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How Do I Choose the Best Tattoo Numbing Cream?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 21, 2024
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Note that if you’re a customer, chances are you won’t need to purchase a tattoo numbing cream because your tattoo artist or parlor of choice will likely have the product stocked. If you’re a tattoo artist looking for a numbing cream, you’ll want to look for products with high and allowable concentrations of topical anesthetics like lidocaine and prilocaine. A quality cream will numb the skin and protect against tattoo pain while not interfering with the tattoo process, so look for non-greasy formulas that promise not to cause skin swelling and are upfront about any possible allergic reactions. Get reviews from other tattoo artists and customers regarding their experiences with various numbing creams and which brands they would and would not recommend. Generally, numbing products are affordable, but they’re not cheap, so understand that searching for the absolute lowest price could affect the quality of the product you get.

Typically, products like tattoo numbing spray, gel, and cream contain two main active ingredients. These are lidocaine and prilocaine, both of which are local anesthetics and often used together for topical, dermal anesthesia. Often, your location in the world determines how much of each ingredient is legally used in a tattoo numbing cream. For example, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates how much lidocaine and prilocaine a tattoo numbing gel, cream, or spray can contain. As a result, various brands of numbing products boast the highest amount of lidocaine and prilocaine allowed by the FDA, which most likely boosts the products’ numbing power.

It’s important that the other ingredients in the product don’t interfere with the tattoo process or cause any adverse skin reactions — after all, the point of the cream is to protect the skin while it receives a tattoo. Look for guarantees that the cream won’t interfere with the ink, and watch for words like “non-greasy” and “grease-free.” Also check for warnings related to allergic and other adverse skin reactions. Find out whether the creams you’re considering will cause any kind of skin swelling, as this can affect your ability to draw and apply a tattoo to the skin.

Ask other tattoo artists and customers about the numbing cream they’d recommend. Tattoo artists use numbing products every day, and they know what does and doesn’t work for their customers. Customers can also provide firsthand accounts of how well the products worked and whether they interfered with the tattooing process. Connect with other tattoo artists and customers at local tattoo parlors and via online message boards and forums. You can also check customer review sections of online shops.

Once you’re ready to purchase tattoo numbing cream, check for a catalog or website for the product’s manufacturer, company, or brand. You might find affiliate companies that sell the cream, too. Similarly, companies that specialize in providing tools and other products to individual tattoo artists and tattoo parlors typically stock numbing cream, spray, and gel. Note that prices will vary depending on the brand and whether you purchase the cream in bulk or in individual containers. Bulk purchases will cost more, depending on the brand and how many containers are included.

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Discussion Comments
By anon991994 — On Aug 04, 2015

I used Anesten 10 percent lidocaine and it was awesome! My buddy told me that I would still feel a little pain, but I didn't feel a thing for the entire 2 hours and 20 minutes. I bought mine online. Try it out, you wont be disappointed.

By Ana1234 — On Jul 22, 2014

@MrsPramm - I would just be a little bit worried about the effects of the cream. I know they must try to design them so they don't do anything to affect the tattoo, but surely something that numbs the skin must change the way it works a little bit.

Besides, the thing is, tattoos don't actually hurt that much. Especially when they aren't done on a very sensitive area. I had one done on my back without any numbing involved and it didn't feel any worse than someone pressing their fingernails into the skin. People can bear it for hours because it's not that much to bear.

By MrsPramm — On Jul 22, 2014

@croydon - I can understand the association some tattoos might have with pain. If you have a cultural connection to a particular kind of tattoo and it was considered a right of passage, or something like that, to go through the pain to get one, then I can see why you wouldn't want someone to get one pain-free.

But tattoos in general are just a body adornment. I try not to put any more judgment on the cheerleader with a butterfly tattoo than I do on anyone else, and I don't think it says anything if people choose to get ink done and don't want to go though the pain to do it. It's all personal.

Besides, it's got to be difficult enough working on such a strange canvas without worrying about the canvas twitching from pain. If I was doing an intricate design on someone in a sensitive place, I think I'd rather they were numb so I didn't have to worry about making a mistake.

By croydon — On Jul 21, 2014

I don't think people should get tattoos if they can't take the pain. I mean, it's a permanent addition to your body. It should hurt a little bit. If you can't bear that then you probably won't be able to bear the healing process, or the fact that you can never completely get rid of the ink.

If you are worried about your ability to bear the pain then get a henna tattoo instead.

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