Masculinizing hormone therapy (MHT) is the administration of androgens to feminizing male patients. It is the mainstay treatment for men with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS), a rare genetic condition that affects around 1 in 20,000 people. This type of hormone therapy has also become more common among transgender individuals in recent years, often as an alternative to gender reassignment surgery. While many trans men will opt for MHT to masculinize their appearance, not all are willing or able to take this step. There are various side effects associated with masculinizing hormone treatment, including acne, growth of body hair, a deeper voice, and an increased sex drive. This article explores these dangers and how long they may last after stopping the treatment.
What are the effects of masculinizing hormone treatment?
There will be a number of changes to your body when you begin masculinizing hormone therapy. These side effects are expected and are generally only temporary. There are varying degrees of these effects based on the dosage, type of androgen, and individuals’ sensitivity to hormones.
Many of these side effects fade when you stop taking the androgens if they were due to their presence in your system. – Acne and increased sebum production Most people on MHT experience acne, which can be quite severe in some cases.
This acne can come and go, and be either mild or severe. Androgens impact the production of sebum, the oily substance on our skin and hair. Acne is often a result of increased sebum production in the skin, and this can become more common as a result of MHT.
The acne is not necessarily caused by higher testosterone levels but may be due to the extra stimulation of the oil glands by androgen hormones. This is why some people taking low-dose androgen hormones develop acne while others on high doses do not. – Growth of body hair The growth of facial and body hair is another side effect of MHT.
Hair growth may be more on the upper lip, sides of the face, lower abdomen, shoulders, chest, upper back/shoulders/neck, and upper outer thighs. It may also be thicker, coarser, and darker than before. While many people opt for hair removal or shaving, not everyone wants to get rid of it. Some trans men prefer to keep the growth of facial and body hair because it makes them feel more like themselves. – Voice deepening and laryngeal edema Some masculinizing hormone regimens result in a more profound voice change than others.
The extent of this change is largely based on the dosage of androgen. Higher dosages of androgens, specifically testosterone, are more likely to cause a significant change in the voice. Many patients on low-dose androgen therapies keep their natural voices. If there is a significant change in your voice, it will go back to normal after you stop taking the androgens. – Enhanced libido and erection quality MHT can also lead to an increase in libido and/or sexual pleasure. While this may be welcome among cisgender men, it can be a source of distress among transgender individuals who are not interested in sexual activity.
This increased libido can be experienced by both men and women on MHT, regardless of whether they are transitioning from male to female or vice versa. For some, their sexual desire may increase to a degree that’s uncomfortable for them. Others may experience problems with erectile function. In either case, there are ways to address these issues.
Acne and increased sebum production
While side effects like acne and sebum production are expected, they are often treated as a negative side effect of MHT. It’s important to remember that acne is likely not caused by higher testosterone levels but by the extra stimulation of the oil glands by androgen hormones. Additionally, many people on MHT experience acne that is not severe, and some may not experience any symptoms at all. This can depend on the dosage of the medication, the type of androgen, and an individual’s sensitivity to hormones. If you notice that you have acne breakouts, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. They may be able to offer some suggestions for how to manage it, such as prescribing a topical acne medication.
Growth of body hair
As previously mentioned, some people on MHT experience growth of thicker, coarser, and darker hair on their face and body. While this is a normal side effect of MHT, it can be treated with hair removal methods like laser hair removal and other epilatory options. If the growth of hair bothers you, you may want to consider removing it to feel more comfortable in your own skin. While some people prefer to keep the hair, others may prefer to remove it. Hair removal methods can be expensive, so be sure to factor that into your budget and/or savings plan if you’re considering getting rid of the hair.
Voice deepening and laryngeal edema
If you experience a more profound voice change from MHT, it will go back to normal after you stop taking the androgens. In other words, the change in your voice is likely due to the androgen hormones in your system and not a result of some irreversible and permanent change in your vocal cords. This has been observed in studies of MHT in children, and it is likely the same applies to adults. While the change in your voice may be difficult to deal with, know that it will likely go back to normal once you stop taking the androgens.
Enhanced libido and erection quality
There are some benefits to MHT that may not be obvious at first glance. For example, some people on MHT experience an increase in sexual pleasure. This may manifest as an increase in libido or an improvement in one’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection. This is, however, not true for everyone, and it’s important to note that the enhancement in sexual pleasure is not constant and may come and go over time. Sometimes, the sexual pleasure experienced on MHT decreases over time.
Masculinizing hormone therapy is the administration of androgens to feminizing male patients. While many trans men will opt for MHT to masculinize their appearance, not all are willing or able to take this step. There are various side effects associated with MHT, including acne, growth of body hair, a deeper voice, and an increased sex drive. This article explores these dangers and how long they may last after stopping the treatment.