Tattoos have long been a powerful form of self-expression, but the discomfort of the tattooing process can deter even the most enthusiastic individuals. Enter numbing creams, promising relief from the sting of needles and the burn of ink.

This article delves into the question: does numbing cream work for tattoos? By examining the science behind these creams, the intricacies of the tattooing process, and real-world experiences, we aim to unravel the effectiveness of numbing creams and provide a comprehensive guide for those considering this option to make their tattoo journey less painful.

What Is Numbing Cream?

Numbing cream, often called topical anesthetic, is a specialized formulation designed to alleviate pain and discomfort when applied to the skin’s surface. This cream contains active ingredients that temporarily numb the nerve endings in the skin, reducing or blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

While numbing creams have diverse applications, from minor medical procedures to cosmetic treatments, they have gained notable attention for their potential role in tattoo pain management.

Do Tattoo Artists Use Numbing Cream? Unveiling the Artist’s Toolkit

Tattoo artists are increasingly using numbing creams to enhance their clients’ experience during the tattooing process. These creams can minimize discomfort, allowing artists to work more efficiently and clients to endure more extended sessions.

However, the use of numbing creams varies among artists, often influenced by personal preferences, design complexity, and client pain tolerance. Understanding the relationship between tattoo artists and numbing creams can provide a nuanced understanding of the modern tattooing experience.

Exploring The Spectrum: Different Types Of Numbing Creams For Tattoos

Numbing creams are a potential solution for tattoo discomfort, with different formulations offering unique benefits. Understanding these creams can help individuals make informed decisions about pain management during their tattoo journey.

1. Over-the-counter (OTC) Numbing Creams

These are readily available numbing creams that can be purchased without a prescription. They usually contain lower concentrations of active ingredients, making them suitable for minor skin procedures and less intricate tattoos. While effective for reducing mild pain, their potency might not be sufficient for more extensive or intricate tattoo sessions.

2. Prescription-Strength Numbing Creams

Recommended for more intensive tattoo sessions, prescription-strength numbing creams contain higher concentrations of anesthetic agents like lidocaine or prilocaine. These creams are usually provided under medical supervision and are tailored to individuals with varying pain thresholds. Tattoo artists might suggest or collaborate with clients to determine the best prescription for their needs.

3. Topical Anesthetic Gels

In addition to cream-based formulations, some tattoo artists also utilize topical anesthetic gels. These gels are easy to apply and provide a controlled and consistent numbing effect. Their transparency can be advantageous for artists seeking to maintain a clear view of the tattoo area during the procedure.

4. Pre-Packaged Numbing Cream Kits

Some tattoo studios offer pre-packaged numbing cream kits, combining various creams, gels, or sprays to provide a comprehensive pain management solution. These kits may include step-by-step instructions on application and dosage, simplifying the process for clients and artists.

5. Tattoo-Specific Numbing Creams

Tailored for the unique demands of tattooing, these creams are formulated to minimize interference with ink absorption and overall tattoo quality. Tattoo-specific numbing creams are designed to ensure that the numbing effect doesn’t compromise the final aesthetic of the artwork.

6. DIY Numbing Creams

While not recommended due to potential risks, some individuals may attempt to create numbing creams using home ingredients. However, this approach needs to be more precise regarding dosage and safety, and it can result in adverse reactions or inadequate pain relief.

How To Properly Apply Tattoo Numbing Cream?

Applying numbing cream before a tattoo can significantly enhance the overall experience by minimizing discomfort. To ensure its effectiveness and your safety, follow these step-by-step guidelines for applying tattoo numbing cream:

  • Consultation with Tattoo Artist: Before applying any numbing cream, consult your tattoo artist. They can guide the type of cream to use, its compatibility with the tattoo process, and any specific recommendations.
  • Cleanse the Area: Thoroughly clean the area where the tattoo will be placed using a gentle cleanser and water. Pat the area dry with a clean towel to remove dirt, oils, or residues that might interfere with the cream’s absorption.
  • Read Instructions Carefully: Read the instructions provided with the numbing cream carefully. Different creams may have varying application guidelines, including recommended wait times and dosage.
  • Wear Gloves: To maintain hygiene, wear disposable gloves before handling the numbing cream. This prevents the transfer of bacteria from your hands to the cream and subsequently to your skin.
  • Apply a Thin Layer: Apply a thin and even layer of numbing cream over the tattoo area using a clean cotton swab or your gloved finger. Avoid applying too much cream, as excessive amounts might hinder tattooing or lead to inconsistent numbing.
  • Massage Gently: Gently massage the cream into the skin using circular motions. This helps the cream penetrate the skin’s upper layers and ensures even coverage.
  • Cover the Area: If your tattoo artist recommends, cover the creamed area with plastic wrap or a sterile bandage. This can enhance the cream’s effectiveness by creating a barrier that prevents it from drying out and promotes absorption.
  • Allow Adequate Time: Follow the specified wait time mentioned in the instructions. Depending on the cream’s formulation, this typically ranges from 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, the numbing agents will dull the pain sensation.
  • Wipe Off Excess Cream: After the designated wait time, gently wipe off the excess cream using a clean, damp cloth. Ensure no residue remains, as it could interfere with the tattooing process.
  • Notify Your Tattoo Artist: Inform your tattoo artist when you’ve completed the numbing cream application. They’ll assess if the cream has taken effect and adjust their technique or schedule accordingly.
  • Trust Professional Expertise: Remember that while numbing cream can reduce discomfort, it might not eliminate all sensations. Trust the expertise of your tattoo artist, who can adjust their approach to accommodate your comfort level during the tattooing process.

Does Numbing Cream Work for Tattoos?

does numbing cream work for tattoos

The allure of a pain-free tattoo experience has led many to explore the potential of numbing creams. These creams, containing local anesthetics, are marketed as a solution to minimize the discomfort associated with tattooing. While they do offer relief for some, their efficacy is typical. Factors such as individual pain tolerance, tattoo location, and cream application technique significantly determine the extent of pain reduction. While numbing creams can take the edge off, they might not eliminate the sensations linked with tattooing.

What Supplies Do You Need for Tattoo Numbing?

  1. Numbing cream.
  2. Clean cotton swabs or gloves.
  3. Cleanse skin.
  4. Plastic wrap or sterile bandage.
  5. A clean, damp cloth.

Benefits And Drawbacks

Benefits of Numbing Cream for Tattoos:

  • Pain Relief: Numbing creams temporarily relieve tattooing discomfort, making the experience more manageable for individuals with lower pain thresholds.
  • Extended Sessions: By dulling pain sensations, numbing creams enable longer tattoo sessions, allowing artists to create more intricate designs in a single sitting.
  • Client Comfort: Numbing creams enhance client comfort, making tattooing less daunting and intimidating, especially for first-timers.
  • Precise Placement: The reduced discomfort allows artists to work with greater precision, resulting in cleaner lines and finer details in the tattoo design.
  • Positive First Impressions: For those new to tattoos, a pain-free initial experience can encourage continued interest in the art form.

Drawbacks and Considerations:

  • Variable Effectiveness: Numbing creams may only work equally well for some due to differences in pain tolerance, skin type, and cream absorption.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience skin allergies or irritations in response to numbing cream ingredients, leading to unwanted side effects.
  • Inconsistent Results: Achieving uniform numbing across the entire tattoo area can be challenging, potentially resulting in uneven pain relief.
  • Artistic Impact: Creams might interfere with ink absorption, potentially affecting the final color and vibrancy of the tattoo.
  • Safety Concerns: Incorrect application or excessive use of numbing creams can lead to adverse reactions or numbness lasting longer than desired.
  • Added Cost: High-quality numbing creams, especially prescription-strength options, can be costly, adding an extra expense to the tattoo process.

Tattoo Aftercare With Numbing Cream Usage: A Comprehensive Approach

Tattoo aftercare is crucial, even with numbing cream used during the tattooing process, as it ensures optimal healing and longevity of the new tattoo.

  • Follow Artist’s Instructions: Your tattoo artist will provide specific aftercare instructions. Follow them diligently, as they’re tailored to the unique needs of your tattoo.
  • Gently Cleanse: Clean the tattooed area with mild, unscented soap and lukewarm water. Gently pat the area dry with a clean, soft cloth or let it air dry.
  • Moisturize: Apply a thin layer of fragrance-free, hypoallergenic tattoo aftercare lotion to keep the skin moisturized. Avoid over-application, which can suffocate the skin.
  • Avoid Tight Clothing: Opt for loose clothing to prevent friction and irritation on the healing tattoo.
  • ¬†Avoid Sun Exposure: Shield your tattoo from direct sunlight for a few weeks. UV rays can fade colors and hinder the healing process.
  • Resist Picking or Scratching: Refrain from picking at scabs or scratching the tattooed area, as this can damage the delicate healing skin and impact the outcome.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water for skin recovery and healing.
  • Monitor for Infection: Keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as excessive redness, swelling, pain, or discharge. If any concerning symptoms arise, seek medical attention promptly.
  • Be Patient: Remember that the healing process varies from person to person. Allow your tattoo ample time to heal fully.


Is Numbing Cream Safe For Tattooing?

Yes, numbing cream is generally safe for tattooing when used as directed and under the guidance of a healthcare professional or tattoo artist.

What Is The Cost Of Tattoo Numbing Cream?

The cost of tattoo numbing cream varies, ranging from around $20 for over-the-counter options to higher prices for prescription-strength formulations, depending on the brand and quantity.

How Long Can You Leave Numbing Cream On Before A Tattoo?

The recommended time to apply numbing cream before a tattoo is 20 minutes to an hour, per the product’s instructions and the tattoo artist’s advice.

Is It Okay To Use Numbing Cream Before A Tattoo?

Numbing cream before a tattoo is generally okay and can help minimize pain.

What Is Lidocaine?

Lidocaine is a local anesthetic commonly used in medical and cosmetic procedures, including tattooing, to numb the skin and reduce pain sensations temporarily.


Numbing creams for tattoos offer relief from discomfort but may not eliminate all sensations. Their effectiveness varies based on skin type and cream application. Consultation with a tattoo artist and medical professional is crucial for informed decision-making. Balancing pain management, safety, and the desire for a well-healed tattoo requires careful consideration and communication with experts.