The Best Numbing Cream For Tattoos
It’s true – tattoos are painful. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom or a 6ft 5in 300lb heavyweight boxer, all tattoos hurt! This is where tattoo numbing creams come in.
However, you should be aware that not all numbing products should be used on tattoos, and some could actually end up ruining your ink if you’re not careful.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled and reviewed a selection of the best tattoo numbing creams currently on the market for safe and effective use during your next tattoo session.
Our favorite numbing product at the moment is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use, and remains effective for over three hours during a tattooing procedure.
1. Zensa Numbing Cream
Zensa Numbing Cream is a maximum-strength, long-lasting and fast-acting product that contains large amounts of natural ingredients and helpful additions such as vitamin E to provide anti-inflammatory properties and to help calm itching, burning and stinging during and after the procedure.
This vegan numbing product is FDA approved, steroid-free, safe around sensitive areas and proven to keep tattoo ink unaffected once applied. The numbing effect remains active for over three hours, which is one of the highest durations in the industry.
The innovative formulation also ensures that it does not constrict blood flow, meaning that it will have no negative effects on the tattooing procedure.
Zensa products are manufactured in the USA and are Health Canada Certified.
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 5%
Inactive Ingredients: Benzyl Alcohol, Carbopol, Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, Vitamin E Acetate, Purified Water.
- Fast-acting and long-lasting
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Backed by federal government certification
Zensa numbing cream is the highest-rated skin numbing product currently on the market. Extensive product research has consistently shown the product to remain effective for over three hours when given 30-45 minutes to absorb into the skin.
Not only is this cream extremely reliable, but it’s also backed by a federal government certification that provides proof of its stated effectiveness. This is without a doubt our most recommended tattoo numbing product currently available.
2. Ebanel Numb520
Numb520 is a hugely popular cream that contains 5% lidocaine for a very strong numbing effect. The cream is developed by Ebanel Laboratories in California, an organization experienced in developing high-standard skincare products as well as being global leaders in fields such as stem cell-conditioned media technology.
Once applied, you should start to feel the cream begin to work in under 5 minutes, and the maximum numbing effect should be reached within 20-25 minutes, which is extremely quick compared to other creams of the same type.
You should feel the maximum numbing effect for a minimum of around an hour, but some customers have experienced numbing for up to double that.
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 5%
Inactive Ingredients: Water, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Propylene Glycol, Benzyl Alcohol, Ehtoxydiglycol, Lecithin, Neopentyl Glycol Dicarprylate/Dicarpate, Sodiuym Polyacrylate, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Trideceth-10, Cholesterol, Allantoin, Benzyl Alcohol, Tocopherol Acetate, Polysorbate-80
Numb520 is a fast-acting and long-lasting numbing product that has been tried and tested to good effect for a number of years. It contains the highest amount of lidocaine available for over-the-counter purchase and is effective for up to two hours.
Numb520 also contains patented technology called Liposomal the boost the absorsion qualities of the product while still allowing the cream to remain non-greasy and odor-free.
3. Uber Numb 5%
Uber Numb 5% Lidocaine Topical Anesthetic is a maximum-dose non-prescription painkilling cream specifically designed to be super absorbent and fast-acting, and it’s one of the most popular tattoo numbing creams currently on the market.
The vitamin-enriched cream is to be applied liberally around 1 hour before tattooing commences, and once at maximum strength, the numbing effect is officially claimed to last for one hour, but customers have claimed that it has worked for up to five hours!
The cream is non-oily and does not negatively affect the tattooing process or the ink in any way. Plus, the added Vitamin E really helps to keep inflammation down and re-hydrate the skin.
Also, the 4 ounces supplied in the large tub is more than enough for at least one tattoo, and is probably enough for one or two more as well.
It must be noted, meanwhile, that while many hundreds (and probably thousands) of customers have been extremely happy with the experience of using this product while getting tattooed, there does also appear to be a small number of users who didn’t quite get the desired effect, and the cream either didn’t last as long as advised, or the effect wasn’t strong enough to block out all pain.
However, as already mentioned, the vast majority of customers have had amazing experiences with this product, and would have absolutely no hesitation in buying it again or recommending it to others.
And if you’re still not convinced, UberScientific will gladly refund your full purchase price, no questions asked if you’re not satisfied with the problem. What is there to lose?
Ingredients: Lidocaine 5%, Allantoin Gel, Carbomer, Citric Acid, Deionized Water, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Triethanolamine
While most lidocaine-based products on the market are only 4% strength, this one at the FDA non-prescription legal limit of 5%, meaning that it’s got huge potential to help ease pain throughout your tattooing session. Added to this is propylene glycol, which enhances skin penetration, meaning that the cream is able to reach deep down to numb nerve endings in order to block pain signals effectively.
Uber Numb has hundreds of great reviews backing up its effectiveness. If you’re looking for a numbing agent to get you through potentially an entire tattooing session, then this cream would be hard to beat due to it’s unrivalled numbing strength and generous supplemented ingredients.
4. Lidocaine Blue Tattoo Numbing Gel
A very popular numbing gel created by an anesthetic specialist company in California. The naming of Lidocaine Blue is, unsurprisingly, due to its bright and colorful appearance.
Lidocaine Blue contains a mixture of lidocaine (4%) and tetracaine (2%) as well as an active vasoconstrictor added to help reduce bleeding, bruising and swelling, and to help prolong the numbing effect.
All of these ingredients combined ensure that the gel has the best chance of creating the desired numbing effect across as many different circumstances as possible.
Unlike many other products on this list, due to its mixture of active ingredients, Lidocaine Blue Gel must be used on broken skin, and will be ineffective if applied before the tattooing actually commences. Therefore, it’s best to let the artist work on a small area of your tattoo before proceeding to rub the gel into your skin.
However, the advantage in this situation is that the numbing effect begins extremely quickly – between 2-5 minutes! And the effects last on average for about two hours, which is very respectable compared to other numbing products.
Using this method of numbing application over standard numbing creams means that there is no messing around at home applying the cream, and then having to wait for the numbing effect to fully kick-in, which can take up to 45 minutes with other numbing creams. This gel’s activation time is nearly instantaneous.
You must remember to remove any excess gel from the area before the tattoo recommences otherwise the skin could become slippery, which could cause difficulties for your tattoo artist.
Finally, it’s not recommended to reapply more Lidocaine Blue Gel in the same tattooing session once the initial application’s numbing effect has worn off. This prevents the risk of possible side-effects from applying too much.
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 4%, Tetracaine 2%, and vasuclar constrictor to reduce swelling, bruising and bleeding
Overall another great pain reliever with some really positive customer reviews. The fact that the numbing effect begins straight after application means less waiting around unlike some other creams on the market where activation can take up to an hour.
The mixture of active numbing ingredients along with an added vasoconstrictor to prevent excessive bleeding, swelling and bruising makes this something you should definitely try next time you go in for a tattoo.
5. Vasocaine Tattoo Numbing Spray
Unlike the rest of the products on this page, this Novocaine agent is actually a 5% lidocaine-based spray instead of a gel/cream.
Vasocaine Tattoo Numbing Spray is an FDA-approved 5% lidocaine-based agent developed by a US-based company called Dermal Source, who have been making high-quality cosmetic products for over 12 years.
Unlike most other products in this list, Vasocaine spay is applied to broken skin, meaning that it should be sprayed on after a small amount of your tattoo has already been completed. Please note that it will not be at all effective if applied to unbroken skin.
Once sprayed, leave the Vasocaine to soak on your skin for about 90 seconds before proceeding to wipe off the excess. After this, the numbing effect will fully kick in after around 5 minutes, meaning that there is hardly any waiting around unlike when using many other lidocaine numbing creams.
And the true beauty of this spray is that once the numbing effect has started to wear off around the tattoo during your session, just give the area 2-3 more sprays and you’re good to go again! This makes it perfect to use if you’ve got a long tattoo session booked in.
That is not all though. Vasocaine numbing spray also contains an active vascular constrictor. This ensures that bleeding, bruising and swelling is kept to a minimum throughout the tattooing session by restricting blood flow to the area.
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 5%, vascular constrictor
Inactive Ingredients: Hydrochloride, purified water, propylene glycol, sodium metabisulfite, citric said, epinephrine HCI, diazolldinyl urea, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, disodium EDTA
The feedback left by hundreds of other customers for Vasocaine is nothing short of amazing, and you can clearly see why from the write-up above.
The 4oz bottle ensures that you will have more than enough spray for a tattoo no matter how big – and the fact that you can continue to ‘top-up’ the numbing effect throughout your entire tattooing session without any negative effects to the outcome of the tattoo means that it’s truly one of the most effective numbing products around on the market today.
Give it a try and I’m extremely confident that you will not be disappointed.
Numbing Creams: What You Need To Know
Numbing creams are a type of medicinal product used to numb areas of the skin (or entrances such as the mouth) when applied.
Not all tattoo numbing creams are created equal however as primary ingredients vary amongst the dozens of products available. These ingredients control the numbing effectiveness, and also dictate how the numbing effect is actually achieved.
Numbing creams are used in a huge variety of scenarios, from cosmetic procedures such as tattoos and piercings to medical, dental and optical procedures.
What you must understand, however, is that not all types of numbing creams/products can be used for all scenarios interchangeably, and some products should definitely not be used on tattoos.
If you would like to use a numbing spray or cream to help with your tattoo pain, then you must ensure that you choose that correct type of cream. This includes making sure that cream contains the correct ingredients, as well as correct strengths/dosages.
Failure to ensure you choose the correct type of numbing cream can cause many problems, including:
- Tattoo ink not inserting and setting in the skin as it should, causing adverse effects to the quality and look of your tattoo
- Your tattoo artist realizing that you have used the wrong numbing cream and therefore refuses to tattoo you
- The wrong type of numbing agent not actually working or numbing the tattoo at all
- Skin irritation caused by the wrong cream, which can actually make the tattooing experience even more painful and irritating
Luckily for you – all numbing products on this page are completely safe to use either before, during or after your tattooing session (depending on the type of product and accompanying instructions).
How Do Tattoo Numbing Creams Work?
Different types of numbing agents work in different ways when it comes to how the ingredients affect the pain receptors in your body. There are three mains ways in which numbing agents work.
The method of nerve blocking is how many types of local anesthetics work, and also some types of tattoo numbing creams.
Nerve-blocking chemicals added to these numbing creams work by reducing the amount of pain signals that the nerves can send to the brain at any one time.
Although most of these nerve-blocking chemicals do a good job at dampening the pain, they don’t usually cancel out the pain completely (as the nerves are still effectively working as normal, it’s the pathways between the nerves and the brain that are blocked), and therefore nerve blockers are normally mixed with nerve deadeners (explained below) to maximize the numbing effect.
While nerve blockers just stop the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain, nerve deadeners actually temporarily stop the nerves from working, and therefore stopping them from registering any pain at all.
The main issue with nerve deadeners when it comes to numbing tattoo pain is that these deadening chemicals don’t normally penetrate down far enough into the skin to deaden many of the nerves that are affected by the tattooing needles.
These deeper nerves are situated within a layer of deeper skin called the dermis layer. Therefore, as mentioned above, most of the time nerve blockers and deadeners are normally mixed together within the same numbing cream to maximize effectiveness.
While vasoconstrictors themselves aren’t actual numbing agents, what they do is cause blood vessels to contract, which allows blood flow to slow down. This in-turn causes chemical absorption to slow also.
When vasoconstrictors are added to numbing creams that contain various types of numbing agents, the reduced rate of blood flow causes the effects of other numbing agents to last longer, and thus reducing customer pain for longer durations of time.
A positive side effect of this reduced blood flow is that the amount of bleeding over the area being tattooed will likely be reduced also.
Potential Side Effects
As long as you stick to the recommended doses, the chances of any side effects occurring will generally be low, and any side-effects experienced will probably be very minor.
Side effects normally occur in people who have very sensitive skin, or in people who have any underlying skin conditions at the time of application.
If you believe that your skin may react adversely to the application of any numbing agents, it’s always best to speak to a doctor before any attempts to apply a product.
Side effects can either occur immediately at the time of application, or at a later time. However, the vast majority of minor side effects generally last for no longer than a day or two.
The main side effects experienced when using numbing products include:
- Minor skin irritation
- Burning/tingling sensations at the site of application
Do Tattoo Numbing Creams Work For Everybody?
To some extent, yes, but there are a few factors involved that determine just how effective any numbing cream might be.
What you must remember is that everybody’s skin is made up differently. Different sensitivities, different thicknesses and slightly different nerve structures. Therefore, everybody will feel varying degrees of effect when a type of numbing agent is applied to their skin.
The time in which the numbing effect takes to kick in, the time length of time the effects last will also vary from person to person.
Not only this, but different numbing creams will have different effects due to the varying strengths of numbing agents such as Lidocaine.
Lots of people, however, are expecting to receive some sort of incredible magic potion when they purchase a tattoo numbing cream. They expect the product to work instantly, last for hours and block out 100% of pain and feeling. In the real world, this is just not going to happen, so it’s important that you remain realistic.
What I will say though, is that numbing creams are incredibly popular, and are sold in high demand for a reason. For the vast majority of people, they do work very effectively, and many customers are delighted with the outcome.
As long as you buy one of the reputable and proven numbing products listed above and follow the application instructions provided, then you should feel confident that you’ll be able to get through your tattooing session with noticeably less pain and suffering when compared to not using any numbing products at all.
How To Apply Tattoo Numbing Cream
- Ensure that you choose a suitable tattoo numbing product – This should be relatively easy to ensure, as long as you’ve read the rest of this article and chosen one of our approved tattoo numbing creams from the list above.
- Wash the area – You will want to ensure that you wash and scrub the area of skin you wish to use the numbing cream on before applying it. This should hopefully remove most of the dirt and oil from the area, thus making the numbing cream more effective, as it will be easier for your skin to fully absorb the cream.
- Put on a pair of waterproof gloves – a pair of gloves that completely block out water/moisture (such as latex) should ensure that the tattoo numbing cream doesn’t seep through the material and cause your hands/fingertips to go tingly and numb.
- Apply the cream – Read the instructions provided with your specific product to find out how much cream you should be applying to the area. Some instructions are quite lacking in their detail, so just do your best to interpret the intent of the instructions. For example, if the instructions state to “apply a thick amount of cream to the area” then just ensure that a generous amount is added.
- Cover the area in plastic (saran) wrap – Although not all creams require or ask for the area to be wrapped, the heat underneath the saran wrapping usually helps to activate the cream, speeding up the process in which it will begin to numb. The plastic wrap can be fixed in place by using a couple of strips of medical tape
- Remove the wrap – Keep the plastic wrap applied to the area for about 30-45 minutes, until you can feel the numbing effect begin to work. Once you can feel it working, the wrap has done its job and can be removed.
- Go to the studio and get that tattoo!
How long does numbing cream work for?
After you initially apply the numbing cream, it will start working more-or-less straight away. From that point, the numbing cream should hopefully have a good effect on the applied area of skin over the next 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, although this varies from person to person and can also vary depending on which type/brand of cream that you use, although most should work roughly for the same amount of time if the correct dosage is applied.
After this timeframe has elapsed, the numbing effect will start to slowly wear off over the next 10-20 minutes, until the numbing product no longer has any effect.
Will my skin stay numb for longer during my tattoo if I leave the cream on for longer before getting to the studio?
Leaving the cream on for a longer amount of time before getting your tattoo will have no beneficial effects, and will in-fact only decrease the amount of time in which the numbing cream will help you during your session.
What do I need to tell my tattoo artist about using a numbing product?
You should let your tattoo artist know before you arrive that you intend to apply a type of numbing product before turning up for your tattoo, and you should also let them know the name and brand of the cream so they can ensure that no problems are likely to arise throughout the session while using this specific numbing product.
Some tattoo artists will only let you use numbing products if you buy the product directly from them beforehand. This is mainly so the tattoo artist will know everything about the product already and can be sure that it won’t cause any problems while tattooing you.
You must also be aware that a small number of tattoo artists refuse to tattoo customers that have applied a numbing product to their skin beforehand, so it’s a good idea to contact your tattoo artist first to ensure they have no problems with you using a numbing cream before/throughout the session.
Why don’t tattoo artists ever use numbing creams ?
There are a few reasons as to why tattoo artists never normally apply numbing products to their customers:
1) Many tattoo artists, especially older, more traditional ones see pain while getting a tattoo as an important part of the whole experience. They believe that experiencing pain and discomfort during the tattooing process will make the tattoo feel more meaningful once completed.
2) Because tattoo numbing creams don’t work for everybody, some tattoo artists feel that for many customers the application of the product might possibly be a pointless exercise, and applying the product could potentially, pointlessly cause some side-effects to the customer, such as tingly skin, redness and swelling, all while the pain wasn’t really reduced much anyway.
3) Tattoo numbing creams cost money, which many tattoo artists may not wish to pay on top of all of their other equipment costs.
Are there any numbing creams that tattoo artists won’t like me using?
Tattoo artists don’t really like anything that contains lots of ‘glycerin’. Glycerin-based products can make your skin very slippery, and this can make it extremely difficult and problematic for your artist as they try to tattoo you.
Many numbing creams and gels however do contain a small amount of glycerin, so if you do end up buying a glycerin-based product, just be sure to remove any excess cream from the surface of your skin once the numbing effect has begun, before tattooing commences.
Do I need to wear gloves when applying numbing cream?
Yes. If you try to rub the cream into the area with just your bare fingertips, your fingertips are obviously going to start going numb, which won’t feel very nice.
If I apply more than the recommended dosage, will it numb the skin better?
This is something you shouldn’t even consider doing.
Although the numbing effect may feel stronger if you apply more cream; applying an overdose of numbing chemicals to your skin can give you nasty side-effects, and will most likely cause the pain to feel even worse than normal once the numbing effect has worn off.
Always use the correct dosage as displayed on the packaging of your chosen numbing product to minimize the risk of unwelcome side-effects.
Can I apply numbing cream to stop pain after getting a tattoo?
This is not recommended, your tattoo will likely be sore and swollen. Applying any type of product other than an appropriate moisturizing lotion will likely prevent the tattoo from breathing properly as the skin tries to recover, which can cause the tattoo to take longer to heal.
So there you have it – a definitive list of the best tattoo numbing creams currently available on the market.
Tattoo numbing creams aren’t magic bullets, and results do vary from person-to-person – but for a large majority of people, they do work extremely well at dulling pain signals.
If you’re not very good at handling pain, why not give a numbing cream a try? Hopefully, it can be the one thing that enables you to push through that tattooing session so that you can get that beautiful piece of ink you’ve been wanting for so long.