There are lots of different options when it comes to treating the symptoms of perimenopause. While some women prefer a more natural and holistic approach, many women go down the path of trying Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). This is usually in the form of either pills, patches or gel. In this article however, we’re going to focus on HRT gel, and more specifically on the most effective way to apply your HRT gel.
You see, it’s not just a question of rubbing in the gel willy nilly and waiting for it to do its thing. In order to get the most out of your HRT gel and to really see the benefits, there are certain things you should be considering when using it. As someone who has been using Oestrogel for the past two years, I’m going to share some of the advice I’ve received along the way and to teach you the most effective way to apply your HRT gel.
But before we get on to that, let’s find out a bit more about HRT gel:
What Is HRT Gel?
If you are struggling with perimenopausal symptoms, your GP may recommend HRT to you. HRT is basically a hormone top up. It replaces the hormones that we start to lose as we go through perimenopause. The three hormones in question are Oestrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone (yes, us women have that too!), although you might not necessarily need all three of these as part of your HRT.
Oestrogen is the main hormone that is prescribed to help ease perimenopause symptoms and this can be taken in several different ways:
What you choose depends mostly on personal preference and your GP will be able to advise you on the pros and cons of each type.
So, in answer to the question ‘what is HRT gel?’, it is an oestrogen gel that is rubbed into the skin to help top up the depleted levels of oestrogen in your body. There are two different brands of oestrogen only gel available: Oestrogel which comes in a pump bottle and Sandrena which comes in individual sachets. As I only have experience of using Oestrogel, that is the one I am going to be talking about today. However, there is very little difference between the two when it comes to application, so some of these points will be be relevant for both.
How Should You Use Oestrogel?
Oestrogel is a form of transdermal oestrogen, meaning it is absorbed through the skin. When your GP prescribes Oestrogel to you they will also tell you what dosage you should take. This will vary between 1 to 4 pumps, with each pump containing 1.25mg of gel. I initially started off on 2 pumps, but after 6 months was advised to go up to 3 as there were still some symptoms that were refusing to go away. Touch wood, 3 pumps seems to be working for now. But this may change, as our hormone levels do fluctuate and I may find in future that I need to increase this to 4 pumps, or even that I need to switch to a different HRT product. These hormones like to keep us on our toes, that’s for sure!
The gel is applied once a day, ideally at the same time each day, but it doesn’t need to be by the exact minute or anything. Choose a time either in the morning or evening when you know you’ll have the time to apply it. It may seem like a bit of a hassle at first, but it will soon become part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth.
Oestrogel should be applied to either the tops of your arms or your thighs. And the reason for this is that basically you want a large surface area of skin, so that it can be absorbed quicker and so that you can rub it in more easily. If you’re on 3 or 4 pumps of gel, trust me you’re going to want a big surface to rub it into, otherwise you’ll be waiting ages for it to dry! I like to rub in 1 pumps worth of gel on the front of each of my thighs, and then I squirt the third pump into my hands, squish them together so they have roughly the same amount of gel on each and then I rub it on the backs of my thighs. You will be able to decide where works best for you, but just remember that it should not be applied on or near to your breasts or your genital area, so just be a bit careful if you do rub it into your thighs.
Here are the steps to follow for the most effective way to apply your HRT gel:
- Wash and dry your hands and the surface on your body that you’re going to apply the Oestrogel.
- Open the cap and press down the plunger. 1 pump on the plunger gives you 1 dose of gel. If it’s a new bottle you will need to pump it a couple of times to get the gel out.
- Apply the gel to your chosen body area, making sure to spread it out as widely and as evenly as you can.
- Leave to dry for 5-10 minutes before putting your clothes on.
- Wash your hands thoroughly. It’s really important you do this before coming into contact with your kids, husband, partner, the dog etc.
- Don’t apply sunscreen or body lotion for at least 1 hour after application. And definitely don’t have a shower immediately afterwards. Ideally, you should apply your Oestrogel after you have showered.
The Benefits of Using Gel Over Other Types Of Oestrogen HRT
Each type of HRT comes with its own benefits. And truthfully, finding out which one suits you best is a little bit of a trial and error process. The reason why I chose gel over any of the other types of oestrogen based HRT was because of the flexibility to change the dose if I needed to. When you first start out on HRT you don’t actually know what amount is going to be that magic dose for you – again it’s all a bit trial and error. And with alternatives, like HRT patches for example, you can’t just up the dose at home, it requires a whole new prescription. For me, it felt like a bit of a waste. Like, I’d get prescribed say 6 months of HRT and if during that time I realised the dose I was on wasn’t working, the rest of my prescription would be wasted.
Oestrogel on the other hand allowed me to be a bit more experimental. All under the advice of my GP of course. It meant a few months into the course when I realised 2 pumps wasn’t even touching the sides of my symptoms, I was able to have an appointment with my GP who advised me to up my dose to 3 pumps, which I could easily do with the gel I already had at home. Likewise, in the future if the dose needs increasing, or even decreasing because that can happen too, then it’s super easy for me to tweak the dosage.
Some women worry about the gel being sticky, or not absorbing very easily, or even that it might smell or stain their clothes. It doesn’t. Oestrogel smells of nothing and doesn’t stain clothes. Yes, it’s a bit sticky, it is a gel after all, but once it has been rubbed in and left to absorb for 5 minutes, you wouldn’t even know it was there.
Transdermal HRT, like gel and patches, are generally more reliable as the hormones are absorbed straight into the bloodstream through the skin rather than having to be absorbed through the gut. Which is one of the main reasons gel and patches are the most frequently prescribed methods of HRT. Whether you choose to go with the gel or with patches is entirely personal preference. Some women can’t be doing with the faff of having to rub gel in and waiting for it to dry every day. Whereas others might not want to advertise the fact they’re on HRT by having a patch on show when they’re swimming or sunbathing. Plus, the patches are notorious for leaving marks on the skin, which can be a bit of a nightmare to remove sometimes.
Oestrogel is a very easy option when it comes to choosing and using your preferred HRT method. But let’s make things clear, it’s not as simple as slapping it on and going about your business. To make sure you’re getting an accurate dose and to really reap the benefits of HRT you need to know the most effective way to apply your HRT gel. The most important thing you can take away from this is that you should always let the gel dry before putting your clothes back on. If you don’t, all you’re doing is allowing that precious oestrogen filled HRT gel to be soaked up by your clothes rather than where it should be being absorbed – your skin!