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Penis Numbing Cream: Which Is Best?

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 05/13/2019

Updated 04/05/2024

If you have premature ejaculation (PE), you may have heard that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and topical creams and sprays with  lidocaine can help you manage your symptoms. 

And while it’s comforting that there are PE treatments out there, that can raise questions like: Is lidocaine for erectile dysfunction or is it a premature ejaculation cream? And: Can a numbing cream for sex really help me last longer?  

Below, we’ve explained how penis numbing creams (and other numbing products, like sprays, wipes and condoms) work, compared some of the options and discussed additional premature ejaculation treatments so you can find the best one for you.

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A numbing lube, numbing spray or numbing cream for penis sensitivity is a topical anesthetic a man may apply before sex. 

These products typically contain local anesthetics like lidocaine and benzocaine that reduce penile nerve activity, making targeted areas less sensitive to touch. 

Lidocaine and benzocaine are also used in dentistry, surgical procedures and for preparing certain areas of the body for the insertion of equipment.

So if you’ve been to the dentist for a root canal or wisdom tooth removal, there’s a good chance they used lidocaine  to numb your gums before and during the procedure. And the cough drop you had for your sore throat? It probably had benzocaine.

Because sensitivity is one of the most important aspects of sexual stimulation, applying benzocaine or lidocaine on penis skin  can have a big impact on your ability to delay ejaculation. 

In making certain parts of your penis less sensitive, they help you avoid feeling overstimulated during sex so you can last longer in bed.

Studies back this up, showing that lidocaine-prilocaine creams work well for stopping premature ejaculation. In a study from 2002, researchers found that a 5% lidocaine-prilocaine cream increased the average pre-ejaculation period by 8.7 minutes (+/- 1.7 minutes) when applied before sex.

But don’t worry: Over-the-counter treatment options for premature ejaculation use a smaller dose of these desensitizing agents than dentists and surgeons do.

While they’re trying to completely numb the whole area, penis numbing creams and sprays aim to reduce sensitivity levels while keeping sex pleasurable for everyone involved. So you’ll feel slightly less than you normally would during sex or foreplay, but you won’t be completely numb. 

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Anesthetics can cause side effects or adverse reactions when overused or applied to skin improperly. Most of the potential side effects of lidocaine and benzocaine treatments are similar to those of other topical anesthetics.

Common side effects of penis sensitivity creams and sprays include excessive numbness and skin irritation in the area of application. Some lidocaine topical products can also cause edema — a form of swelling caused by trapped fluid.

They can also cause allergic reactions and drug interactions, including with common medications for high blood pressure, infections, epilepsy, cancer and other conditions.

You may have a higher risk of experiencing issues if you have sensitive skin, or if you have previously experienced side effects from topical anesthetics.

To reduce your risk of experiencing issues while using desensitizing penis cream or spray, it’s important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications you currently use or have recently used, as well as any relevant health conditions.

It’s also important to seek medical attention if you feel any pain, discomfort or have other issues while using penis numbing cream or spray.

Some of the most common questions about sex numbing cream have to do with how long it takes to work and why it might be better than a spray. 

Here’s what you need to know:

How Long Does Penis Numbing Cream Last?

The numbing effects of a topical cream can last for up to three hours. You may notice that the anesthetic gradually wears off a few hours after the cream is applied to your penis. 

How Long Does Lidocaine Take to Work?

Lidocaine cream usually starts to work within a few minutes, although it may take 20 minutes or longer to become fully effective. 

In one study, researchers recommended applying lidocaine-prilocaine cream approximately 20 minutes before sexual contact. When used more than 30 minutes before sex, lidocaine cream may contribute to excessive numbness and loss of erection.

What Are the Advantages of Penis Numbing Cream?

The biggest advantage of numbing cream is that, for most men, it works. Applied around 20 to 30 minutes before sex, lidocaine-prilocaine cream can increase pre-ejaculation time, letting you and your partner enjoy sex for longer.

Lidocaine-prilocaine is also inexpensive and readily available from most pharmacies, making it an easy medication to buy if you have a prescription from your doctor.

What Are the Disadvantages of Penis Numbing Cream?

The biggest disadvantage of numbing cream is that, since it’s a cream, it can get messy. After you apply it, you’ll need to thoroughly wash your hands to make sure you don’t accidentally apply the anesthetic to other parts of your body.

You may also need to rinse it off 20 to 30 minutes after application to avoid transferring the cream to your partner during sex. 

Basically, you’ll want to be near a bathroom if you’re using numbing cream to treat premature ejaculation. 

We’ve alluded to this throughout our guide, but lidocaine spray works the same way as lidocaine cream — by making your penis less sensitive to touch. 

Like lidocaine-prilocaine cream, you can apply it to the glans, or tip, of your penis, as well as the underside of the shaft.

Research show promising results, with one 2003 study finding that use of a lidocaine-prilocaine spray increased men’s average intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT) from 84 seconds to 11 minutes and 21 seconds.

In short, when used properly, lidocaine spray can produce a significant improvement in sexual performance, helping you to avoid premature ejaculation and last for as much as six or seven times as long in bed. 

And although lidocaine spray does reduce penis sensitivity, studies of lidocaine spray show that you might feel a mild numbness in your penis, but that there usually isn’t any negative impact on your overall sexual experience.

How Long Does Penis Numbing Spray Last?

Lidocaine spray typically lasts for one to three hours. Like with lidocaine cream and other topical anesthetics, you may feel a gradual increase in your penile sensitivity as the effects of lidocaine spray wear off. 

How Long Does Penis Numbing Spray Take to Work?

Most research suggests that lidocaine spray takes about 10 to 20 minutes to start working. In one study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, experts found that a lidocaine 5% spray increased ejaculation time when used 10 to 20 minutes before sex.

What Makes Penis Numbing Spray Different from Penis Numbing Cream?

Compared to lidocaine cream, delay sprays with lidocaine tend to be faster-acting and easier to apply. This can make a spray a great option if you need a topical treatment that can be applied quickly before sex.

You’ll still need to wash your hands after applying lidocaine spray, but the fact that it’s a spray instead of a cream-based treatment means cleaning up is usually quicker and easier.

Since most lidocaine sprays come in a metered-dose spray bottle, it’s also easier to apply the right dose . You can also adjust your lidocaine spray dosage over time to get the best combination of improved sexual performance and minimal sensitivity loss. 

Oh, and unlike many cream-based medications, most lidocaine sprays only contain the local anesthetic lidocaine, without any other topical anesthetics.

Of course, sprays and creams aren’t the only premature ejaculation treatments out there. You can also use physical techniques before or during sex to delay ejaculation, change your habits and lifestyle, and work with a healthcare provider to get prescription medications. 

Physical Techniques for Delaying Ejaculation

There are several moves you can try to slow down the process of orgasm and ejaculation, including the “stop-start” method, which involves stopping movement when you feel orgasm approaching and then starting again once you feel confident you aren’t about to ejaculate, and the “squeeze” technique, which involves gently pressing on the area between the glans and shaft of your penis when you feel close to coming. 

Other common tactics that can help you delay ejaculation and increase sexual stamina include masturbating before sex, using diversionary thoughts to avoid reaching orgasm and switching to thicker condoms to reduce sensitivity.

Healthy Habits and Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, making small changes to your daily lifestyle can help to reduce the severity of PE and improve your sexual function. 

For example, research has found that regular physical activity is associated with a lower risk of developing premature ejaculation. Certain exercises, such as pelvic floor exercises, may also help to reduce the severity of PE and improve performance during sexual activity. 

Our guide to stopping premature ejaculation goes into more detail about lifestyle changes you can make to last longer in bed and improve your general sexual function. 

Prescription Medications for PE

While there’s currently no medication approved by the FDA specifically for treating premature ejaculation, several existing medications are used off-label to slow down ejaculation and help with sexual performance.

These include the prescription antidepressants sertraline (the active ingredient in Zoloft®) and paroxetine (Paxil®). 

We offer both sertraline and paroxetine as part of our selection of premature ejaculation treatments, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare professional who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

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Numbing agents can significantly improve your ability to control ejaculation — a key reason why lidocaine is an active ingredient in our Delay Spray for Men and benzocaine is an active ingredient in our Clockstopper Climax Delay Wipes. 

These over-the-counter products, along with over-the-counter premature ejaculation cream, work relatively quickly to reduce penile nerve sensitivity so you can last longer, have better sexual encounters and improve your sexual health. 

Our guide to lidocaine spray as a premature ejaculation treatment goes into more detail. You can also learn more about other treatments for premature ejaculation in our detailed guide to premature ejaculation pills.

11 Sources

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  2. LIDOCAINE HYDROCHLORIDE- lidocaine hydrochloride cream. (2022, February). Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/fda/fdaDrugXsl.cfm?setid=1c0abe84-5404-404e-b882-e910e4d43ffb
  3. Sam, P. & LaGrange, C.A. (2021, July 26). Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Penis. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482236/
  4. Atikeler, M.K., Gecit, I. & Senol, F.A. (2002, December). Optimum usage of prilocaine-lidocaine cream in premature ejaculation. Andrologia. 34 (6), 356-359. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12472618/
  5. Lidocaine skin cream or ointment. (2022). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/19854-lidocaine-skin-cream-or-ointment
  6. How to Apply Lidocaine Cream (Brand names: Emla®, ElaMax®). (2014, September). Retrieved from https://www.med.umich.edu/cancer/files/instructions-for-applying-lidocaine-cream.pdf
  7. Henry, R. & Morales, A. (2003, August). Topical lidocaine-prilocaine spray for the treatment of premature ejaculation: a proof of concept study. International Journal of Impotence Research. 15 (4), 277-281. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12934056/
  8. Schønemann, N.K., van der Burght, M., Arendt-Nielsen, L. & Bjerring, P. (1992, October). Onset and duration of hypoalgesia of lidocaine spray applied to oral mucosa--a dose response study. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica. 36 (7), 733-735. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1441878/
  9. El-Hamd, M.A. (2021, January). Effectiveness and tolerability of lidocaine 5% spray in the treatment of lifelong premature ejaculation patients: a randomized single-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. International Journal of Impotence Research. 33 (1), 96-101. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31896832/
  10. Porst, H. & Burri, A. (2017, December). Fortacin™ Spray for the Treatment of Premature Ejaculation. Urologia. 84 (2 Suppl), 1-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6166492/
  11. Yildiz, Y., Kilinc, M.F. & Doluoglu, O.G. (2018, September). Is There Any Association Between Regular Physical Activity and Ejaculation Time? Urology Journal. 15 (5), 285-289. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29681052/
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, MBA

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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