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 to a lifelong work of body art, right? Spoiler: getting a tattoo is usually more than a little painful, especially in areas where there's 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 is a ton of information and advice out there about the do's and don'ts of tattooing, and it can be difficult to determine which advice is actually professionally approved. A tattoo numbing cream may be available over the counter, but that does not mean they are safe in all situations. It is important to understand what active ingredients are 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 numbing cream.
In order to understand the safety and effectiveness of a tattoo numbing cream, we turned to three dermatologists for their expert advice. Continue reading for the complete guide to tattoo numbing creams.
Anesthetic tattoo cream : what is it ?
A tattoo anesthetic cream for the skin is a topical anesthetic cream that can be applied to help numb an area of the skin. According to board-certified dermatologists Sarah Gee, MD, and Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, lidocaine is the most common ingredient found in anesthetic agents. "This topical anesthetic blocks sodium channels in our cells and prevents nerve transmission, effectively reducing pain signals," Zubritsky explains. 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.
Tattoo anaesthetic cream for treatments
Tattoos??are notoriously painful during and after application. It's easy to understand why tattoo sufferers might want to seek out a tattoo numbing cream 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. "Tattoo numbing cream is generally considered safe to apply before tattoo treatments, especially in particularly sensitive areas," she says. "However, tattoo numbing cream may or may not be effective depending on the type of ingredients used. Also, tattoo numbing cream begins to fade as soon as it is wiped off, so it may not last the entire treatment time."
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.
Zubritsky agrees and adds that prescription tattoo numbing 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 just give the strongest possible tattoo numbing cream to patients to bring to their tattoo appointment? That's unfortunately 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," Gee explains.
How to use a tattoo anesthetic cream
It is important to use a tattoo numbing cream correctly to avoid any potentially dangerous side effects. These creams, if used correctly, can be ideal for numbing the skin before and after a tattoo, as well as before and after laser tattoo removal. Our experts gave general advice on numbing creams, but all cautioned that instructions may vary depending on the concentration and type of numbing agent used. Regardless of whether you are considering over-the-counter creams or hoping to obtain a prescription strength cream, you should consult your dermatologist to determine if numbing creams are right for you.
- Follow the application instructions: Whether you use an over-the-counter or prescription tattoo numbing cream, it is 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 tattoo numbing cream are not felt immediately. "It's best to apply the tattoo numbing 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
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 some mild side effects that can accompany the use of tattoo numbing cream. The most common side effects include irritation, redness, skin discoloration or mild burning, according to Zubritsky. Gee adds that side effects can 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, because too much lidocaine can be absorbed into the bloodstream, Rabach says. "There are reports of this primarily in people using numbing creams on large areas of the body, such as numbing cream for the legs before laser hair removal. But since tattoos ??can be large and occupy large surfaces, this also applies here," shares Rabach.
When to see a doctor
Although some side effects are mild, anesthetic creams can cause serious harm if not used properly. Severe toxicity includes seizures, hallucinations and even death, Gee warns. "Lidocaine toxicity at high doses can be fatal. If you experience tingling in your mouth and/or any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek medical attention immediately. In fact, many cases of tattoo removal and laser hair removal that have caused in severe disability and death do not involve the laser but rather lidocaine toxicity," shares Gee.
Side effects that may indicate that the 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 says. Rabach agrees and adds that fast, slow and irregular heartbeats, fainting, dizziness and seizures, changes in mood or consciousness and changes in breathing are all symptoms that require evaluation by a physician.