The effects of HRT on your skin and acne

Estrogen and testosterone are two hormones that have a significant effect on your body. From mood to sexual function to bone health, these hormones are key players in your health and daily life.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a medical treatment that boosts estrogen or testosterone in people whose levels are too low. This treatment causes a range of changes which may include skin changes.

Hormones play a role in the overall health of your skin. The loss of hormones as we age is linked to some of the signs of aging, including wrinkles and loss of skin volume. This is part of why it’s so common to see claims that taking estrogen or testosterone will benefit the appearance of skin and health in people of any gender.

Although many people taking HRT report seeing skin improvements, scientific studies do not always fully support these claims. Let’s see how HRT might affect your skin.

Estrogen skin benefits for cisgender women

Estrogen has been prescribed to cisgender women going through menopause for decades. Estrogen decreases during menopause and this hormonal change is linked to thinning skin and wrinkles. Some studies have shown that estrogen can help promote skin health, increase skin thickness, and both prevent and reduce wrinkles.

However, the formulations and dosages recommended for estrogen therapy for cisgender women in menopause have changed many times as medical science has gained a better understanding of the effects of estrogen.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the new formulations, both topical and oral, provide benefits for the skin. Comprehensive studies of the skin benefits of estrogen at the currently most commonly prescribed dosage and formulation are still needed.

Skin Benefits of Estrogen for Transgender Women

The full benefits of estrogen for skin health in transgender women have not been fully studied. However, many transgender women report experiencing skin benefits from taking estrogen.

It is common for transgender women to experience skin benefits such as increased hydration, smoothness, elasticity and firmness after the onset of estrogen.

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In transgender women, HRT can soften the face and create a rounder, “more feminine” appearance. Yanping Nora Soong at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Benefits of Testosterone for Cisgender Men Skin

The use of testosterone supplementation for cisgender men is still being studied and its benefits are still being debated. Although HRT is often prescribed for cisgender men with conditions such as hypogonadism, experts disagree on whether to prescribe it to cisgender men whose testosterone has declined with age.

Some experts believe that prescription testosterone can benefit heart, bone, muscle, brain, and sexual health. Others believe that testosterone levels in cisgender men can be increased without the use of HRT.

The specific skin health benefits of testosterone in cisgender men have not been scientifically studied. However, some cisgender men who use testosterone supplementation report experience skin tightening and improving skin elasticity. It’s also possible that if testosterone supplementation improves overall health, skin health improvements could follow.

However, it should be mentioned that cisgender men who wish to conceive should not take testosterone, as excess testosterone can decrease sperm production. If you’re experiencing side effects from low testosterone and don’t want negative effects on your sperm, talk to a fertility specialist to discuss other ways to increase testosterone that don’t harm your sperm. sperm production.

Benefits of testosterone for the skin of transgender men

Transgender men taking testosterone often experience facial volume changes that can alter the appearance of facial skin.

Other changes, such as facial hair growth and temporary acne as the body adjusts to new hormonal levels, can also affect the appearance of the skin. Some transgender men report additional effects such as skin tightening and improved elasticity, but these effects are not fully researched and studied.

Skin benefits of HRT for intersex and non-binary people

Intersex and non-binary people sometimes take HRT for their health or gender affirmation. Often this is done in lower doses. It could also be taken for shorter durations.

The effects of HRT on the skin at these doses are not well studied. Some people on both estrogen and testosterone report skin improvements, such as increased firmness or elasticity, but there is no data to fully support this.

Hormonal levels can also cause issues such as dryness, oiliness, acne, and premature aging. When your hormones are out of balance or when your body adjusts to new hormones, skin problems can occur. This is why acne is so common during puberty. This is also why HRT often leads to temporary skin problems.

Can high or low estrogen cause skin problems?

Low estrogen levels can make your skin dry, thin, and irritated. These are common complaints during menopause, and it’s one of the main reasons why there are specialized skincare products formulated for cisgender women during and after menopause.

High estrogen levels won’t directly affect your skin, but they can cause symptoms like bloating and trouble sleeping that can damage your skin.

Can high or low testosterone cause skin problems?

High levels of testosterone can lead to oily skin and acne. This is common in transgender men when they first start HRT and in anyone else taking testosterone HRT for any reason.

As the body adapts to new and higher testosterone levels, acne almost always follows. This is because testosterone causes the glands to produce excess sebum, an oily substance that protects the skin. Excess oil can clog pores and cause acne.

HRT acne can sometimes be difficult to fight. Some people have success using facial cleansers and serums that contain acne-targeting ingredients such as:

The right products for you depend on your skin, your skin type and the severity of your HRT acne. A product that works for one person with HRT acne might not help another person.

In cases of hard-to-control HRT acne, consulting a dermatologist is often the best choice. A dermatologist can prescribe medicated washes and creams to better target and control your HRT acne.

If you think HRT is causing your acne, talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dosage level or recommend a dermatologist experienced with HRT.

HRT affects the whole body. Some effects are well studied and well understood. Some effects, including those on skin of all genders, require further research.

People of all genders who take HRT report benefits such as younger-looking skin, better skin elasticity and greater skin firmness. Some data supports these reports for cisgender women who are experiencing menopause and who are taking estrogen-based HRT, but there is not yet data on forms of HRT for other populations.

Testosterone HRT causes acne in most people. This is the result of your body adapting to new hormonal levels. It often diminishes and disappears over time. Until it does, acne creams and cleansers can be used to manage acne. A dermatologist can help you with hard-to-control or severe acne.

People considering using HRT should consult their doctor before starting any form of hormone therapy. HRT is not without side effects or risks and the dosages used are very important. Do not start any hormonal regimen without the supervision and advice of a doctor or health care professional, as it may drastically alter your risk of serious health problems.

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