’d still say the supplement is an indirect cause.

Supplementing with creatine will cause your hormone levels to increase, but it’s not really the sole cause of your breakouts. But if you already have acne, creatine may worsen the spots on your face.

Why did I say indirect?

Well, here are some of the other things that can contribute to your acne while you work out:

Sports drinks

Sports drinks are a must-have for people who work out. They are meant to provide people with energy and nourishment while they sweat out in the gym.

Unfortunately, these drinks are loaded with sugar that can trigger an increase in your blood glucose level. When your blood sugar increases, your skin becomes more prone to breakouts.


Creatine works by taking water from the body and routing it to your muscles. The water helps make your muscles look fuller.

Partnered with increased sweating and less water intake during your stay in the gym, you become at risk of dehydration.

With less water circulating in your body, its capability to flush out toxins and bacteria out greatly decreases. Aside from ineffective toxin removal, dehydration can also make your skin dry and less supple.

Both factors can trigger your skin to overcompensate and, as a result, will make it produce more oil than necessary.

Too much exercise

Excessive exercise increases your body’s stress level. It engages your body in a “fight or flight response”.

During this reaction, your body experiences increased sugar and insulin levels. It also triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

The combination of these processes greatly affects your skin and acne happen.

So, How Do You Avoid Acne While Using Creatine?

Now that you know how creatine may or may not cause acne, you’re probably thinking: Should you give out your dream of having a buffed body for a clear skin?

Luckily you don’t have to. You can have both.Here are some of the things you can do to keep your skin looking amazing while you work on your goal:

Drink lots of water

Creatine is like a water burglar, sneaking into your body to steal water away and rush it back to your muscles. To combat this, there needs to be enough fluid to go around.

And no, it shouldn’t involve any sports drinks.

Normally, you should drink around 8 – 10 glasses of water per day. That amount should pretty much be increased when you’re consuming creatine.

This will ensure that the amount of water transferred to your muscles won’t leave your skin thirsting for moisture.

Cut back on alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body. So, if you’re drinking tons of mocha lattes while using creatine, then you should step back and rethink your diet.

Instead of indulging in these drinks, try to replace coffee with low caffeine teas. You should also reconsider your drinking habits and cut back on the amount of alcohol you drink around the timeframe of your workouts.

Decrease sugar intake

Donuts, cookies, and chocolates are delicious, and sometimes they can be a great treat for all of that hard work in the gym. Unfortunately, all of that sugar is not helping.

Sugar will produce even more insulin on top of what the creatine is generating. And you know what that means?

Oily skin! Yes, you guessed that right.

Eat while taking creatine

This will provide an alternate source of energy so that your body won’t rely solely on your creatine supplements.

Great foods to add to your diet include:

  • Honey

It’s a good alternative to sugar, but without the risk of glucose spike. It has natural fructose, glucose and antioxidants for your body.

Aside from these properties, honey also has a potent disease-fighting capability. It aids in faster wound healing.

  • Bananas

Bananas have carbohydrates for energy. They also have vitamins and minerals to keep your body nourished.

You can eat one banana before your workout or you can add apples and kale to it and turn the fruits into a healthy shake.

  • Yogurt

Yogurt, aside from carbohydrates, also contain protein which you need for your workout. You can eat it as it is or add them to your favorite oats for extra fiber.

Eating yogurt is great for post-workout recovery and nutrition. It can help you lose and burn fat faster to assist you in achieving your goal.

Be more aware of your body

Awareness of the relationship between acne and creatine is only half the battle. To completely determine the exact things that are causing your skin to breakout, you also have to consider (and eliminate) other factors.

You can start with keeping a journal to track your skin’s response as you experiment with various levels and brands of creatine. Write down the type of creatine you consume, the amount you take and how you take it.

It’s also important that you list down the reactions you notice in your body. Other than its effects on your energy level, you should also take note of its effect on your skin.

Create A Backup Plan

If all else fails, you should consider getting protein through other sources, such as meat. The protein found in meat stimulates muscle building hormones, although not as intensely as creatine.

Aside from meat, you can also get your dose of creatine by eating fishes. In fact, 3 ounces of cooked fish can give you around 1 to 2 grams of creatine.


Creatine is a great source of energy with benefits and drawbacks. Like any other substance, you need to pay attention to how it affects you, particularly if you have acne-prone skin.

Being flawless and fit at the same time can be a tough job, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be achieved. With the right creatine, diet and hygiene, you’ll surely be on your way towards the body you’ve been working hard to achieve.

The Side Effect You Probably Aren’t Aware Of: Does Creatine Cause Acne?

Dr Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara

A board-certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology

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