EMLA cream is a topical anaesthetic (numbing) cream that is used to treat premature ejaculation. It makes the penis less sensitive which can delay ejaculation and make sex last longer. EMLA should be applied 15-20 minutes before sex, and washed off to avoid your partner from losing sensation.
EMLA cream is a brand name of prilocaine and lidocaine, which are the two active ingredients.
EMLA cream is a numbing cream, also known as a topical anaesthetic, which is used to treat premature ejaculation. EMLA cream is a brand name of prilocaine and lidocaine, which are the two active ingredients.
EMLA cream is used for PE as an ‘off-label’ medicine. This means it was not made for PE. However, it can be prescribed by your doctor for this, if necessary and suitable.
Apply a pea sized amount of EMLA cream to the shaft and the head of the penis (glans) roughly 15 to 20 minutes before you have sex. You can leave it for up to 60 minutes if you do not notice any reduced sensation. You should wash off the cream from your penis before you have sex. This will stop the cream from affecting your partner. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after applying the cream.
You do not need to rub the cream in, just put a layer of it onto the penis. If you do not feel the cream is working, you can apply it to a slightly wider area. You will receive exact instructions in your patient account.
You should avoid using EMLA cream on an open wound (sore or a cut). You should not use large amounts of EMLA cream or use it over a large area of skin. This is because too much anaesthetic can be absorbed into your blood, which could prove dangerous. If you get EMLA cream in your eyes, this can cause a corneal abrasion, which is a superficial scratch at the front of your eye (cornea). Should this happen, you must wash your eyes right away with a saline solution and seek medical help.
How long do the effects last?
EMLA cream’s numbing effect normally lasts for at least 2 hours.
How long does it take for EMLA to work?
EMLA cream works relatively quickly. Most people who use the cream will start to feel its numbing effects within 15 to 30 minutes.
EMLA cream contains the 2 active ingredients lidocaine and prilocaine. These are local anaesthetics that work by reducing sensitivity in the area to which it is applied. For some men, reduced sensitivity of the penis can delay ejaculation.
There is research to suggest that EMLA cream has been effective in treating premature ejaculation. The optimum time of application of EMLA cream has been shown to be 20 minutes before sex, with the optimum concentration being 5%.
Like with any medicine, EMLA cream may cause side effects. However, these side effects normally go away quickly once you have removed the cream.
Common side effects of EMLA cream include:
- burning sensation
Uncommon side effects of EMLA cream include:
- numbness (tingling)
- irritation of the treated skin (if used for leg ulcers)
Although rare, there is the possibility of having an allergic reaction to EMLA cream. If you begin to feel drowsy, notice facial swelling, or have shortness of breath, these can be signs of a severe allergic reaction. You must visit A&E right away if this happens and get medical attention.
These are not all the side effects of EMLA cream. For a full list, you should read the patient information leaflet inside your medicine packet.
You should not use EMLA cream if you are allergic to prilocaine or lidocaine, other similar local anaesthetics, or if you have an open wound on your penis.
Consult with your doctor or pharmacist before you use EMLA cream if you:
- have a rare inherited illness which affects the blood (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency)
- have a red blood cell disorder (methemoglobinemia)
- have an itchy skin condition (atopic dermatitis)
- have anaemia
Let your doctor or pharmacist know if you are currently taking or plan to take other medicines while using EMLA cream. This is because EMLA cream may affect how some medicines work, and certain medicines may have an effect on EMLA cream.
Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have been given:
- medicines used to treat epilepsy (like phenobarbital and phenytoin)
- medicines used to treat infections (like nitrofurantoin and sulphonamides)
- medicines used to treat an irregular heartbeat (like amiodarone)
- beta-blockers or cimetidine
- other local anaesthetics
EMLA cream comes in a 5g tube. Each gram of EMLA cream contains 25mg of prilocaine and 25mg of lidocaine. Other ingredients in EMLA cream include sodium purified, macrogolglycerol hydroxystearate, carbomer 974P, and water purified.
As well as EMLA cream, another common treatment used to treat premature ejaculation is Priligy. This medicine is taken in tablet form and should be used 60 minutes to 3 hours before you have sex. Priligy can delay ejaculation for up to 12 hours after you take a dose.
You can also have behavioural and psychological therapy which are non-drug treatments for premature ejaculation. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for more information on psychological therapy.
If your premature ejaculation is linked to certain risk factors, some lifestyle changes may improve it.
- losing weight
- drinking less alcohol
- stopping smoking
Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos
Dr Nicholas Antonakopoulos graduated from the University of London in 2006. He did his postgraduate training in hospitals in the London area, and he trained for four years in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery before completing his training in General practice in 2015.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 13 Jan 2022
EMLA Cream 5% (for 5g and pre-medication packs) – Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) (2021) EMC (Accessed 14 December 2021)
Ejaculation problems (2019) NHS (Accessed 14 December 2021)
How and when to use lidocaine skin cream (2019) NHS (Accessed 14 December 2021)
Medical therapy for premature ejaculation (2011) PMC (Accessed 14 December 2021)