Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/6/2022
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 some degree of premature ejaculation.
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.
Research on benzocaine shows that it’s safe and low-risk when applied properly. However, like all 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 it works as a premature ejaculation treatment.
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 local anesthetic — a type of medication that reduces sensitivity by blocking the effects of local nerves. It’s a popular medication that’s used for everything from reducing pain caused by injuries to controlling sensitivity during dental procedures.
From a technical perspective, benzocaine works by inhibiting the effects of sodium, which plays a vital role in activating the local nerve endings throughout your body that communicate directly with your central nervous system.
You can think of benzocaine as blocking the nerve messages that cause you to feel sensations such as pain or, in the case of sex, pleasure. Applying benzocaine to your body “turns down the volume” in the target area, so to speak.
Benzocaine comes in lots of different forms, including sprays, creams, gels, liquid solutions and even lozenges for numbing the mouth. Many of these products are sold over the counter in drugstores and local pharmacies.
Unlike general anesthetics, benzocaine doesn’t affect your consciousness. You’re still fully alert and awake, just with reduced sensitivity in the treated area of your body.
As a treatment for premature ejaculation, benzocaine works by reducing sensitivity just enough to delay ejaculation, without overly numbing your penis.
Since the ejaculation process is controlled by inputs from your penile nerves, a small reduction in the sensitivity level of your penis can have a surprisingly large effect on your sexual stamina and overall performance in bed.
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 certainly impressive.
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 that took part in the study men were all 18 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.
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.
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)
One common side effect of benzocaine is excessive numbing, which may make sexual activity less pleasurable. If you overuse benzocaine wipes, condoms or other numbing products, there is some risk that you may find it difficult to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
The temporary loss of sensitivity from benzocaine may 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.
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 minor skin irritations.
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 skin color, altered mental state, lack of energy, shortness of breath, giddiness, rapid heart rate and fatigue. Methemoglobinemia may result in shock, seizures and 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 PE 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 medical care.
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 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.
If your PE is caused by a psychological problem, taking part in therapy for premature ejaculation may also help to reduce its severity and improve your sexual function.
Sex is an important part of a healthy, happy life. Unfortunately, issues like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction can transform what should be a pleasurable activity into a major source of stress and frustration.
The good news is that PE, ED and other sexual issues are treatable. We offer a complete range of premature ejaculation treatments online, as well as science-based options for treating erectile dysfunction.
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.