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Benzocaine Side Effects

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown, MD

Written by Shannon Ullman

Published 02/05/2022

Updated 03/11/2024

Just about every guy on this planet is likely familiar with premature ejaculation, or PE. Premature ejaculation is one of the most common male sexual dysfunction problems, with up to 39 percent of all men affected by this medical condition to some degree.

Men diagnosed with “definite” premature ejaculation have an intravaginal ejaculatory latency time (IELT) of less than one minute. Men with IELTs between one and one and a half minutes have “probable” premature ejaculation.

Thankfully, there are treatments to help relieve symptoms of premature ejaculation. Many products contain benzocaine, like our Clockstopper Climax Delay Wipes.

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Benzocaine is a topical anesthetic that aims to reduce sensitivity in your penis. This can make it easier to have sex without worrying about reaching orgasm and ejaculating quicker than you’d like.

If you’ve ever looked into this PE treatment, you’ve likely discovered it’s available in various forms, such as benzocaine gels, creams and wipes.

While using medications is nothing for some people, others have concerns about the safety and potentially serious side effects of benzocaine.

For benzocaine, you won’t have to worry too much about that — research shows that the topical anesthetic is safe and low-risk when used properly. Yet, like other medications, the topical benzocaine in PE wipes, PE sprays and other products may cause some unpleasant side effects for some folks — so keep that in mind.

To help you get a better understanding of what this premature ejaculation treatment is, we’ll provide a thorough overview of benzocaine and how these topical products work to reduce penis sensitivity during sex.

We’ll also discuss the not-so-great aspects of benzocaine, including potential side effects you might experience using this topical anesthetic and a few steps you can take to get the most desired results.

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Let’s dive a little deeper into what benzocaine is.

Benzocaine is a type of anesthetic medication that reduces sensitivity. It works by preventing nerves in certain parts of your body from functioning normally — meaning you’re less likely to feel physical sensations.

Typically, benzocaine is used for pain relief for dental procedures, preparation for anesthesia or minor trauma involving needle penetration.

As a local anesthetic, it only numbs a small area of your skin without causing you to “go under” and lose consciousness.

As mentioned, benzocaine comes in several dosage forms, including creams, gels, liquids, sprays and even lozenges. There are even benzocaine condoms for premature ejaculation designed specifically to reduce sensitivity in your penis during sex.

Currently, only benzocaine gels, liquids, and lozenges are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Many over-the-counter (OTC) benzocaine products are commercially available in a variety of concentrations. This includes strong creams containing 20% benzocaine designed to treat canker sores, severely itchy skin and hemorrhoids, along with milder products containing 4%, 5% or 10% benzocaine for other uses.

Regardless of whether you’re using benzocaine to treat PE, cold sores, a minor skin condition or any other issue, it’s crucial to get the correct form and concentration for your health needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for assistance with benzocaine.

Read our guide to learn about the difference between benzocaine and lidocaine.

The simple answer is yes, benzocaine can work for PE. But benzocaine wasn’t initially designed to help with premature ejaculation symptoms.

In fact, only recent studies have revealed this topical anesthetic as a possible treatment for premature ejaculation.

Although research on benzocaine as a PE treatment is limited, the results of existing studies are promising. Some have shown real, measurable improvements in sexual ability in men with premature ejaculation who use medicines with benzocaine.

In one study, researchers tested 4% benzocaine wipes for premature ejaculation with 21 men — 15 received PE treatment, and the remaining six got a placebo.

After two months of treatment, the men in the benzocaine wipe group saw significant improvement in their IELT compared to the placebo group. Also, men in the PE treatment group reported having less distress during sexual intercourse, better control of ejaculation and being more satisfied with sexual intercourse throughout the study.

Our guide to premature ejaculation wipes goes into more detail about how benzocaine works as a treatment for PE.

While benzocaine looks promising for treating PE, there’s a need for more research to understand the actual effectiveness of this topical anesthetic. This means that while we do know benzocaine works fairly well for PE, we don’t yet know if it’s more effective than other premature ejaculation treatments, such as other topical anesthetics or oral drug products.

These include medications like lidocaine — the active ingredient in our Delay Spray — as well as prescription drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

For the most part, benzocaine for PE is safe and effective without major side effects.

But, like many over-the-counter and prescription medications on the market, benzocaine may cause some unpleasant side effects. These adverse effects could arise regardless of whether you’re using benzocaine for premature ejaculation or any other conditions.

Potential benzocaine side effects may include the following:

  • Skin tenderness and/or redness

  • Skin rash and itchy, burning or stinging skin

  • Dry white flakes where the medication was applied

  • Edema (swelling caused by excess fluid)

Also, since topical benzocaine can reduce skin sensitivity, a common side effect of benzocaine wipes and other products is excessive numbing. While the goal is to improve sexual pleasure, this can ultimately impact your bedroom experience.

Some people may think “more is better,” but that’s not the case for topical benzocaine. If you overuse benzocaine wipes, numbing condoms or other products containing benzocaine, there’s some risk you’ll find it difficult to reach orgasm and ejaculate.

Coincidently, temporary loss of sensitivity due to benzocaine application may also lead to other forms of sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction (ED).

Also, if you’re engaging in sexual activity with someone who has a vagina, leaving benzocaine cream or spray on your penis may cause vaginal numbness.

To avoid benzocaine spray side effects, it’s best to begin by applying a thin layer of benzocaine to the tip of your penis 20 to 30 minutes before getting it on. If you need more desensitization, apply a small amount of additional benzocaine to the shaft.

To help your partner(s), be sure to thoroughly wash off the benzocaine at least five to 10 minutes before vaginal penetration. Also, never apply topical benzocaine to skin that’s been burned, cut or damaged. No topical PE treatments should be put on your penis or the surrounding skin that has sores, blisters, sunburn or other forms of skin irritation.

Additionally, make sure to only ever use forms of benzocaine designed for use as premature ejaculation treatments. Other benzocaine medications — including oral benzocaine products such as Orajel™ — aren’t meant for sexual use and may increase your risk of side effects or safety issues.

As with anything sex-related, it might take some time to “dial in” your benzocaine dosage and figure out what works best for you and your partner.

Methemoglobinemia

Aside from these potential side effects of using benzocaine condoms, sprays, creams and other products, there’s a more life-threatening condition that you should be aware of: methemoglobinemia. Typically, benzocaine products that are applied orally, such as those that treat oral pain in teething infants and children, are commonly associated with this condition.

Methemoglobinemia, or MetHb, is a blood disorder that occurs when an abnormal amount of methemoglobin is produced. Methemoglobin is a type of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells responsible for carrying and distributing blood oxygen throughout the body.

When methemoglobin levels are high, the body can transport oxygen through the bloodstream but can’t properly release it into tissue.

This health condition is genetic but can also be caused by exposure to certain medications, chemicals or foods.

You can develop methemoglobinemia if you’re exposed to:

  • Anesthetics, such as benzocaine

  • Nitrobenzene

  • Certain antibiotics, such as dapsone or chloroquine

  • Nitrites

Symptoms of methemoglobinemia can include the following:

  • Bluish or gray skin color

  • Altered mental state

  • Lack of energy

  • Shortness of breath

  • Giddiness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Tiredness

In 2018, the FDA issued a warning regarding the use of over-the-counter oral drugs containing benzocaine in children under two years of age due to the risk of methemoglobinemia.

With all that being said, the FDA’s warnings seem more focused on the oral dosage of benzocaine for children and adults. It doesn’t mention anything about the use of this medication for over-the-counter PE treatments — so keep that in mind.

Regardless, methemoglobinemia is a serious medical issue that requires immediate attention. If you notice any of the symptoms of methemoglobinemia in yourself or another person after using a benzocaine product, seek immediate care from a healthcare provider.

Also, if you happen to notice you or your partner is having a benzocaine allergic reaction after using a product containing benzocaine (such as swelling, trouble breathing or hives), seek emergency medical help.

We suggest speaking with your healthcare provider or another medical professional before using any products containing benzocaine if you have a personal or family history of methemoglobinemia or other enzyme deficiencies or if you have asthma, heart disease, bronchitis, emphysema or any other type of breathing disorder.

For the most part, benzocaine is fairly safe and effective when used as directed. Having said that, if you decide to go overboard with it, you could potentially face an overdose. And, yes — this can happen even if you just apply it to your skin.

Potentially dangerous symptoms of a benzocaine overdose include trouble breathing, seizures, an uneven heartbeat, coma and even respiratory failure.

Fatal overdoses from benzocaine aren’t common, particularly with topical products. However, applying too much benzocaine to your penis or other affected areas of skin could significantly increase your risk of developing side effects.

For topical benzocaine spray, if you happen to use more than what you were prescribed or accidentally swallow some, seek immediate medical attention or contact a poison control center as soon as possible.

Take caution with benzocaine products for premature ejaculation. This means starting with the lowest dose possible, which can be found on your medication’s label. And note that dosage can vary depending on the type of benzocaine product you have.

Additionally, wait several minutes before determining the effectiveness of benzocaine sprays, wipes, creams or other products — it may take some time before your skin responds to the medication.

When used topically, benzocaine likely won’t interact with other medications you’re taking for other conditions.

But it’s better to be on the safe side, so let your healthcare provider know about any medications and herbal products you’re using before starting treatment with benzocaine. This includes all nonprescription medicines and recreational substances.

Now that we’ve gotten past the not-so-fun stuff about benzocaine, let’s talk about how to use it to spruce up your bedroom performance.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use benzocaine wipes. Simply remove the wipe from the packet, apply it to the tip of your penis, then allow it to dry before starting sexual activity.

Here are some techniques you can use to get the best results from benzocaine for premature ejaculation:

  • Use benzocaine wipes five minutes before sexual activity. This allows enough time for the benzocaine and other ingredients to dry. If you plan to have oral sex, wait about 15 minutes for the wipes to soak in, then remove any excess liquid before sex. Make sure your partner isn’t allergic to benzocaine before engaging in any sexual activity.

  • If you use lube, apply it after benzocaine. It’s usually okay to use benzocaine wipes with lubricant. However, to avoid transference, make sure to wipe off any extra benzocaine before applying it. This is because mixing this topical anesthetic medication with lube can mess with the absorption of benzocaine, lessening its effects on treating PE symptoms.

  • Consider using PE wipes with ED medication. Sometimes, more is better. Benzocaine wipes can be used with ED medications, such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®). This may help improve your erections and further delay your climax.

Unfortunately, what works for one person won’t work for everyone else. If benzocaine wipes aren’t performing in your favor, there are other options you can try to treat premature ejaculation.

This includes taking antidepressants, such as sertraline or paroxetine, to delay orgasm or using other over-the-counter products like our lidocaine-based Delay Spray for men.

Or, if you’re willing to try some non-medical techniques, learn how to hold your ejaculation during sex.

If your PE is caused by a psychological problem, taking part in therapy for premature ejaculation may also help reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve your sexual function. We provide online therapy sessions with licensed mental healthcare professionals who can help you address your sexual dysfunction.

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Premature ejaculation is an issue many men will face at some point in their lives. Over the past few decades, there have been several prescription and OTC treatments for this form of sexual dysfunction, including benzocaine.

Benzocaine seems pretty effective for treating PE, but there’s much more to learn. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Benzocaine is a local anesthetic commonly used to numb or reduce pain on the skin and mucous membranes. It is sometimes included in wipes or creams designed to help with premature ejaculation by desensitizing the penis.

  • Side effects that can happen when using benzocaine ointment or wipes. These include redness, itching or irritation of the penis, reduced sensitivity, transferring of numbness to a partner and decreased sexual pleasure (if you get too numb).

  • Delayed ejaculation could also occur. While this is the intended effect for treating premature ejaculation, excessive use of benzocaine may lead to a prolonged delay in ejaculation, which could impact sexual satisfaction.

  • If you or your partner experience any concerning symptoms from using a benzocaine product for PE, please seek immediate medical attention.

  • Although benzocaine can have side effects like any other medication, it is fairly safe to use.

  • Using topical benzocaine shouldn’t cause any interaction with other medications you’re taking, but it’s best to inform your healthcare provider before using it.

  • Benzocaine PE products, specifically wipes, are relatively easy to use if you follow instructions before sexy time.

If benzocaine wipes aren’t effective for you, there are other premature ejaculation treatments, such as antidepressants, delay sprays or therapy (for psychological issues tied to premature ejaculation). Explore our sexual health platform to see what your options are.

9 Sources

  1. Americaine hemorrhoidal ointment. (n.d.). https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=d13c022f-2f91-40b4-bd66-0cfc0e147a5f&type=display
  2. DailyMed - HURRICAINE TOPICAL ANESTHETIC- benzocaine spray. (n.d.). https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=9e1f7462-a052-4db4-bc59-cce437b695d0
  3. DailyMed - RITE AID MAXIMUM TOOTHACHE RELIEVER- benzocaine, menthol gel. (2023). https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=8347cb51-4d51-0b83-e053-2991aa0ad9e2
  4. McMahon, C. (2007). Premature ejaculation. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721550/
  5. Methemoglobinemia: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000562.htm
  6. Premature ejaculation: Causes & treatment - Urology Care Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/p/premature-ejaculation
  7. Risk of serious and potentially fatal blood disorder prompts FDA action on oral over-the-counter benzocaine products used for teething and mouth pain and prescription local anesthetics. (2018). https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/risk-serious-and-potentially-fatal-blood-disorder-prompts-fda-action-oral-over-counter-benzocaine
  8. Shabsigh, R., Kaminetsky, J. et al. (2017). PD69-02 DOUBLE-BLIND, RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL OF TOPICAL 4% BENZOCAINE WIPES FOR MANAGEMENT OF PREMATURE EJACULATION: INTERIM ANALYSIS. The Journal of Urology, 197(4S). Retrieved from: https://www.auajournals.org/doi/10.1016/j.juro.2017.02.3143
  9. Singh, R and Khalili, Y. (2023). Benzocaine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541053/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown, MD

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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