Tuesday, November 23, 2004

If you have chemical sensitivities, or live with someone who does, it's no news to you that the gratuitous use of fragrances in public places or consumer products can be a big problem. Since perfumes can make Rick extremely uncomfortable, we buy fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergents, I avoid colognes and scented cosmetics (although I can get away with some mildly fragranced, non-volatile bath products), and when I want to browse one of those foofy, perfume-drenched candle-and-gift shops in a mall, Rick just stays out.

This one, however, I just don't understand. Like many women who are on hormone-replacement therapies, I use a small amount of testosterone supplementation to balance the estrogen. The emphasis is on "small", because women (at least non-transgendered women) have to use just the tiny amount needed to stabilize mood and metabolism without running into what are delicately called "androgenic effects". There are some known problems with oral testosterone replacement, and it's also difficult to balance injectable testosterone properly in women, so I'm now trying a topical gel.

You guessed it. The stuff is perfumed. I have to emphasize that this is not girly testosterone packaged in a pink tube for sale to us women who are concerned that if we use the stuff, we might start understanding the blue lines in hockey and thus lose every vestige of our feminine charms. This is a formulation that's used primarily in males (women just use much smaller doses of it). And it's not one of those tough, macho, "men's cologne" scents either. It's hard to describe, but "stale potpourri steeped in cheap baby powder" might come close. It clings to skin, it clings to clothing, it makes my husband cough, and I certainly can't cover it up with a spritz of nice cologne. This is bad enough for a female who uses a thin strip of gel on each forearm every morning. I can't imagine what it would be like to be a male patient who has to use perhaps ten times as much daily, usually applied to the back and shoulders.

Happily, there's another formulation that seems to be unfragranced, which is a probable option for me in the future. Here are my questions: If it's possible for one manufacturer to make a prescription gel that doesn't smell like dying flowers, why on earth would another one choose to contaminate the product that way? And, testosterone, fer Zarquon's sake? If a woman wouldn't want to wear even a tiny amount of this fragrance, why on earth would a man agree to use it?

If I ever decide to invest in pharmaceutical stocks, you can bet I'll take this into account while trying to decide between the two manufacturers.