Note: Not everyone who takes T identifies as trans. This is for anyone gender nonconforming, agender, genderfluid, nonbinary, trans, trans men, or anyone transitioning hormonally who are looking for skin relief.
The first thing my mom said to me when she saw me after I had starting hormonally transitioning was: “Your skin looks horrible! Are you doing okay?” In embarrassment and frustration, I made up some excuse about anxiety and not getting enough sleep. It wasn’t untrue, but it wasn’t the main reason my skin was bad. The real reason was because Puberty Part Two had crept up on me and, just like in middle school, I was painfully unprepared for hormonal acne.
I identify physically as male and mentally as nonbinary and I’m currently over half a year into my gender-affirming hormonal transition. Along with taking T (testosterone) came many changes, key among them that I now get to finally start living in my body with a kind of joy that I can only describe as finally feeling like I belong in my own body. Other changes include my voice dropping, the growth of leg and arm hair, body fat redistribution—and really painful hormonal and cystic acne.
Although some people taking T use topical creams and oral antibiotic medications to help with their acne, and others use isotretinoin, when I started getting it, I took matters into my own hands and started testing products and routines that would work for me. I also reached out to other people who were also hormonally transitioning and asked them about what has worked.
Below are the 20 affordable products I found and had recommended to me. I hope they can be useful to you, too. We all deserve to feel good in our skin!
Differin, Adapalene Gel, $11.19, available at Amazon.
This is an amazing spot treatment for quick relief for acne. I used it every night after my night skin-care routine (washing my face, toner, tea tree oil, and then moisturizer) for a week and saw really quick results. It does dry the skin, so I recommend using rosehip oil in the morning to help with scarring.
Clean & Clear, Deep Cleaning Toner, $4.29, available at Target.
Let’s talk toner: I usually use this on my back and arms where I have body acne. This one is a bit strong, and the skin on my back is usually less sensitive, so it’s nice to use this more intense one on the body.
Thayers, Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Soothing Witch Hazel, $9.29, available at Amazon.
This is a holy grail product for me. I use in on my face in the morning and at night.
Mario Badescu, Facial Spray with Aloe Herbs and Rosewater, $12, available at Amazon.
I used to make my rose water at home (which you can do to be cost-efficient), but if you don’t have time to make it yourself, this Mario Badescu spray is amazing. It helps with redness, and if you feel like itching, just drench yourself in rose water, and you’ll feel better.
Trader Joe's, Rose Facial Oil with Moisturizing Rose Hip Botanicals, $17.79, available at Amazon.
So I’d always been TERRIFIED of using oils, afraid it would make my oily skin even oilier, but that is the farthest thing from what actually happens. Instead, this magical product helps my skin stay soft and my scars fade. I love it.
Mario Badescu, Special Healing Powder, $12, available at Amazon.
This is not a product I have personally tested but was the most highly recommended product from all of my friends and folks I talked to who are transitioning. It has been heralded as literal magic, so I’d say it’s worth trying out.
Aztec Secret, Indian Healing Clay, $8.30, available at Amazon.
This is a product I used pre-T, and it still does wonders for my skin. Mix the powder with apple cider vinegar and then apply and let it dry on the skin. It’s great for fighting acne.
COSRX, Acne Pimple Master Patch, $4.97, available at Amazon.
If you need to handle some solo eruptions, these are a lifesaver and pretty much work overnight.
Kira Beauty, Jade Roller Face Massager, $13.99, Amazon.
I massage my face three to four times a week with a jade roller, and it has reduced a ton of the puffiness that comes sometimes with the irritation. It’s great if you get headaches as well.
The Ordinary, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, $5.30, available at The Ordinary.
I use this in the morning and night, dotting it on the problem spots. It’s really effective and great for the price.
The Ordinary, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, $5.90, available at The Ordinary.
This is really good for blemishes. I had to use it for a while (three-plus weeks) to starts seeing results, but, for the cost, has been really great. I put it on my entire face both in the am and pm.
Bye Bye Blemish, Acne Treatment Drying Lotion $9.58, available at Amazon.
This stuff is great for spot treatment, just dip a Q-tip in and put on the problem spots.
The Ordinary, Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, $9.80, available at The Ordinary.
This helps with hyperpigmentation and smoothes out the skin’s texture. I only use at night, and it is important to put it on dry skin before any other products in your routine.
CeraVe, Foaming Facial Cleanser, $13.99, available at Amazon.
This is the only cleanser I use, and pretty much everyone I talked to recommended this as well. At a bare minimum, you should be washing your face in the morning and at night before bed just to let your skin refresh. This stuff is great for all skin types as well.
The Body Shop, Tea Tree Anti-Imperfection Night Mask, $22, available at Amazon.
This is a leave-on mask to wear while you sleep. It’s not a product I’ve personally tested, but multiple folks highly recommended it as a once-a-week remedy for whenever your skin is feeling dull and oily. It also helps with scarring.
MIZON, All In One Snail Repair Cream, $17.90, available at Amazon.
This stuff is great—a friend recommended to me, and I used it until it ran out. It made my skin feel really soft and ~luxurious~.
COSRX, Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser, $9.99, available at Amazon.
This is a product I’ve never personally used but had multiple people confirm is a great non-abrasive cleanser that, after two to three weeks of use, started to clear up the worse acne patches on their skin.
Bio-Oil, Multiuse Skincare Oil, $22.33, available at Amazon.
If you don’t like rose-scented products and want an alternative to the Trader Joe’s Rose Oil, the Bio-Oil acne scarring oil is for you!
Nature Republic, Real Nature Mask Sheet, $9.50, available at Amazon.
This 10-pack of sheet masks is amazing for keeping your skin even and feeling refreshed and hydrated. Doesn’t work so much to rid your skin of acne but helps with the redness and evenness of your skin. It’s great for sensitive skin, and if you just want to relax.
Essential Oil Labs, Tea Tree Oil Body Wash, $12.95, available at Amazon.
For body wash, I recommend this HUGE 16oz bottle of tea tree oil magic. Tea tree oil is basically the holy grail ingredient for fighting acne, and this stuff really helped clear up my back.
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