What are lidocaine and benzocaine?
Lidocaine and benzocaine are two topical anesthetics that are commonly used in a wide variety of products like shaving cream (e.g., Lab Series Maximum Comfort Shave Cream, original formula), tooth pain preparations (e.g., Orabase, Anbesol) and sunburn preparations like (e.g., Solarcaine). Both decrease pain in the skin or mouth areas.
What are common concentrations or strengths?
Benzocaine and lidocaine come in a variety of strengths, both prescription and over the counter (OTC). In OTC products, the concentration of benzocaine is generally 20% or less, the concentration of lidocaine in OTC products is usually less than 5%. The amount of benzocaine or lidocaine varies from product to product, and you should read the label to see what concentration is in the product.
How do they affect the skin?
Both lidocaine and benzocaine cause a numbing/cooling effect on the skin. This effect is achieved as the product is absorbed into the skin, blocking the sodium channels in the nerves. Preventing sodium from entering the nerve stops the action potential of the nerve, and the nerve doesn’t send the message of pain to the brain.
The duration of activity for lidocaine can be up to 120 minutes, but is dose- and route of administration-dependent. The duration of activity for topically-applied benzocaine is approximately 15 minutes.
Lidocaine has a pregnancy category rating of B, while benzocaine has a category C pregnancy rating.
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