Use of Numbing Cream in Making Tattoos

It is very exciting for a lot of people to get a new tattoo, particularly if it is their first one. But when it comes to getting a tattoo, many are warned that it hurts. But what’s a little temporary pain for beautiful body art, right? However, getting a tattoo is naturally more than a little pain, specifically in areas where there is less flesh between the skin and bone. [1] 

The discomfort of getting tattooed generally does not bother people who have done it multiple times. However, if you have never had a tattoo, you’re probably concerned about how you will handle the discomfort or pain of getting one.

If you are planning to get a tattoo soon but thinking about the pain is making you reconsider it, know that you are not the only one who feels that way. In fact, a lot of people have given up on the idea of getting their skin inked, particularly those who have a low tolerance for pain. However, if you really want to get a tattoo, there is a way to make the process a bit bearable, and that is by using numbing creams. 

The use of numbing creams has become popular in recent years for their use during and after getting a tattoo to ease the pain of the process. [1] If you want to learn more about this, we are here to help you. In this post, we are giving you more information on the use of numbing cream in making tattoos.

What are Numbing Creams?

Woman applying cream on her arm with tattoos against black background, closeup

Numbing creams are topical anesthetics that are applied to the skin to help numb a specific area. Lidocaine is the most frequent component in numbing agents, such as numbing creams. It works to block sodium channels in the cells to prevent nerve transmission, which works effectively to reduce pain signals. [1]  

When applied to the skin, it soaks and numbs the nerve endings in the area to reduce pain before tattoo sessions, shots, and other procedures. Numbing creams are also sometimes used by parents or caregivers during home care procedures. [2] Prescription and compound topical numbing agents also contain other anesthetics. For instance, when compounded and used in-office, lidocaine is usually mixed with benzocaine or tetracaine for maximum effect. [1] 

Among the most effective numbing creams is BLT cream. It contains 20% benzocaine, 6% lidocaine, and 4% tetracaine. These ingredients, when combined, are much stronger at anesthetizing than when used alone. [1]  

Numbing Creams and Tattoo Treatments

Tattoo artist demonstrates the process of tattoo

Tattoo procedures are popularly known to be painful both during and after their application. It is easy to understand why many tattoo recipients are searching for numbing creams, as they are aiming to reduce their pain. But can numbing creams really help when it comes to tattoo procedures? 

Based on skin experts, skin-numbing creams can definitely help in minimizing the pain from tattoo treatments, and they are recommended. However, before you use one, you need to remember that numbing creams do not eliminate the pain but only decrease it. If you want a more effective cream, you can opt for a prescription numbing cream applied in the office, as they are the most effective type of topical numbing agent. [1] 

Numbing creams are considered safe to apply before tattoo treatments, particularly in parts that are sensitive. But there may be times when the numbing cream may or may not be effective. This depends on the type of ingredients the cream contains. In addition, numbing creams may begin to wear off as soon as it is wiped away. This means that it may not last the whole tattoo treatment duration. [1] 

How to Use Numbing Creams

Woman applying cream onto tattoo on her skin against light background, closeup

If you plan to use numbing creams before you get inked, it is important to use them properly in order to avoid any dangerous side effects. When applied appropriately, numbing creams are excellent for numbing the skin before and after getting a tattoo, as well as before and after having a laser tattoo removed. 

The directions for using numbing creams depend on the concentration and type of the numbing agent used. But no matter what type of numbing cream you wish to use, it is better to consult with a dermatologist first to determine what is the best cream for you. 

Below are the general rules and steps that you can follow when it comes to using numbing creams:

Always Follow the Application Instructions

Whether you use an over-the-counter or prescription cream, it is essential to read the dosage instructions. This way, you will be able to avoid experiencing any serious skin issues when you use a numbing cream. [1] 

Give the Cream Time to Take Effect

Keep in mind that the effects of numbing creams are not felt immediately. Therefore, it is best applied 30 to 60 minutes before the tattoo procedure. You can also apply it around 30 to 60 minutes before you want it to work. This way, you can be sure that your skin is already numb when the procedure begins. [1] 

Cover the Skin Area After Application

A lot of numbing creams stop working when they are wiped off. Therefore, if you want to have it help with the pain of getting a tattoo, you will want to keep the cream on until the last minute before the tattoo artist cleans and prepares the area. To do this, you can cover the cream. Since it takes about 30 to 60 minutes before they work, it is best to put it on ahead of time and cover it using an occlusive dressing or cellophane. [1] 

Do Not Apply the Cream Using Your Fingers

Always remember that numbing creams will numb whatever skin it comes into contact with. Therefore, it is very important to avoid getting it on any skin that you don’t want to be numb. This means that when applying the cream, do not use your fingers. It is better to apply it using a glove or other tools. [1] 

The numbing cream takes a while to become active after application. The tattoo artist begins tattooing as soon as it is functioning. For the first 45 to 60 minutes after surgery, there is no discomfort felt by the patient. However, this numbing cream effect gradually fades away after an hour or two. If you have a larger area to tattoo, it is especially crucial to consider where you can apply the cream and where it will be most helpful.

Advantages of Using Numbing Creams When Getting a Tattoo

Man with grimace of pain during tattooing process in studio

A variety of uses for numbing creams are common. Numbing creams, which are mostly utilized by skin specialists, are applied to the applicant’s skin during uncomfortable treatments to reduce pain. They are applied before inserting the ink needle in tattoo parlors as well. Numbing creams are an excellent approach to lessen the pain, as tattoo application involves needles and pain. 

People experience varying levels of pain when using needles. Numbing creams make certain that the pain is minimized when administered to the necessary location. There are numerous advantages to using numbing creams. Here are a few examples:

Relieving the Pain

The main purpose of using a numbing cream is to relieve the pain. It works with the neuro-receptors present in the skin, leaving it senseless. Otherwise, needles could be potentially painful. 

Making Long Sessions Easy

Often, tattoos require long and hardworking sessions of constant work. Under these circumstances, numbing creams really come in handy, providing long-lasting comfort so the extended sessions can become less tormenting in some aspects.

Making Things Easier for the Tattoo Artist

The tattoo artists deserve all the recognition for making such beautiful and intricate patterns on the skin and with such delicacy. But the job isn’t easy. Numbing creams also help artists in doing their job relentlessly. If the client is at home with the pain and isn’t flinching with every pinch of the needle, the artist would be confident in his work as well.

A typical numbing cream’s effects can last anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes. Therefore, a long period of comfort and ease is provided by a seemingly normal cream. They are greatly beneficial for the applicant’s pain endurance.

Disadvantages of Using Numbing Cream When Getting Inked

While there are a lot of advantages that come with using numbing creams when getting a tattoo, there are also a few disadvantages that you need to learn about. Below are some of them:

It Will Not Let You Experience The Whole Tattoo Process

Feeling some pain from the needles sinking into your skin is among the main process of getting a tattoo. When you apply numbing cream on your skin to skip the pain, it might make the whole process of getting inked feel incomplete. [3] 

It Might Not Be a Legit Experience for Tattoo Enthusiasts

When you have gone through an “incomplete” experience, it is very likely that you will receive judgmental stares. Also, when you share stories with other inked people, it might be challenging to relate with others since you have not gone through the same thing as they did after using a numbing cream. [3] 

Regulatory, Safety, and Efficacy

Clinicians increasingly use anesthetics creams to decrease the pain, which is caused due to laser procedures, superficial dermatologic, and anesthetic. Various anesthetic creams are available, but there is a problem with their relative safety and appropriate dermatologic uses.

There are some important things that are linked with the use of anesthetic creams, so some factors should be considered to reduce the adverse effect. They are as follows:

  • The quantity of product used.
  • Method of application.
  • The area on which the product is to be applied.
  • The time duration of product application.
  • Specific risk factors, such as drug interaction of patients.
  • The concentration of active ingredients in a cream.

Many adverse cases have been reported regarding the unfavorable use of anesthetic products. It also has a harmful effect during laser treatments when it is used on larger areas of the skin. Also, if a high concentration of numbing creams is used improperly on a large surface area, it may cause serious harmful effects, such as muscle twitching, respiratory depression, and more. Therefore, it is important to consult with your doctor before using any numbing cream on your skin.

Potential Side Effects of Numbing Creams

While numbing creams come with a lot of benefits, especially when it comes to getting inked, there are some people who should avoid using them. These include people who are allergic to lidocaine, people with a condition referred to as methemoglobinemia, and people who have cardiac conditions, particularly a heart block. Additionally, those with severe liver illness should avoid using numbing creams since they will not be able to metabolize the medicine properly. Numbing creams should also be used with caution in children.

The use of numbing creams may also involve some mild side effects. The most common ones are redness, irritation, mild burning, or skin discoloration. Aside from that, other side effects might include lightheadedness, nausea, blurry vision, and ringing of the ears. [1]  

Always keep in mind that overusing numbing creams sold over the counter might be harmful since too much lidocaine can enter the bloodstream. There have been reports of this, typically in individuals who used numbing lotions on big body surfaces, like the legs, prior to laser hair removal. However, since tattoos can be large and take up large surface areas, being cautious is also applicable here. [1] 


There is a widespread misunderstanding that numbing creams interact with tattoo ink and can significantly affect the outcome. This is completely untrue. In order to deprive the skin of its senses, numbing creams work with the nerve endings already existing there. Even numbing creams made specifically for tattoos are water-based to avoid interacting with the chemicals already found in ink.

It is widely known that tattoos and pain go hand in hand. The intensity of pain can vary depending on where on your body you are being tattooed. The most painful areas are those where there is no fat layer and thin skin, and even numbing cream can assist a little in certain areas. But for the most part, numbing creams work brilliantly while getting a tattoo.

Numbing creams are being used more frequently by professionals to lessen the discomfort associated with tattooing. As a result, caution should be taken when choosing and using it because abusing numbing creams can result in a number of issues. We hope this post helped you learn more about the use of numbing creams in making tattoos.

For more tips and recommendations, you may read our Ultimate Guide to Strong Lidocaine Creams.


[1] Duggan, C. (2022, June 13). Numbing creams for tattoos are trending-but are they safe? Byrdie. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from 

[2] Intermountain Healthcare, E. (2020). Numbing Cream. Intermountain Healthcare. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from

[3] Dumaguing, G. A. (2016, September 30). Cheating pain: The Pros and cons of going for a painless tattoo. Hush Anesthetic. Retrieved December 27, 2022, from