Getting inked hurts. Some places sting more than others.
But the best numbing creams for tattoos deaden the pain.
If you need a little help sitting still when the burning begins, get topical anesthetic.
You’ll learn about how to manage the pain of getting a tattoo in the reviews below.
Best Numbing Creams for Tattoos & Piercing
Now, here are the best tattoo numbing creams.
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine Numbing Cream
If you’re running late for your appointment at the tattoo parlor, don’t panic. Apply this water-based numbing cream since it starts working in as little as 2 minutes.
It reaches maximum potency after about 20 minutes.
With the maximum over-the-counter concentration of lidocaine HCL, it continues dulling the pain for up to 2 hours.
It has a patented technology called Liposomal that helps it absorb well into the skin. It also keeps it working for as long as possible.
Moreover, it has no odor, and it’s not greasy. It contains vitamin E and aloe to keep the skin healthy while allantoin and lecithin prevent irritation.
This is a product made in the USA that comes with a child-resistant cap. It’s cruelty-free and hypoallergenic.
If you’re not pleased with the results, the manufacturer offers a full refund.
Uber Numb 5% Lidocaine Pain Relief Cream
Here’s an American-made tattoo numbing cream that works for up to one hour. You’ll start to feel the effects 20 minutes after you apply it.
It’s not sticky or oily, which is good news when you’re getting a tattoo. It also helps reduce inflammation and itching with vitamin E and allantoin.
What is allantoin, and why does it appear in numbing creams? It’s a natural, safe ingredient that appears in many skincare products. It moisturizes and softens, which makes it useful for healing wounds (4).
In case you’re not sure about this pain relief cream, it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Zensa – Maximum Strength Topical Anesthetic Numbing Cream
Zensa’s 5% lidocaine numbing cream is made in the USA by a Canadian manufacturer. It’s FDA-approved and accepted by Health Canada as well. It has a 3-year shelf life.
One of its significant benefits is that it doesn’t constrict blood flow. Translation: it doesn’t interfere with tattooing, waxing, or microblading. That’s why many tattoo artists are happy with it.
It also has vitamin E to diminish inflammation. The same ingredient helps reduce itching and stinging.
The cream takes about half an hour to reach its full potential. Then, the deadening effect lasts for about 3 hours altogether.
The application instructions are a little different from the usual.
The manufacturer recommends cleansing the skin with warm water first. Then smooth on a thick layer and wait 5 minutes. There’s no need to massage it into the skin.
Apply a second layer without rubbing, then cover it with plastic wrap. Half an hour later, wipe off the extra cream.
H2ocean Nothing Tattoo Glide and Soothing Balm
Since it only has 4% lidocaine, you might be tempted to skip over this cream and think that it’s less effective. Let me tell you why you should give it a chance.
It’s not just a topical anesthetic, but also a glide for tattoo artists. That’s a major bonus. Why?
Since it’s a glide (when used with Aquatat Ointment), it can be used throughout the tattooing process.
If you’re getting a big tattoo in a sensitive area, this is the stuff you want to use. It’s not going to wear off halfway through.
Plus, it’s organic and petroleum-free and won’t mess up stencils.
HUSH Anesthetic Tattoo Numbing Gel
How about an oil-free numbing gel for tattoos, piercing, and hair removal? If that sounds good, check out this option with 4% lidocaine.
It’s often recommended by tattoo artists who will tell you to put it on a thick layer about an hour before the appointment. It numbs the area for about 2 hours total.
With menthol, chamomile, and comfrey, it starts soothing the skin immediately. Then, aloe and propylene glycol help it penetrate to where it’s needed.
The formula doesn’t reduce blood circulation, and it won’t mess up tattoo ink. It’s approved by the FDA and paraben-free.
Clinical Resolution Numb Master Topical Anesthetic Cream
This potent anesthetic is based on 5% lidocaine. It preps your skin for inking within 20 minutes, but it only lasts for about an hour.
Happily, it’s not oily or sticky. Instead, it nourishes with aloe, allantoin, and vitamin E.
It’s made in the USA and bottle with a child-resistant lid. If you don’t use it all in one go, it has a 2-year shelf life to keep it ready for your next tattoo.
UltraNumb Anesthetic Skin Numbing Cream
Is it possible for numbing cream to work for longer? In this case, yes.
UltraNumb provides instructions to help you achieve up to 4 hours of pain relief.
They say to begin treating the skin 2 hours before your appointment. Put on a generous amount of cream and massage it in thoroughly. Once it has absorbed, smooth on another thick layer without rubbing it and cover it with plastic wrap.
Now, there’s one catch. Each jar is only enough for about 4 square inches of skin. Therefore, you might need to buy more than one depending on the size of your tattoo.
Dr. Numb Maximum Topical Anesthetic Cream
As you can see, most of these pain relief creams have the same essential ingredients.
First, there’s a topical anesthetic like lidocaine. It’s part of a non-greasy formula with ingredients like propylene glycol to help it penetrate the skin.
Other components, like vitamin E and lecithin, prevent irritation and help with healing.
So, if everything is almost the same, how can you choose between them?
It helps if you look at how long it takes the cream to start working and how long the effects last. For example, this one begins numbing the skin in 15 minutes. After that, sensations are lessened for up to 4 hours.
It helps blunt stinging, scratching, burning, itching, and so forth.
Moreover, it’s a formula recommended by professionals throughout North America. Since it’s been tested against common allergens, it’s unlikely to cause adverse reactions.
Lastly, it’s cruelty-free as it was never tested on animals.
Here’s an anesthetic gel with no artificial color or perfume. It features jojoba seed oil, aloe, and shea butter to moisturize and calm sensitive skin.
With 5% lidocaine, it reaches full potency at 30 minutes after you apply it.
Lidocane Plus with Lidocaine 4% Pain Relieving Cream
There’s a fine line between tattoo numbing creams and pain relief creams. The categories are often blurred together since they both have topical anesthetics in them.
This pain relief product has 4% lidocaine. There is aloe and propylene glycol as well. It’s not oily and it doesn’t leave a residue.
Up to this point, it seems pretty similar to a numbing cream.
But the devil’s in the details.
It has an artificial fragrance and color, for one. Then, it has urea and parabens. The former softens and moisturizes the skin, but it’s a formaldehyde releaser. The latter is a type of preservative that can mess with hormones.
I wouldn’t recommend it for getting a tattoo as it’s best for sore muscles and bug bites. But if you try it in a pinch, it lasts up to 2 hours.
Medinumb Lidocaine Numbing Cream
Depending on where you get the tattoo, you might decide to wear old clothing that can get stained. That’s why it might not matter that this numbing cream won’t leave marks on your clothes.
It’s not greasy, and it won’t leave a residue on your skin, either. You can use it for laser hair removal, a Brazilian wax, piercing, and injections.
With 4% lidocaine, it wards off the pain for up to 2 hours.
What’s more, it has unique botanicals like tea tree oil and jojoba. These prevent infection as they are naturally healing and antibacterial.
Try it, and if you don’t love it, it comes with the promise of a full refund.
GREENCAINE BLAST Numbing Cream
I wouldn’t be surprised if your local beauty salon or cosmetology school keeps tubes of this numbing cream on hand.
It’s a popular product useful for everything from microneedling to tattoos, piercing, and tattoo removal.
This American-made cream is manufactured in an FDA-approved facility for safety and quality. It’s based on 4% lidocaine, which blocks pain signals at the source. Plus, it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Advanced Numb 5% Lidocaine Pain Relief Cream
If you’re only getting a little tattoo, this cream deadens the pain for an hour or two. Also, you’ll be ready to get inked in only 20 minutes.
But with 5% lidocaine, how is it that it doesn’t last as long as other creams with only 4%?
The answer may have to do with the rest of the formula. The other ingredients can amplify and extend the potency of the anesthetic.
On the other hand, it could also be that this is the only brand that’s honest about their product’s potency.
Since it has moisturizers and soothing ingredients, it also helps reduce itching and flaking after the tattoo is done. And at least it comes with a 100% guarantee.
Clean + Easy Numb Anesthetic Numbing Solution
What’s the difference between lidocaine and benzocaine?
The answer is that there is very little difference in numbing power as both work equally well. But benzocaine doesn’t last anywhere near as long as lidocaine does. It’s not ideal for tattoo numbing creams.
In case you’re curious, this is a numbing liquid that contains 5% benzocaine and chamomile. It’s excellent for calming sunburns, bug bites, and prepping for hair removal.
Instead of massaging it like a lotion, you’ll apply it to a cotton ball and dab it on. It works almost instantaneously.
Happily, it’s not going to make the skin greasy or leave a residue.
But the con is that this is not a long-lasting treatment. It’s not going to numb your skin for a couple of hours, but rather a few minutes.
I’d recommend only for tiny tattoos.
Relax and Wax – No Scream Cream
Here’s another numbing product that’s perfect for waxing anywhere on the body. It uses 20% benzocaine for almost instantaneous pain relief.
What’s more, you can apply it up to 3 times per day to quiet pain from previous procedures.
But it’s not suitable for tattoo preparation as the effects only last a short amount of time.
Unfortunately, it contains petrolatum, parabens, and other undesirable ingredients that you wouldn’t want on your skin when you get a tattoo.
Reduce pain and speed up healing
Once your tattoo is done, the skin is going to be sensitive for a day or two. While it’s healing, it’s going to be itchy as well.
You don’t necessarily need pain relief cream to recover from getting inked. But some people may prefer it if the tattoo is in a sensitive area.
Check with the artist to see what they recommend beyond washing and moisturizing the skin.
In the meantime, here are some ideas for lessening the pain while your tattoo is healing.
Bactine Original First Aid Liquid
Lots of households have Bactine spray to take care of boo-boos. It has 2.5% lidocaine to soothe stings, scrapes, and itches.
Moreover, it prevents infection, which is crucial for having the tattoo heal properly.
There’s no shame in enjoying Bactine if it keeps you from scratching and picking at your skin. You can use it for up to 7 consecutive days.
DermaChange Organic Shingles Symptoms Relief Cream
Yes, I know that the box says that it’s for shingles relief. But it’s also useful for killing the pain after getting a tattoo, a piercing, or other invasive procedure.
It features natural ingredients like cehami and Manuka honey. Together, they calm inflammation and itching as good or better than aspirin. They also fight infection as they are naturally antimicrobial.
Then, there’s coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter to condition the skin and prevent crusty scabs from damaging your new body art.
Hustle Butter Deluxe
Let’s move on from pain relief creams to see what other products artists recommend for tattoo aftercare.
Hustle Butter is at the top of the list.
It’s multi-purpose, meaning it can be used to prepare the skin, while the tattoo is being inked, and for caring for it afterward.
It’s both an excellent moisturizer and a convenient glide for the artist. It helps them move smoothly over the skin while they work.
Plus, it prevents bleeding, swelling, and redness. It won’t alter tattoo ink in any way but instead helps it enter the first time correctly.
The formula is free of parabens and petroleum. In fact, it sounds delicious as it consists of natural goodies like mango butter, rosemary, mint, and rice bran oil.
Tattoo Goo Original Mini Balm Aftercare
Tattoo Goo is another product used by tattoo artists for aftercare. It’s rich in antioxidants and antibacterial ingredients to speed up healing.
The balm is 98% natural. It has cocoa butter, lavender, and olive oil to prevent scar tissue and calm inflammation.
Since it doesn’t allow the tattoo to dry out, it helps with itching, too.
Here’s essential background information about numbing creams.
How does numbing cream for tattoos work?
Topical anesthetics block the sensation of pain in the skin. The deadening lasts for a couple of hours at most.
Common examples are lidocaine, tetracaine, and benzocaine.
Over-the-counter creams have 5% concentration or less. To get something stronger, you’ll need a prescription.
Safety precautions for using tattoo numbing cream
For safety, numbing creams should only be applied to small areas. Never put them on broken skin unless authorized by a doctor.
That’s because if the anesthetic gets into the bloodstream, it can cause serious side effects like breathing difficulties and coma (1).
Also, some people are allergic to numbing cream. (More about solutions for that problem in a moment.)
How to apply a topical anesthetic before getting a tattoo
Unless you want to look like a comedy sidekick, please put on latex or rubber gloves before applying numbing cream.
Before you apply the anesthetic, wash the skin. This helps the cream absorb better.
Always follow the directions provided with the product. Generally, they will tell you to apply a generous amount about an hour before getting the tattoo.
Double-check the recommended time. You don’t want to start the tattoo before the skin is numb, and you don’t want the effects to wear off too soon.
Then, many people cover the cream with plastic wrap to activate it. Leave on the plastic for about half an hour until you can tell that the skin is deadened to sensation.
Please always tell the tattoo artist that you’ve used a numbing product. In fact, it’s best if you check with them beforehand, as some may refuse to work on you. (Scroll down to learn more about this issue.)
What to do if you’re allergic to skin numbing creams
If you already know that you’re allergic to numbing cream, I don’t know why you’re reading this article.
Sometimes, people with inherited genetic conditions like porphyria can’t use topical anesthetics (2).
But if you’ve never tried them before and you end up with an adverse reaction, here are some tips for next time.
If you’re allergic to lidocaine, for example, it’s time to go old school and back to nature. You’ll have to tolerate the pain with other techniques.
Put off tattooing extra-sensitive areas like your ribs, face, or knees.
The night before, try to get plenty of rest. And the day of the appointment, have a nice meal before you go.
Do everything you can to stay relaxed. Bring headphones and entertainment if you’re able to use it. You might also take painkiller medication or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pill. Give the medicine about an hour to work before the needle touches your skin.
Also, check to see if it’s okay to use a natural numbing remedy like clove oil (3).
During the tattoo, don’t be afraid to ask your artist for breaks to let you breathe.
Finally, focus on your goal. Remember why you’re getting the tattoo and imagine how much you’ll enjoy it in the future.
Reasons why some tattoo artists don’t recommend numbing cream
What happens if your artist refuses to use numbing cream? There are at least three reasons why that might occur.
For one, the artist might require you to use a specific brand with which they are familiar. Some topical creams prevent tattoo ink from setting correctly in the skin.
Or two, they might say that the wrong numbing cream slows down healing and causes irritation. (That’s why we researched the best topical anesthetics for tattoos.)
And three, some artists believe that pain is part of the experience as it makes the tattoo more meaningful.
How to prepare for your first (or next) tattoo
There’s a lot more preparation for getting inked than simply applying numbing cream. If you want to have the smoothest experience possible, try these tips.
A few days before your appointment, start applying moisturizer to the area if you don’t already do that. It preps the skin by making it more elastic, and it may reduce pain.
Also, drinking plenty of water and moisturizing the skin promotes faster healing after the tattoo is done.
Next, you can shave the spot before you go. Use a new blade and work patiently to avoid injuring the skin.
Slather on the numbing cream according to the directions at the appropriate time.
When you dress, wear clothing that allows access. It’s also smart if it’s something you don’t mind getting ruined by ink.
Finally, make sure you understand the instructions the artist provided. And please consider bringing some cash for a tip when you’re done.
Numbing cream for tattoos can help you get inked in comfort. They block the nerves from signaling your brain so that you can enjoy the experience.
Luckily, there are many tattoo pain relief creams to choose from. Keep an eye on details like how long they take to activate and how long the effects last.
For best results, check with the artist ahead of time. Make sure they don’t mind if you use it and see if they have any recommendations.
1.https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/public+health/hairdressing+body+art+and+piercing/topical+anaesthetics+numbing+creams+sold+by+tattoo+artists+and+laser+technicians accessed September 2, 2020
2. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/lidocaine-for-skin/ accessed September 2, 2020
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-numb-skin#home-numbing-remedies by Scott Frothingham , medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP, published on July 24, 2018, accessed September 2, 2020
4. https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-allantoin.htm by Niki Foster, published August 25, 2020, accessed September 3, 2020