Androgel Q and A
As many of you already know, Zak has used Androgel for his testosterone since the beginning of his transition, while Adrian has been on injections. From time to time we’ve received questions about the gel, and also noticed the lack of information out there on it and the large amounts of misinformation floating around about it. Here’s a Q and A to hopefully clear everything up:
Q: How do you get Androgel or testosterone gel from your doctor?
A: When I went to my doctor to get my script for T, I was already positive I wanted to go on the gel (primarily because I have a phobia of needles). During my appointment, I explained my reasons for wanting the gel instead of injections and asked her to write my a script for Androgel. My doctor had no problem with this, and said that there essentially wasn’t really a huge difference between injections and the gel. I have heard of some doctors being uncomfortable with putting patients right on the gel; one of the reasons behind this is that they don’t have a lot of experience with the gel and are unsure about the dosing. Most doctors, in my experience, don’t really have a strong preference either way and will listen to the patient’s requests.
Q: Is the gel more expensive? Is it harder to get at a pharmacy?
A: Yes, Androgel is quite a bit more expensive (and I’m assuming the other brands of the gel are too, since there isn’t a generic version that I’m aware of). The sticker price is something like 300 dollars. My insurance covers most of it, though, and it only costs me 30 dollars per month. This is still more expensive than a lot of people on the injections who have insurance, and so not feasible for everyone. It is not, however, any more difficult to get at a pharmacy than injectable T.
Q: How is it applied? Do you have to avoid contact with other people afterwards or worry about getting the application area wet?
A: My Androgel comes in individual packets for every day, which makes measuring my dose a nonissue. Some guys get theirs in a pump like lotion or soap and have their dose measured that way. I just squeeze the gel out onto my hands and rub it on my back and shoulders. If I have any left over, I usually just rub it on my arms or stomach. It dries very quickly, then I just throw clothes on and go. At first it seemed like quite a bit of trouble to go through every day, but once I got used to it it was no bigger of a hassle than shampooing my hair.
My doctor told me not to worry too terribly much about transferring the gel to other people through casual contact. She said that once the gel dries, it is unlikely that enough would be transferred to another person to do anything to them (particularly since they would have to be exposed over a long period of time to experience any kind of changes). Still, it is a good idea to wash your hands after applying the gel and cover up the application area with clothes (generally your back). At first I was really worried about this, but I’ve been on Androgel for over a year now and it hasn’t affected anyone (even my girlfriend). As for the water issue, I shower in the morning and apply my T right afterward. I think you’re supposed to wait 5 hours after applying the gel before swimming, showering, or whatever.
Q: Are the changes slower with the gel? Can I use it to transition more slowly or only get some of the effects of T?
A: There’s a bit of debate about whether or not changes on the gel are slower. It’s really difficult to tell, because the rate of every person’s changes are different. A lot of guys start out on the gel, and switch to injections because they felt their changes were slower. Low and behold, their changes often speed up when they switch, although many people make the switch during a time in which changes start to really pick up anyway. So, I guess there’s no definitive answer on this. Someone wrote in to us awhile ago saying that changes on injections are slightly faster in the short term, because it occurs in jumps. You generally inject only once a week, so instead of having a steady amount of hormones at work a little bit every day, you get a weeks worth at once and a little spike in your changes. Seems like a pretty good explanation for me. I’ve been on Androgel for over a year, and feel like my changes were pretty much on par with anyone else’s (you can check out my transition videos here).
Having said that, Androgel is generally not a lower dose of testosterone. You are on the real deal, although changes may or may not be slightly slower. For those interested in getting only slight changes, or some and not others, this is not the solution. You can’t pick and choose your changes on T, regardless of the form you take it in. Androgel has given me body and facial hair, a deeper voice, and all the changes that injectable testosterone would have.
Q: Is it safe?
A: As far as I am aware, based on my own personal experiences, what my doctor as told me, my own research, and so on, it is just as safe as injections. The only form of testosterone that differs in its health risks, as far as I’m aware, is testosterone in pill form (which is harder on your liver).
Inspired by the Tips for Trans Men post on Androgel.