Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 4/26/2020
Premature ejaculation can be a difficult experience, both for you and for your partner. Luckily, it’s a condition that can be treated using a variety of medications, from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to topical creams and sprays.
Creams and sprays containing lidocaine are commonly used treatments for premature ejaculation. Both work the same way—by reducing sensitivity in the penis, letting you have sex for longer before ejaculating.
While lidocaine creams and sprays both use the same active ingredient, there are a few small differences between the two products. Below, we’ve compared lidocaine creams and sprays as treatments for premature ejaculation to help you find the best option for you.
Lidocaine is one of the world’s most widely used anesthetics. If you’ve been to the dentist for a root canal, wisdom tooth removal or any other kind of surgical treatment, there’s a good chance that lidocaine was used to numb your gums during the procedure.
As an anesthetic, lidocaine reduces sensitivity when it’s applied to your skin, muscles or other tissue.
As a treatment for premature ejaculation, topical lidocaine works by reducing sensitivity in your penis. Because sensitivity is one of the most common causes of premature ejaculation, making your penis less sensitive is a simple, effective way to help you last longer during sex.
Generally speaking, the biggest difference between lidocaine for dentistry or other procedures and lidocaine as a premature ejaculation treatment is the dosage.
For dental procedures and surgery, a fairly large dose of lidocaine is used to completely numb the area. For premature ejaculation, a smaller dose is used to reduce sensitivity but still give a pleasurable, enjoyable feeling during sex.
This means you won’t be completely numb, only that you’ll feel slightly less than normal during sex or foreplay.
As a treatment for premature ejaculation, lidocaine cream works by numbing the skin on your penis.
Lidocaine cream is designed to be applied to the tip, or glans, of your penis. This part of your penis is the most sensitive to touch. By making your glans less sensitive, you’ll feel less during sex and have a smaller risk of ejaculating early.
Most of the time, lidocaine cream contains a mixture of lidocaine and prilocaine, a different type of topical anesthetic. As well as premature ejaculation, lidocaine-prilocaine cream is often used as an anesthetic before injections and minor dermatological procedures.
Studies show 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 up 8.7 minutes (+/- 1.7 minutes).
Lidocaine-prilocaine cream is designed to be used 20-45 minutes before sexual activity. In the same study linked above, researchers found that the cream worked the best when it was used for 30 minutes prior to sexual activity.
The biggest advantage of lidocaine cream is that, for most men, it works. Applied 30 minutes before sex, lidocaine-prilocaine cream produces a noticeable increase in 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.
The biggest disadvantage of lidocaine cream is that, since it’s a cream, it can get messy. After you apply lidocaine-prilocaine cream, you’ll need to thoroughly wash your hands to make sure you don’t accidentally apply the anesthetic to any other parts of your body.
It’s also important to wash lidocaine cream away after 20-30 minutes, as there’s a risk of some cream affecting your partner. This means you’ll need to have a bathroom nearby if you opt for a cream-based medication to treat premature ejaculation.
Like other topical anesthetics, lidocaine cream can cause a small decrease in sensitivity during sex. However, studies show that lidocaine usually doesn’t affect your orgasm quality or overall level of sexual enjoyment.
Lidocaine spray works the same way as lidocaine cream—by making your penis less sensitive to touch. Like lidocaine-prilocaine cream, lidocaine spray is designed to be applied to the glans, or tip, of your penis, as well as the underside of the shaft.
Unlike lidocaine-prilocaine cream, most lidocaine sprays only use lidocaine, without any other topical anesthetics.
Studies of lidocaine spray show that it works quickly and effectively as a treatment for premature ejaculation. In a study from 2003, researchers found that lidocaine spray can increase average intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IVELT) 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 avoid premature ejaculation and last as much as six or seven times as long in bed.
Although lidocaine spray does reduce sensitivity, it isn’t linked to any reduction in orgasm quality or sexual experience.
Most lidocaine sprays are designed for use 10-15 minutes before sex. Applying the spray is a simple process that we’ve covered in our guide to using lidocaine spray.
Like lidocaine cream, the biggest benefit of lidocaine spray is that it works. Applied properly, a normal dose of lidocaine spray can improve your ejaculation latency time by as much as 10 minutes, helping you and your partner enjoy more satisfying sex.
Compared to lidocaine cream, lidocaine spray tends to be faster-acting, cleaner and easier to use.
While lidocaine cream takes about 30 minutes to start working properly, lidocaine spray can be applied 10 to 15 minutes before sex. You’ll still need to wash your hands after applying it, but the fact that it’s spray-based instead of cream-based means cleaning up is quicker and easier.
Since most lidocaine sprays come in a metered-dose spray bottle, it’s also easier to apply the right dose to your penis before sex.
Just like with lidocaine cream, the biggest disadvantage of lidocaine spray is that you’ll need to wash it off your hands after use. However, like we mentioned above, since this is a spray-based product, cleanup is generally quicker and easier than cream.
It’s also possible for lidocaine spray to slightly reduce your sensitivity level during sex. Studies of lidocaine spray show that while you might feel a mild numbness in your penis, there usually isn’t any negative impact on your overall sexual experience.
Most of the time, you’ll be able to adjust your lidocaine spray dosage over time to get the best combination of improved sexual performance and minimal sensitivity loss.
Interested in treating premature ejaculation and improving your sexual performance? Our guide to lidocaine spray as a premature ejaculation treatment goes into more detail on everything you need to know about lidocaine sprays and other PE treatments.
You can also learn more about other treatments for premature ejaculation in our guides to home remedies for treating PE and premature ejaculation pills.