Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Actually Work?

Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Actually Work

Getting a new tattoo can be an exciting experience. But sitting still while a tattoo artist works a needle over your bare skin for hours at a time? That part’s not so fun. The poking and piercing of the needle combined with the vibration of the tattoo machine can range from mildly uncomfortable to downright painful depending on your personal tolerance and where on your body you’re getting inked.

The short answer is yes – when used correctly, tattoo numbing cream can help significantly reduce pain and discomfort during tattoo sessions.

When it comes to getting inked, people have different pain thresholds. Some grit their teeth and bare it, some pop pain pills beforehand, and others rely on topical anesthetics like tattoo numbing cream to take the edge off.

But how exactly does it work to block the pain? And is it effective for numbing all parts of the body and sizes of tattoos? In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How tattoo numbing creams work
  • The benefits of using numbing cream
  • What areas of the body they work best for
  • Application tips for maximum effectiveness
  • Possible side effects and risks
  • Effect on tattoo quality
  • Other pain relief options

Armed with the facts, you can decide if using a topical anesthetic is right for you and your next tattoo session.

How Do Tattoo Numbing Creams Actually Work?

Tattoo numbing products contain an active ingredient called lidocaine, an anesthetic agent that blocks the body’s sodium channels, temporarily interrupting nerve signals and sensation in the applied area. Other common anesthetic ingredients found in numbing creams include prilocaine, benzocaine, and tetracaine.

Popular over-the-counter tattoo numbing brands like Topicaine, Hush, Dr. Numb, and Numb Master use between 4% to 10% lidocaine to provide rapid skin anesthesia when applied before a tattoo session. The effects typically last about 2 hours once the numbing cream has fully absorbed into the skin.

What Are The Benefits of Using Numbing Cream for Tattoos?

There are several advantages that make numbing creams an appealing option for many getting inked:

1. Reduced Pain and Discomfort

The main benefit is that applying anesthetic cream before getting a tattoo can significantly reduce pain, stinging, and general discomfort during the session. The lidocaine blocks the sharp sensation of the artist’s needles piercing the skin.

2. Ability to Sit for Longer Tattoo Sessions

By dulling the pain, numbing agents allow you to sit for longer, extended sessions more comfortably to get large or complex tattoos completed in one sitting.

3. Less Stress and Anxiety

Knowing the tattoo will hurt less can help reduce stress, anxiety, and apprehension some people feel before their appointments. This leads to an easier overall experience.

4. Improved Outcomes

When you’re less distracted by pain and fidgeting, it’s easier to sit still so the artist can focus on their work and produce clean, sharp lines with your numbed skin.

What Areas Of The Body Should You Use Numbing Cream?

While they can provide some pain relief anywhere on the body, numbing creams tend to be most effective and useful for tattooing sensitive areas with lots of nerve endings concentrated close to the surface.

Some of the prime body parts where tattoo artists may recommend using a numbing agent include:

  • Hands and fingers
  • Feet and toes
  • Ribcage and sides
  • Spine and back
  • Bony areas like elbows, ankles, hips and collarbones
  • Sensitive areas like the groin

For less sensitive zones like the arms, thighs, and shoulders where pain is easier to tolerate, numbing cream is less necessary but can still provide some comfort if desired.

How To Apply Tattoo Numbing Cream

To get the best anesthetic effect, follow these pro tips for applying tattoo-numbing products:

1. Clean and Shave The Area
Disinfect and shave off any hair on the area 24 hours prior to your appointment so the cream can absorb better into clean skin.

2. Apply The Cream Thickly
Apply a thick, even layer about 1/8 inch thick over the entirety of the area 30 to 60 minutes before getting started. Use the maximum dosage recommended on the label.

3. Cover It
Once applied, cover the area with plastic wrap or a bandage and let the numbing cream absorb fully into the skin until the time of your appointment.

4. Reapply Mid-Session If Needed
As the session goes on for several hours, the effects of the cream will start wearing off. Ask your artist to reapply a bit more over the area if you start feeling too much discomfort again.

Are There Side Effects or Risks With Tattoo Numbing Creams?

While infrequent, some potential side effects to be aware of when using tattoo numbing products include:

  • Allergic reactions in those with sensitivities to anesthetics – do a patch test first.
  • Temporary blanching and discoloration of the skin around the tattoo area.
  • Difficulty talking, facial muscle weakness if too much cream gets into mouth and gums.
  • Avoid getting the product in eyes, nostrils, or ears as it can cause irritation.

Carefully follow dosage directions and thoroughly wash hands after application. Inform your artist if you use any numbing agents so they can take proper precautions.

Does Numbing Cream Affect Tattoo Quality?

A common concern is whether using anesthetics can affect the caliber of the finished tattoo. However, when used correctly, numbing creams should not interfere with the final results. Here are some points for both clients and artists to keep in mind:

Ensure the client thoroughly washes off all cream before the appointment and does not reapply too much mid-session. The artist should use brand new needles after the skin is prepped to avoid contamination. With the area numbed, the artist must take care not to work too quickly and deeply which could lead to poor application or blowouts. Numbing allows the artist to take their time and focus more on technique rather than rushing through to minimize pain.

What Else Can Help With Tattoo Pain?

While numbing creams are popular, there are also other options to help make getting tattooed more bearable:

  1. Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers – Take ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen an hour before your appointment to help reduce inflammation and discomfort.
  2. Stay Hydrated – Drink extra water leading up to and during your session to keep your body feeling its best.
  3. Eat A Meal – Don’t get a tattoo on an empty stomach as low blood sugar can make you feel pain more intensely.
  4. Breathing Exercises – Use deep, slow breathing to promote relaxation during the tattoo process.
  5. Distraction – Listen to music, watch videos, or play games on your phone to divert your attention away from the discomfort.

Work In Sessions – For very large tattoos, consider booking multiple shorter appointments over time rather than marathon sessions.

Key Takeaways – Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Actually Work?

To sum it up simply – yes, when tattoo numbing cream containing lidocaine is used properly, it can significantly reduce pain and discomfort during the tattooing process.

The topical anesthetic effects allow you to get through lengthier sessions for bigger, more complex tattoos in often sensitive areas of the body that would normally be too painful. Just be sure to take care when applying it and inform your tattoo artist.

While a numbing agent is not necessary for all tattoos or people, it can certainly make the experience easier if needles piercing your skin for hours sound unbearable. Consult your artist and consider trying tattoo numbing cream for your next ink session if you want to eliminate or lessen the sting.

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