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Do Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Creams Work??

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Sian Ferguson

Published 12/26/2018

Updated 01/11/2024

When most people think of erectile dysfunction (ED) treatments, Viagra® may come to mind. However, those iconic little blue pills are no longer the only treatment option for ED. In fact, topical erectile dysfunction creams and gels are starting to gain popularity.

But what is erection cream or gel? And do ED creams and gels work?

Erectile dysfunction is a common type of sexual dysfunction affecting roughly 30 million men in the United States. Men with ED find it difficult to get and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.

Many guys struggle to get an erection from time to time — and it’s not always cause for alarm. But if ED is a chronic issue, and if it’s bothering you, it’s worth looking into possible treatments.

Untreated erectile dysfunction can lead to self-esteem issues and relationship strain. So ED treatments aren’t just about sexual performance — they can improve your overall quality of life.

When looking into possible treatments, you might come across ED creams and gels. But before you fork out cash for that “male-enhancing” cream, it’s important to learn about your options.

We’ll go over everything you need to know about topical ED creams and gels.

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Choose your chew

Add a boost to your sex life with our new chewable formats

What Are ED Creams?

If a medical professional thinks PDE5 inhibitor medications like Viagra — or others, like tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®) — won’t work for you, they can suggest other treatments for erectile dysfunction.

One alternative? Erectile dysfunction cream or erectile dysfunction gel. 

There are a few types of erectile dysfunction creams and gels, each with a different mechanism. Mostly, though, ED creams and gels work by improving blood flow to the penis, allowing you to get an erection.

Not all erection creams and gels are made equally: Some have a fair amount of science-backed proof, while others have hardly been studied at all.

So, what is the best cream or gel for erectile dysfunction? We’ll go over a few options below.

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FDA-Authorized Eroxon Gel

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized just one topical ED treatment: Eroxon®. This new-to-market erection gel got the FDA’s go-ahead in 2023, making it one of the only non-prescription erectile dysfunction treatments available in the U.S.

While some news outlets are calling Eroxon “topical Viagra,” this is kind of a misnomer, as it doesn’t actually contain sildenafil — or any medication, for that matter. According to the brand’s website, the topical gel works by cooling and warming the penis, stimulating the nerves. This might boost blood flow, improving your erection.

The product leaflet notes that you may need to try Eroxon a few times before it works, although most men experience an erection the first or second time they apply it. The insert also warns that Eroxon is only compatible with latex condoms, so keep that in mind!

Vitaros, the Topical ED Cream

One well-known topical ED treatment is alprostadil cream, also known by the brand name Vitaros®. Alprostadil is a type of prostaglandin (a natural vasodilator), meaning it helps blood vessels relax.

Alprostadil works by stimulating blood flow, making it easier to get (and maintain) an erection. Vitaros is applied into the opening of the penis, making sure the cream goes down the urethra. It should be used five to 30 minutes before attempting intercourse.

Research found that alprostadil was significantly more effective than a placebo in patients with ED.

Since alprostadil mostly remains in the genital area and doesn’t spread to the rest of the body, the cream doesn’t seem to interact with other medications. With that in mind, it might be a good alternative to PDE5 inhibitors, as it can be safer for folks who use nitrates, alpha blockers and blood pressure medication.

There’s just one problem: Alprostadil cream hasn’t been approved by the FDA, and for that reason, you can’t buy it in the U.S. At least, not yet.

However, the FDA has approved Caverject®, an alprostadil-based injection for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

SST-6006, a Topical Sildenafil Cream

SST-6006 is a topical cream containing sildenafil — the same active ingredient that helps Viagra do its thing.

Though some studies have looked into the possibility of using sildenafil gel or cream, it’s not commercially available yet. 

A company called Strategic Science & Technologies LLC announced it had completed a phase 2aI study of an SST-6006 in 2017 and currently says they are “actively engaged in partner discussions

So for now, sildenafil gel isn’t yet a thing — but that might change in the future.

L-Arginine “Male Enhancement” Creams

If you’ve looked for supplements for erectile dysfunction, you’ve probably come across l-arginine.

Many believe l-arginine can improve erectile function and sexual performance. This supplement is available in stores and online. 

L-arginine is linked to nitric oxide production. Indeed, nitric oxide plays a critical role in erectile function because it helps blood vessels relax, thus improving blood flow.

Research on l-Arginine creams, however, is basically non-existent.  

Bark and Seed Extract Creams

Other supposed ED creams contain natural ingredients like ginkgo biloba leaf, tree bark extract and cuscuta seed.  

Many assume these products are safe because they’re “natural.” But we’d like to point out that poison ivy is also natural — and you’d probably never put it on your penis. 

Since these herbal remedies are supplements, they aren’t regulated or tested by the FDA in the same way that medications are. Besides the fact that they may not actually work, the FDA warns that many so-called “sexual enhancement” treatments contain dodgy ingredients and potentially harmful contaminants.

When it comes to your health, you’re wise to stick to safe, regulated treatment that are proven to be effective.

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Sildenafil Chews

The same active ingredients as Viagra®. Starts working in 30 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours.

Tadalafil Chews

Same active ingredient as Cialis®. Starts working in 1 hour and lasts up to 24 hours.

Vardenafil Hard Mints

Exclusively at Hims, starts working in 15 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours. Same active ingredients as Levitra®.

Erectile Cream Side Effects

As with most treatments, erection creams and gels may have side effects and safety considerations. For instance, you might experience allergic reactions to the ingredients.

Another common side effect is skin irritation. The skin on and around your genitals may tingle or burn. This can affect your partner, too, who may experience anal or vaginal burning. Be sure to check if your partner has any allergies before using an ED cream or gel with them.

There’s also a possibility of priapism — when an erection lasts more than four hours. Priapism is often painful, and it requires urgent medical treatment.

Beyond potential side effects, the product just may not work for you. If erectile cream or gel isn’t giving you results, even after a few attempts, consider speaking with a healthcare provider about other options.

Interactions and Risk Factors for ED Creams 

You shouldn’t use alprostadil cream if you have certain conditions, including:

  • Allergy to alprostadil

  • Leukemia

  • Multiple myeloma

  • Peyronie’s disease (and other deformities of the penis)

  • Polycythemia vera

  • Sickle cell disease

  • Thrombocythemia

You should also avoid Eroxon if you have the following conditions:

  • Allergy to any of the ingredients

  • Peyronie’s disease or other deformities of the penis

  • Sore, damaged or irritated skin on the penis

If you have a condition that makes it risky to use erectile dysfunction creams, consult a medical professional about alternative treatments.

You might even benefit from a few natural ways to protect erectile function. Certain lifestyle changes can improve your erections and overall sexual health.

Alternatives to ED Creams

Very few ED creams and gels are backed by research, and only one has been authorized by the FDA in the United States. That said, there are quite a few alternatives to ED creams and gels.

Common erectile dysfunction treatments include:

While erectile dysfunction can be caused by physical ailments like cardiovascular disease, psychological factors may also come into play. Your ED could be due to mental health issues like anxiety, depression or sexual performance anxiety.

If you’re experiencing psychological ED, consider in-person or online therapy. Seeking treatment for mental health can lead to better erectile function while helping you feel better overall.

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The Final Word on ED Creams

While erectile dysfunction creams and gels may seem great in theory, few are available for purchase. Fortunately, though, there are many other ED treatments.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • The only FDA-authorized ED gel is Eroxon. Eroxon is available without a prescription and works by cooling and heating the penis, stimulating the nerves.

  • Beware of dodgy ED treatments. Many “natural” products are marketed for improving erectile function and enhancing sexual performance — but there’s very little proof they work. Since the FDA doesn’t test or approve these supplements in the same way that they test medications, they may contain harmful ingredients.

  • There are legit alternatives to erectile dysfunction creams and gels. While very few ED creams and gels are on the market, numerous safe and highly effective erectile dysfunction treatments are available. Therapy can also be helpful if your ED has psychological roots, like anxiety. 

Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating to deal with, but it is treatable. Learning more about ED and your treatment options can be a solid first step in figuring it out.

Check out our blog post on the latest ED treatments and our guide on how to get hard.

Need some expert assistance? We’re here to help! Our online platform can connect you with a healthcare professional today.

20 Sources

  1. Anaissie J, Hellstrom WJG. Clinical use of alprostadil topical cream in patients with erectile dysfunction: a review. Research and Reports in Urology, 2016(8). https://www.dovepress.com/getfile.php?fileID=31721
  2. Cuzin B. (2016, August). Alprostadil cream in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: clinical evidence and experience. Therapeutic Advances in Urology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5131739/
  3. Dhaliwal A, Gupta M. (2023, April 10). PDE5 Inhibitors. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  4. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  5. Hamzehnejadi M, Ranjbar Tavakoli M, Abiri A, Ghasempour A, Langarizadeh MA, & Forootanfar H. (2022). A Review on Phosphodiesterase-5 Inhibitors as a Topical Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction. Sex Med Rev, 10(3), 376-391. https://drive.google.com/file/d/16ASnWssZzVH98PCavQ1a_Wnzn_oXe0f-/view
  6. How Eroxon Works. Eroxon. https://eroxon.com/consumers/how-eroxon-works/
  7. Jackson, G., Arver, S., Banks, I., & Stecher, V. J. (2010). Counterfeit phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors pose significant safety risks. International journal of clinical practice, 64(4), 497–504. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3069491/
  8. Jain A., Iqbal OA. (2022). Alprostadil. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542217/
  9. Label: CAVERJECT ®. (2017). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/20895s039s042lbl.pdf
  10. Label: VIAGRA (sildenafil citrate) tablets. (2014). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/20895s039s042lbl.pdf
  11. Yonessi M, Saeedi, M, & Malekshah, O. (2005, January 1). A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Evaluation of the Effect of Topical Sildenafil on Erectile Dysfunction. Journal of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, 5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26456533_A_Double-blind_Placebo-controlled_Evaluation_of_the_Effect_of_Topical_Sildenafil_on_Erectile_Dysfunction/citation/download
  12. Shabsigh R, Kaufman JM, Steidle C, & Padma-Nathan H. (2008, May 1). Randomized Study of Testosterone Gel as Adjunctive Therapy to Sildenafil in Hypogonadal Men With Erectile Dysfunction Who Do Not Respond to Sildenafil Alone. Journal of Urology, 179(5).
  13. https://www.auajournals.org/doi/10.1016/j.juro.2008.03.145
  14. Smith BP, Babos M. (2023, February 14). Sildenafil. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558978/
  15. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. (2023, May 30). Erectile Dysfunction. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
  16. SST completes Phase I trial of SST-6006 to treat erectile dysfunction in men. (2014). https://clinicaltrialsarena.com/news/newssst-completes-phase-i-trial-of-sst-6006-to-treat-erectile-dysfunction-in-men-4269127/
  17. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  18. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
  19. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2023). FDA Roundup: June 13, 2023. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-roundup-june-13-2023
  20. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2023). Tainted Sexual Enhancement and Energy Products. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-and-energy-products
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.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years in digital health focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show and Sharecare and has served on the Medical Expert Board of Eat This, Not That!.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, Egyptian and Ancient Western Asian Archaeology. Brown University |

  • Doctor of Medicine. |

  • Master of Public Health, General Public Health. |

  • Master of Liberal Arts, Journalism. |

  • Master of Business Administration. | (anticipated 2024)

  • Master of Science, Healthcare Leadership. | (anticipated 2024)

Training

  • NYU Internal Medicine Residency—Brooklyn Community Health Track. |

Certifications

  • Certified in Public Health.

  • Medical Writer Certified.

  • Editor in the Life Sciences.

  • Certified Personal Trainer.

  • Certified Nutrition Coach.

  • Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs

  • Digital Storytelling Graduate Certificate.

  • Marketing Management and Digital Strategy Graduate Certificate.

Publications

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