Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/5/2020
If you're reading this, you likely know that we specialize in helping men make take the guesswork out of their bedroom performance. These days, a wide range of medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction. There’s sildenafil(generic Viagra), a PDE5 inhibitor better known as Viagra. There are also alternative medicines like tadalafil (commonly sold as Cialis) and vardenafil (commonly sold as Levitra).
These medications are usually sold as tablets or gel capsules, allowing for oral use 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity. We've been hearing more and more about erectile dysfunction creams recently, and figured it was time to do a little more research.
Recently, drug companies have begun to develop gel and cream-based erectile dysfunction medication, allowing men with ED to get the same benefits as oral medications like sildenafil from a topical cream.
In this guide, we’ll look at the ED creams currently available on the market, see what the best ED cream is (as far as we know), as well as take a look at other topical ED drugs currently undergoing scientific testing.
Vitaros cream used for treating erectile dysfunction (ED). One of the first drugs of its type, it was launched in the UK in 2014 as a prescription treatment.
The active ingredient in Vitaros cream is alprostadil—a naturally occurring prostaglandins that’s used to dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. When applied to the penis, alprostadil makes it easier to develop and maintain an erection.
From a medical perspective, Vitaros cream is similar to early erectile dysfunction drugs like Caverject and Edex, which used an injectable form of alprostadil to increase blood flow to the tissue of the penis.
Understandably, injectable erectile dysfunction medications aren’t particularly popular today, in the age of more convenient options like sildenafil and other oral ED drugs.
Vitaros has undergone phase II and III medical trials but has yet to be approved by the FDA. As a result, it isn’t available in the United States, although it is available as a prescription medicine in the UK and certain other countries.
SST-6006 is a topical erectile dysfunction cream that contains sildenafil—the exact same active ingredient as Viagra. As of June 2015, SST-6006 was under development by Strategic Science and Technologies LLC (SST) and about to enter into phase II medical trials.
Since SST-6006 is still in the research phase, it isn’t sold to the public in any country. However, if clinical trials of are successful, it could be available in the future as a topical alternative to oral ED medications like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.
Finally, there are various “male enhancement” creams containing substances like L-arginine that promise improved erections and sexual performance.
Many of these products are sold over the counter in supplement stores or online marketplaces like Amazon. These products are not medication and there is no scientific evidence that shows they are in any way effective.
While there is some evidence that oral L-arginine can improve sexual function in men with ED, topical L-arginine hasn’t been studied as an erectile dysfunction treatment. As such, it’s best to view any of the claims made by manufacturers of these products with skepticism.
When it comes to erectile dysfunction, it seems like Vitaros cream is the only viable option for topical ED treatment. However, until SST-6006 goes through its clinical testing and gains FDA certification, or until Vitaros becomes legal in the U.S., it seems men have little recourse outside of the traditional oral medications we know and love—sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil and Viagra.
If you suspect you're suffering from erectile dysfunction, you should see a doctor. If you want to click through some more wisdom from the team here at hims, check out our guide: "What Causes Erectile Dysfunction and What Can You Do About It?"
Insider tips, early access and more.