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Aroma of Testosterone Gel Smelled Up the House

The aroma of testosterone gel provided by the compound pentadecalactone caused one reader an uncomfortable allergic reaction.

It isn’t often that the fragrance of a medication causes a reaction. But added scents can sometimes be irritating, and one reader found that the aroma of testosterone gel was unbearable.

Q. My husband recently had to switch testosterone gels due to a change in insurance coverage. The new product was a generic testosterone.

After he used it just one day, our whole house smelled like floral-scented dryer sheets. It took me a day to figure out that the culprit was the chemical pentadecalactone.

I’m asthmatic and the smell emanating from my husband’s body was overwhelming. Everything he touched stank: the bedclothes, his clothes, the furniture, even my clothes that he folded! My eyes, nose and throat have been severely irritated from the smell.

He stopped using it immediately and after three days the smell is finally dissipating. Have you ever heard of such a thing?


A. Pentadecalactone is sometimes used in cosmetics as a fragrance because its aroma resembles that of musk.

Not everyone finds the scent offensive. Some people seem to like it and describe it as a sweet, woodsy, powdery fragrance. (Perhaps that’s why it reminded you of scented dryer sheets.)

Surprisingly, almost 10 percent of people can’t smell it at all (Chemical Senses, Dec., 1977).

Your husband will want to ask the pharmacist whether this ingredient is included in any other testosterone gel he might use to boost his hormone levels. Hopefully he will be able to find a product that works for him without irritating you.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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