At TheHealthBoard, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Testosterone cream is a topical cream or lotion that is made with high levels of the male sex hormone testosterone. It is used primarily to treat hormone deficiencies and imbalances in men, though in some cases there are also formulations made specially for women. In almost all cases people need a prescription from a medical provider to buy this sort of product, and in many places pharmacists make this sort of cream “to order,” such that it is formulated specifically for each patient’s needs. It’s usually designed to be a short-term fix for more minor hormonal problems, and prolonged use can sometimes cause trouble. People who don’t respond well might need to look for other forms of hormone therapy, including pills and injections.
How It’s Formulated
Topical testosterone is usually made in chemical labs along with other pharmaceutical products. It usually starts with a thick cream or other neutral lotion, typically something that is rich in emollients that help it penetrate the outer layers of the skin relatively quickly. From here, chemists add isolated testosterone. Testosterone is widely known as the male sex hormone, and healthy men create it in high levels. Women need it, too, though often in more trace amounts.
Creams that are designed to be sold “over the counter” or directly to consumers typically contain somewhat standard concentrations of the hormone. Some governments place hefty regulations on the concentrations that are available without a prescription, but not all do. In most cases, though, products that anyone can buy tend to be less concentrated and may not be as effective as those that are ordered specially by a health care provider.
Testosterone cream is usually applied once every 24 hours and is often rubbed into the shoulders, upper arms, or stomach area. It works by direct absorption through the skin. Once the cream enters the blood stream, the individual's testosterone levels are boosted for several hours. The cream enters the bloodstream rapidly, and is effective almost immediately.
This sort of cream is almost always used to treat temporary or otherwise minor testosterone deficiencies. The cream will soak into the skin and allow the hormone to enter the bloodstream, which helps it shuttle to the brain where it can restock or otherwise restore supplies. Millions of men around the world suffer from low levels of testosterone, and though there are many causes, some of the most common are diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Hormone levels also tend to drop more or less as a matter of course in men after the age of 50.
There are several symptoms that men with low testosterone exhibit, including depression and hair loss, but the most disturbing for most men are those that interfere with sexual health. A lack of testosterone most often affects the sexual organs in a negative way, which may lead to impotence or a decrease in sex drive. An increased risk of cancer, higher storage of body fat, and chronic fatigue have also been documented.
Few medications are without side effects, and testosterone cream does have a few downsides. Individuals may experience headaches, hypertension, stomach problems, and irritation around the area where the cream is applied. These effects may make the cream a poor choice for some men, and anyone who has a bad reaction may want to think about other options.
Some individuals prefer a more natural method of increasing their testosterone. A change in diet is the most natural way to achieve higher levels. Certain foods can help the body boost testosterone levels, including as oysters, eggs, broccoli, garlic, and beef. It’s also possible to take oral supplements or get regular hormone injections; both of these options are common among men who need regular boosts. Creams work for most people, but their effectiveness depends in part on how much is applied and when. There’s less of a margin for error in more concentrated and regulated internal doses.
Special Considerations for Women
In general women should not use testosterone-containing creams that have been formulated for men, since this can lead to a number of undesirable side effects including acne, extreme mood changes, a deepening of the voice, and excessive body hair. In some parts of the world there are testosterone products that are formulated specifically for women, which typically have a lower dosage than men's creams. These are often used in the treatment of pituitary gland problems, which is one of the biggest causes of testosterone deficiency in women. Both men and women should consult their doctor before using any of these products to make sure that the medication will best suit their particular needs.