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Tattoo anaesthetic creams: They're all the rage, but are they safe?

Getting a new tattoo is exciting, especially if it's your first. Everyone warns you that getting a tattoo hurts, but what's a little temporary pain for a lifelong work of body art, right?

Spoiler: Getting a tattoo is usually more than a little painfulespecially in areas where there is less flesh between skin and bone.

In recent years, anesthetic creams have become popular for use during and after a tattoo to ease the pain of the process. There's a ton of information and advice out there about what to do and what not to do when it comes to tattooing, and it can be difficult to determine which advice is actually approved by a professional.

Anesthetic creams may be available over the counter, but that doesn't mean they're safe in every situation. It's important to understand which active ingredients can be found in the specific cream you intend to use during or after your tattoo treatment, but there are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to anesthetic cream.

A tattooed woman using tattoo anaesthetic cream
Photo by Isadora Tricerri on

In order to understand the safety and effectiveness of a tattoo numbing cream, we turned to three dermatologists for their expert advice. Read on for a complete guide to anesthetic tattoo creams.

Anesthetic tattoo cream : what is it ?

An anaesthetic skin cream is a cream that topical anesthetic which can be applied to help numb an area of skin. According to certified dermatologists Sarah GeeMD, and Lindsey ZubritskyMD, the lidocaine is the most common ingredient in anesthetics.

"This topical anesthetic blocks sodium channels in our cells and prevents nerve transmission, effectively reducing pain signals."explains Zubritsky. Compounded and prescription topical anesthetic agents also contain other anesthetics. When compounded and used in the office, Gee says lidocaine is often combined with benzocaine or tetracaine for maximum effect.

"For example, one of the most effective anesthetic creams is BLT cream, which contains 20 % of benzocaine, 6 % of lidocaine and 4 % of tetracaine. Together, these ingredients are much more effective at anesthetizing than when used alone," .

she adds

Anesthetic cream for treatments 

Tattoos??are notoriously painful during and after application. It's easy to understand why tattooed people might want to seek out tattoo numbing creams in the hope of reducing their pain, but can they really help?

"Skin numbing creams can certainly help minimize the pain caused by tattoo treatment and I recommend them," says Gee, but she adds two caveats: first, understand that topicals will reduce but not eliminate pain. Second, opt for a prescription anesthetic cream applied in the office, as they are the most effective.

Zubritsky agrees. "Anesthetic cream is generally considered safe to apply before tattoos, especially in particularly sensitive areas," she says. "However, numbing cream may or may not be effective depending on the type of ingredients used. What's more, the cream starts to fade as soon as it's wiped off, so it may not last the entire treatment."

The best numbing cream for tattoos

There's also this cream named Tattoo Butter with good reviews!

Order against over-the-counter

He there are many creams over-the-counter pain relievers, so what's the difference with prescription creams? The first and most obvious is the strength of the formulation. "The maximum concentration of lidocaine in OTC formulations is 4 %. The maximum concentration of lidocaine in a physician-issued prescription for home application is 5 %. often combine it with tetracaine for maximum effect," Gee explains.

woman with back tattoo
Creme anesthesiante tatouage : Ces crèmes ?sont à la mode, mais sont-elles sûres ? 1 - 2024

Zubritsky agrees, adding that prescription tattoo anesthetic creams are significantly more potent and effective. "These contain other ingredients or are composed of higher percentages of active anesthetics," she says.

Lidocaine alone as a topical agent (especially at low concentrations) is not ideal for numbing surgical procedures or tattoo treatments, shares Zubritsky. So why not simply give patients the strongest possible tattoo cream to bring to their tattoo appointment?

Unfortunately, that's not safe," shares Gee. "These are applied in the office so the patient can be monitored and they can be applied safely and correctly. As the percentage of lidocaine and the body surface area of application increases, so does the risk of toxicity, so it's very important that these are used correctly," explains Gee.

How do I use tattoo anaesthetic cream? 

It's important to use numbing creams correctly to avoid any potentially dangerous side effects. These creams, if used correctly, can be ideal for numbing the skin before and after tattooing, as well as before and after laser tattoo removal.

Our experts gave general advice on creams, but all warned that instructions may vary depending on the concentration and type of anesthetic agent used. Regardless of whether you're considering over-the-counter creams or hoping to obtain a prescription-strength cream, you should consult your dermatologist to determine whether anesthetic creams are right for you.

  • Follow the application instructions: Whether you use an over-the-counter or prescription tattoo cream, it's important to read the dosage instructions. Certified dermatologists Morgan Rabach and Zubritsky add a numbing cream to be used once a day.
  • Give it time to work: The effects of anesthetic creams are not felt immediately. "It is preferable to apply the anaesthetic cream 30 to 60 minutes before any procedure" Zubritsky explained. Rabach agrees and also recommends applying it about 30 to 60 minutes before you want it to work.
  • Cover after application: Many numbing creams stop working once they are wiped off. If you're hoping it will help with the pain of a new tattoo, you'll want to save the cream until the last minute before the tattoo artist needs to clean and prep the area. To do this, Rabach recommends covering the cream. "They take 30 to 60 minutes to work, so it's best to put them on ahead of time, then cover them with an occlusive dressing or cellophane," she says.
  • Do not apply with fingers: This may seem fairly obvious, but the anaesthetic cream numbs the skin that it comes in contact with, so it's important to avoid putting it on skin that you don't need to numb. Zubritsky says a thin layer is all that's needed and should always be used under the supervision of a physician using a glove or tongue depressor.

Potential side effects of tattoo anaesthetic creams

With all the potential benefits of a tattoo numbing cream, some people should not use them. "People who are allergic to lidocaine, people with a condition called methemoglobinemia, and people with certain heart conditions, especially "heart block," Gee warns. "Also, if you have severe liver disease, you will not be able to metabolize the drug properly, so it should be avoided or used with extreme caution. They should be used with caution in children."

There are a few minor side effects that may accompany the use of anesthetic tattoo cream. The most common side effects include irritation, redness, skin discoloration or slight burning.according to Zubritsky. Gee adds that side effects may also include ringing in the ears, dizziness, blurred vision and nausea.

The main thing that's dangerous is using too many over-the-counter anesthetic creams, as too much lidocaine can be absorbed into the bloodstream, explains Rabach.

"There are reports of this mainly in people using anaesthetic creams on large areas of the body, such as anaesthetic leg cream before laser hair removal. But since tattoos ??can be large and occupy large areas, it applies here too," shares Rabach.

When should you see a doctor?

Although some side effects are mild, anesthetic creams can cause serious damage if used incorrectly. Severe toxicity includes convulsions, hallucinations and even death, Gee warns. "Lidocaine toxicity in high doses can be fatal. If you experience tingling in the mouth and/or any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek immediate medical attention.

In fact, many cases of tattoo removal and laser hair removal that have caused severe disability and death do not involve the laser, but rather the toxicity of lidocaine," shares Gee.

When to consult a doctor when using an anaesthetic cream
Creme anesthesiante tatouage : Ces crèmes ?sont à la mode, mais sont-elles sûres ? 2 - 2024

Side effects that may indicate anesthetic cream is absorbed systemically, resulting in lidocaine toxicity, include irregular heartbeat, numbness or tingling around the mouth or tongue, dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, restlessness or muscle twitching, Zubritsky explains.

Rabach agrees, adding that fast, slow and irregular heartbeats, fainting spells, dizziness and convulsions, changes in mood or consciousness, and changes in breathing are all symptoms that require evaluation by a physician.


Can I use anaesthetic cream before a tattoo?

Yes, it's perfectly possible to apply a numbing cream before getting a tattoo. It's even a common practice to reduce discomfort or pain during the tattooing procedure. However, it's important to note that the effectiveness of the cream can vary from person to person. It also depends on its quality and the way it is applied.

It is therefore advisable to consult a healthcare professional or experienced tattoo artist for advice on the best way to use it. Also, remember that while the cream may ease the pain, it won't totally eliminate it.

Why no tattoo numbing cream?

There are several reasons why it's not advisable to use anaesthetic cream before a tattoo. Firstly, these creams can affect the quality of the tattoo. Indeed, they can distort the skin, making it difficult for the artist to tattoo with precision.

In addition, the cream may interact negatively with tattoo inks, altering colors or causing allergic reactions. Finally, some people may experience adverse reactions to these creams, such as rashes or irritation. For these reasons, it's generally preferable to tolerate the temporary pain of a tattoo rather than risk these potential complications.

What painkillers should I use before getting a tattoo?

Before getting a tattoo, some people want to take a painkiller to ease the discomfort of the needle. Although everyone has a different tolerance to pain, many tattoo artists advise staying away from painkillers that are anticoagulants, such as aspirin, as they can cause excessive bleeding during tattooing. Recommended painkillers are generally non-steroidal analgesics such as ibuprofen. It's important to note that the use of painkillers should be discussed with your tattoo artist or doctor prior to the procedure to ensure safe and effective analgesia.

What's the most effective anaesthetic cream?

The most effective anesthetic cream varies according to the application and the individual. Among the most widely recognized, however, is Lidocaine. This topical cream is used for its anesthetic properties in many medical procedures, including blood sampling, injections and certain types of surgery. It is effective in blocking pain signals from the nerves to the skin, resulting in a less painful experience for the patient. However, it's important to note that pain tolerance varies from person to person, so the effectiveness of the cream may also vary. For optimal use, we recommend following the manufacturer's or healthcare professional's instructions.

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Gabriela is the creator of the blog, a platform dedicated to natural cosmetics and skin care. Her blog is an invaluable source of information and advice on how to achieve perfect, glowing skin. Gabriela passionately shares her in-depth knowledge of natural products, emerging trends and practical tips for an effective skincare routine.

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