Do Tattooists Use Numbing Creams? A Guide to Managing Discomfort

Do Tattooists Use Numbing Creams

The buzz of the tattoo machine. The vibration of the needle against your skin. The slow, steady progression of color filling an intricate design. There’s no denying it—getting a tattoo can be painful. This natural question soon pops into most first-timers’ minds: do tattoo artists use numbing cream to ease the discomfort?

The short answer is yes, some artists do provide clients with numbing creams, sprays, or ointments upon request. However, others avoid using any numbing agents at all.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of using numbing products and dive into alternative strategies to handle tattoo pain. Read on for tips that will help you relax both your body and your mind during your next ink session!

Why Do Clients Request Numbing Cream or Spray?

Tattooing involves repeatedly puncturing the outer layer of skin with needles loaded with ink. So it’s really no surprise that most people want some relief from the sensation. Here are the two main reasons clients inquire about numbing creams:

  • To reduce pain – Let’s face it, getting stuck with a needle thousands of times is bound to cause some discomfort! Numbing products can take the edge off for those with lower pain tolerance.
  • To sit for longer sessions – Large, complex tattoos often require multiple long appointments to complete. Numbed skin allows clients to endure extended periods under the gun.

For sleeve designs or full back pieces that need 5, 6 hours or more of work, numbing creams enable clients to get through longer sessions with less squirming.

Do All Tattoo Shops Offer Numbing Agents?

The answer is no—not all tattoo artists provide numbing creams or sprays to clients. There are a few reasons why some professionals choose not to use them:

  • Numbing can interfere with their work – Some artists feel creams obscure the sight of lines and work area. Precise placement is key for quality tattoos.
  • Risk of reactions or side effects – Lidocaine and other creams may prompt skin irritation or allergic responses in sensitive clients. Artists prefer to avoid this.
  • Artists want clients to feel the proper depth – Numbing can obstruct the customer’s ability to accurately gauge how deep needle penetrates into each skin layer.
  • Pain can’t be eliminated completely – Topicals only reduce surface-level discomfort during line work. Deep tattooing into fat and muscle still feels like pressure or vibration.

However, while avoidance does happen, the majority of reputable tattoo shops and artists do provide clients with numbing creams, sprays, or ointments upon request. Topical anesthetics containing lidocaine are very common.

How Effective Are Numbing Creams and Sprays?

Numbing products can definitely reduce pain during the line drawing and shading phases. However, their effectiveness depends on several factors:

Body part being tattooed – Numbing works better on fleshy areas with thicker skin and fat layers like arms, thighs, and back. Sensitive thin-skinned spots still feel discomfort.

Duration of numbing effect – Creams take 30+ minutes to fully soak in. Their pain relief only lasts 1-2 hours before needing reapplication.

Client’s natural pain tolerance – Those already comfortable with needles will handle discomfort better than tattoo virgins.

While very helpful, numbing creams can’t completely eliminate the feeling of being tattooed for every client. But used properly, they make the experience much more tolerable.

How to Apply Tattoo Numbing Cream or Spray

If your artist provides a numbing cream or spray, they will apply it for you prior to the appointment. But it’s wise to understand proper application techniques:

  • First, thoroughly wash and dry the skin area to be tattooed. Remove any moisturizers or oils.
  • Apply a thick layer of numbing cream and cover completely with plastic wrap.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes for the anesthetic to fully soak in and take effect.
  • Just before starting the tattoo, apply another layer of cream and leave for 5-10 minutes.

Pro Tip: Allow the numbing agent enough time to penetrate deep below the skin’s surface. It takes 30 minutes or more to work down into the dermis and fat layers where ink will be deposited.

Alternative Pain Management Tips

Numbing products can definitely reduce pain during the line drawing and shading phases. However, their effectiveness depends on several factors: Body part being tattooed – Numbing works better on fleshy areas with thicker skin and fat layers like arms, thighs, and back. Sensitive thin-skinned spots still feel discomfort. Duration of numbing effect – Creams take 30+ minutes to fully soak in. Their pain relief only lasts 1-2 hours before needing reapplication. Client’s natural pain tolerance – Those already comfortable with needles will handle discomfort better than tattoo virgins. While very helpful, numbing creams can’t completely eliminate the feeling of being tattooed for every client. But used properly, they make the experience much more tolerable.

Talk With Your Artist About Numbing Options

Because every tattoo studio has different protocols, be sure to speak with your artist beforehand about: If they allow and recommend using numbing creams or sprays How to properly apply it for maximum relief Any potential side effects or restrictions Alternative ways to ease discomfort if declining numbing agents Don’t be afraid to speak up during the session to request a short break if the pain becomes too intense. With the right preparation and techniques, you can absolutely make your tattoo appointment as comfortable as possible.

Conclusion

While tattoos will always involve some degree of discomfort, numbing creams and sprays allow many people to tolerate the process much better. With a reputable artist using proper application techniques, topical anesthetics reduce surface pain and make long sessions manageable.

However, they can’t eliminate discomfort completely. Having realistic expectations along with alternative relaxation tips will enable you to handle the sensations in the chair. With the right mindset and preparation, you can focus on enjoying the artistry experience and the excitement of seeing your fresh ink revealed!

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