Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/21/2022
Premature ejaculation, or PE, is one of the most common forms of sexual dysfunction that can affect men. In fact, scientific research suggests that up to 39 percent of all men are affected by premature ejaculation to some degree.
If you’ve looked into treatments for PE, you might have seen products that contain benzocaine, such as our Clockstopper Climax Delay Wipes.
As a topical anesthetic, benzocaine works by reducing sensitivity in your penis, making it easier for you to have sex without reaching orgasm and ejaculating too early.
If you’ve ever considered using topical PE products such as benzocaine gels, creams or wipes, you may have questions about their safety and risk of causing unwanted effects.
Research on benzocaine shows that it’s safe and low-risk when applied properly. However, like other medications, the topical benzocaine found in PE wipes, PE sprays and other products can cause side effects in some situations.
Below, we’ve explained what benzocaine is, as well as how benzocaine topical products work to reduce sensitivity during sex and treat premature ejaculation.
We’ve also listed the side effects you may experience while using benzocaine, as well as a few simple steps that you can take to get the best results.
Benzocaine is a type of anesthetic, a 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 sensation.
Most of the time, benzocaine is used to control feelings of pain, such as during an injection or a dental procedure. As a local, topical anesthetic, it only numbs a small area of your skin, without causing you to “go under” and lose consciousness.
Benzocaine comes in several different dosage forms. You can purchase benzocaine cream, gel, liquid and spray, as well as benzocaine lozenges for oral uses, such as treating a sore throat or certain forms of mouth pain.
There are even benzocaine condoms that are designed specifically to reduce sensitivity in your penis during sex.
Many benzocaine OTC products are available in a variety of concentrations, from strong creams containing 20% benzocaine designed to treat canker sores, severely itchy skin and hemorrhoids to milder products that contain 4%, 5% or 10% benzocaine for other uses.
If you use benzocaine, whether to treat premature ejaculation, cold sores, a minor skin condition or any other issue, it’s important to choose the correct form and concentration for your needs.
Benzocaine has long been used to manage pain, but it’s only recently that it’s been studied as a possible treatment for premature ejaculation.
Although research on benzocaine as a PE treatment is limited, the results of existing studies are promising, with some research showing real, measurable improvements in sexual ability in men with premature ejaculation who use medicines with benzocaine.
In a study published in the Journal of Urology in 2017, researchers tested the effects of a topical wipe containing 4% benzocaine on a group of 21 men with premature ejaculation.
The men with premature ejaculation that took part in this study were all 18 years of age or older and in heterosexual, monogamous relationships.
Before using benzocaine, the men had mean intravaginal ejaculatory latency times (IELT, or the time taken to ejaculate after vaginal penetration) of 74.3 ± 31.8 in the treatment group and 84.9 ± 29.8 seconds in the placebo group.
After two months of treatment, the men in the benzocaine wipe group had a mean IELT increase of 231.5 ± 166.9 seconds -- significantly larger than the 94.2 ± 67.1-second increase among the men in the placebo group.
In other words, while both treatments had positive effects, the benzocaine wipes produced a far greater increase in sexual stamina than the placebo wipes.
Our guide to premature ejaculation wipes goes into more detail about how benzocaine works as a treatment for PE.
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s currently a limited amount of research on benzocaine, at least as a treatment for premature ejaculation.
This means that while we do know that 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 for Men -- as well as prescription drugs, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
For most men, topical benzocaine is a safe and effective medication that treats PE without many significant side effects.
However, like other medications, benzocaine can cause several adverse effects that you should be aware of before using it to treat premature ejaculation or any other condition.
Potential side effects of benzocaine include:
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)
Because benzocaine works by reducing the sensitivity level of your skin, a common side effect of benzocaine wipes and other products is excessive numbing, which may make sexual activity less pleasurable.
If you overuse benzocaine wipes, numbing condoms or other products that contain benzocaine, particularly high-strength creams designed for relief of severe discomfort or use before medical procedures, there’s some risk that you might find it difficult to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
The temporary loss of sensitivity from benzocaine could also contribute to other sexual function issues, such as erectile dysfunction (ED).
To avoid these side effects, it’s best to begin by applying a thin layer of benzocaine to the tip of your penis. If you need more desensitization, apply a small amount of additional benzocaine to the shaft.
Make sure that you only ever use forms of benzocaine that are designed for use as premature ejaculation treatments. Other benzocaine medications, including oral benzocaine products, are not designed for sexual use and may increase your risk of side effects or safety issues.
Just like with anything sex-related, it might take some time to “dial in” your benzocaine dosage and work out what works best for you and your partner.
Topical benzocaine should never be applied to skin that’s burned, cut or damaged. Make sure not to use benzocaine wipes or other topical PE medications if your penis and surrounding skin have sores, blisters or any forms of minor skin irritation.
Some benzocaine products, including those applied orally to treat teething infants and children, have been associated with a life-threatening side effect called methemoglobinemia.
Methemoglobinemia is a disorder in which abnormally high levels of methemoglobin can occur in the blood. When methemoglobin levels are high, the body can transport oxygen through the bloodstream but can’t properly release it into tissue.
Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include bluish or gray skin color, altered mental state, lack of energy, shortness of breath, giddiness, a rapid heart rate and fatigue. Methemoglobinemia can result in shock, seizures, and even death.
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.
This warning focuses on oral medications for children and adults, and does not mention any of the benzocaine products used as over-the-counter premature ejaculation treatments.
Methemoglobinemia is a serious issue that requires urgent medical attention. If you notice any of the symptoms of methemoglobinemia in yourself or another person after using a benzocaine product, you should seek immediate care from a healthcare professional.
You should also seek emergency medical help if you or your partner develop any symptoms of an allergic reaction to benzocaine, such as swelling that affects the face, tongue, throat and/or lips, difficulty breathing or hives.
Consult your healthcare provider before using any products that contain 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.
Benzocaine is generally safe and effective when it’s used as directed. However, using too much benzocaine, even when it’s applied to your skin, can potentially lead to an overdose.
Potentially dangerous symptoms of a benzocaine overdose include slowed breathing, seizures, an uneven heartbeat, coma, and even respiratory failure.
Fatal overdoses from benzocaine are not common, particularly with topical products. However, applying too much benzocaine to your penis or other areas of skin could significantly increase your risk of developing side effects.
To avoid overusing benzocaine and increasing your risk of side effects, start by using the lowest suggested dose that’s listed on your medication’s label. This may vary depending on the type of benzocaine product you have purchased.
Make sure to wait for several minutes before assessing the effectiveness of benzocaine creams, wipes or other products, as it may take some time for your skin to respond to the medication.
As a topical product, benzocaine isn’t likely to interact with any other medications that you might use to treat other conditions.
However, it’s still important to inform your healthcare provider about any medications and herbal products that you use before starting treatment with benzocaine. Make sure to mention all drugs you use, including nonprescription drugs and recreational substances.
Your healthcare provider will inform you if you need to make any changes to use benzocaine or other topical anesthetics safely.
Benzocaine wipes are easy to use -- just remove the wipe from the sleeve, apply it to the tip of your penis, then let it dry before starting sexual activity.
Try the following techniques to get the best results from benzocaine for PE:
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 prior to sex.
If you use lube, apply it after benzocaine. It’s usually okay to use benzocaine wipes with lube. However, to avoid transference, make sure to wipe off any extra benzocaine before applying lubricant.
Consider using PE wipes with ED medication. Benzocaine wipes can be used with ED medications, such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®). This may help to improve your erections and further delay climax.
If benzocaine wipes aren’t effective enough for you, you may also want to consider other options for treating premature ejaculation.
These include taking antidepressants such as sertraline or paroxetine to delay orgasm, or using other over-the-counter products such as our lidocaine-based Delay Spray for Men.
If your PE is caused by a psychological problem, taking part in therapy for premature ejaculation may also help to reduce the severity of your symptoms and improve your sexual function.
Benzocaine wipes, sprays and condoms, as well as benzocaine oral products, are typically safe and effective.
However, all medications have the potential to cause side effects if misused, and benzocaine is no exception.
Sex is an important part of a healthy, happy life. If you’re one of the millions of men affected by premature ejaculation, using benzocaine wipes or other topical products can help to slow down the process of reaching orgasm, improve your stamina in bed and boost your confidence.
To limit your risk of side effects, make sure to closely follow the usage instructions provided with any PE treatments that contain benzocaine, such as our Clockstopper Climax Delay Wipes.
You may also want to consider looking into other treatment options for sexual dysfunction, such as our range of premature ejaculation treatments and options for treating erectile dysfunction.
Used effectively, these medications can help you to perform at your best in bed, all while staying both physically and mentally healthy.
Want to learn more before you get started? Our guide to stopping premature ejaculation covers everything you need to know about dealing with PE, from over-the-counter options like lidocaine to behavioral techniques, SSRIs and more.