Let’s face it: it hurts when you get inked or pierced. It’s those darn needles.
But you can take the edge off the pain with topical anesthetic.
So, which are the best numbing sprays for tattoo and piercing?
We did the research to find out. Check the reviews below to discover our top picks.
In the meantime, here’s some background information about numbing sprays.
Which is the best numbing spray?
I hate to tell you, but the best numbing spray is only available in a hospital or doctor’s office. But over-the-counter anesthetic sprays are still effective, if not as potent.
There are two main ingredients used in numbing sprays: lidocaine and benzocaine. Both block the transmission of pain signals.
Lidocaine begins working in about 4 minutes after it’s applied to the skin (1). The effects last anywhere from 30 minutes (topical application) to 3 hours (when injected). Benzocaine takes about an equal amount of time to start working and wear off (2).
Testing done on volunteers showed that both topical anesthetics are equally effective (3).
Therefore, if they are about the same, which one do you choose?
For one, you could go with the recommendation of the tattoo artist or piercer. They should have experience in what works best.
However, some artists prefer to avoid topical anesthetics because certain ingredients won’t allow the ink to settle properly. Also, some may feel that facing the pain increases the value of the tattoo.
Also, consider the safety issues below.
When should you avoid using a numbing spray for tattoos and piercings?
If you have sensitive skin or allergies, be cautious when using a numbing spray. It’s smart to get a doctor’s advice first. Some people are allergic to lidocaine, for example.
Some sprays contain epinephrine to enhance the numbing effect. This ingredient can adversely affect blood pressure.
If anesthetic enters the bloodstream, it could cause respiratory difficulties, coma, or death. Spraying it on open wounds raises the risk. Apply the anesthetic in a small an area as possible to avoid problems, and follow the directions to the letter.
If it seems too risky after all, try a natural way of numbing the skin. Use ice, menthol, or clove oil instead. Taking a painkiller or anti-inflammatory about 30 minutes before the procedure may help.
Can you get addicted to numbing spray?
As a local anesthetic, lidocaine isn’t addictive like a narcotic (4). It has an analgesic, or soothing, ability without being psychoactive or mentally addicting.
How to apply numbing spray before getting pierced or inked
The advantage of spray versus gel or cream is that you may not have to massage it into the skin. However, use latex gloves if you do to avoid numbing your fingers.
If you wash the skin before spraying, the anesthetic will absorb better. Check the directions to determine how much time before the procedure you need to apply it.
Then, be sure to tell the tech or artist that you’ve used the numbing spray.
Best Numbing Sprays for Tattoo and Piercing in 2023
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine Spray
What numbing spray do tattoo artists use? Here’s one that’s highly recommended.
It contains the maximum strength concentration of lidocaine that can be purchased over-the-counter. Plus, it’s fortified with 0.25% phenylephrine, which enhances the anesthetic effect.
(On the downside, phenylephrine, which constricts blood vessels, may affect the tattooing process. Check with the artist before using it).
Within 3 minutes or less, it alleviates pain, burning, itching, and soreness. The effects last for an hour after application. But it’s at 10-20 minute mark when the spray is at its strongest.
It also has a pleasing side effect of reducing swelling. It uses allantoin and arginine to soothe irritation.
What’s more, it has no odor, and it’s not greasy. It’s a water-based product that doesn’t require you to massage it into the skin.
It’s hypoallergenic and made in the USA in a certified facility.
GiGi Anesthetic Numbing Spray for Sensitive Skin
It was created to relieve the pain of waxing – especially Brazilian waxing – in sensitive areas. But this anesthetic spray also takes the edge off the sting of piercing and getting a tattoo. It’s also handy for treating insect bites, scrapes, and burns.
It features 4% lidocaine to block the nerves and desensitize the skin. Spray it directly on the spot, or spritz it on a cotton ball and hold it in place. Within 3 minutes, it begins to numb the area. But it won’t reach full strength for at least 10 minutes.
This is another American-made product used by professionals. It’s not fragrance-free, however, as it has a perfume scent.
Americaine Hospital Formula Maximum Strength Benzocaine Topical Anesthetic Spray
This spray cancels pain with 20% benzocaine, which achieves the same result as 5% lidocaine. It’s the type of product that doctors use to calm sore, itchy skin, or numb the site for an injection.
It’s a straightforward anesthetic with no added frills. There’s only propellant and one other ingredient in the can. That additional component helps it absorb into the skin.
Hush Anesthetic Spray
The Hush spray numbs the skin on contact and continues to work for up to 40 minutes afterward. It has a proprietary formula with botanical ingredients that reduce swelling and bruising.
Keep in mind that no topical anesthetic will completely eliminate sensation altogether. But it should make the pain bearable.
If you’re nervous about whether the product will work well enough, you can test it at home. Buy it a few days before. Wash your hands and dry them with a clean towel. Apply the numbing spray according to the directions. Wait for the recommended amount of time and pinch the area. I don’t recommend it, but I’ve known people to sterilize a needle and poke themselves. In any case, you’ll get a “feel” for how well the anesthetic works for you.
Base Labs Numbing Spray | 4% Lidocaine
You might be tempted to get a 5% lidocaine spray instead of one that contains only 4%. But don’t be deceived as the number is not the only indicator of how powerful it is. It also matters what other ingredients are included.
For example, the spray has 4% lidocaine. Yet it’s potent for soothing the skin as it also has menthol for an extra cooling sensation. Then, there’s arginine and allantoin to diminish irritation, swelling, and redness.
What’s nice is that it’s backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
PreTAT Tattoo Numbing Spray by TAT Balm
This topical anesthetic was created by experts in the tattooing industry. It has 4% lidocaine and other natural ingredients without any synthetic fillers.
The directions explain that it’s best to apply two generous layers five minutes apart. Don’t use it around your eyes.
Numb-ify Numbing Spray 5% Lidocaine
Although this spray has the maximum concentration of lidocaine, I’ve seen reviews complaining that it didn’t numb the skin as well as some other brands. On the other hand, I’ve also heard enthusiastic comments about it.
I checked the label and found that it contains alcohol. Therefore, it’s useful before tattooing, but not for tattoo aftercare.
It also has chamomile and kava to soothe irritation.
Bactine Max Pain Relieving Cleansing Spray
Bactine is designed for wound care. It promotes healing and prevents infection. It also minimizes itching, swelling, and redness. That’s why it’s handy before and after piercing and tattooing.
It doesn’t just numb the skin, but it also helps recovery.
The active ingredients are 4% lidocaine and benzalkonium chloride.
Regenecare HA Hydrogel Spray with Lidocaine
Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about aftercare. Tattoos and piercings are wounds. Therefore, they require daily care to avoid infection and calm inflammation.
This numbing spray has only 2% lidocaine. It’s designed to minimize the pain of washing and caring for a wound.
Next, it has hyaluronic acid. It’s an excellent moisturizer, exactly what you need to prevent scarring.
Then, there’s allantoin to help the skin retain moisture and reduce inflammation.
Finally, there’s aloe vera and collagen to rebuild the tissue.
Dermoplast First Aid Spray
Yes, it’s suitable for treating post-partum soreness, which means it’s safe for sensitive areas. It’s also good for bites, cuts, and burns.
This spray doesn’t just relieve pain with benzocaine, but it also kills germs to ward off infection. Plus, it moisturizes with vitamin E and aloe.
It’s not the best choice for numbing before getting pierced or tattooed, but it’s adequate for taking care of the skin afterward.
Now, we’ve reached the end of the reviews of the best numbing sprays. You still have other options like tattoo numbing cream and gel below.
Uber Numb 5% Lidocaine Pain Relief Cream
This lidocaine cream keeps the skin numb for up to an hour after you apply it. It takes about 20 minutes to reach full potency.
When you put it on, you’ll need to protect your hands from absorbing it – unless you’re tattooing your hands, of course.
This American-made product won’t make the skin greasy or sticky, which is crucial when getting a tattoo. It calms inflammation and itching after you’ve been inked, as well. It has vitamin E and allantoin to speed up healing.
HUSH Anesthetic Tattoo Numbing Gel
HUSH numbing gel is one of the best ways to anesthetize the skin for tattoos, waxing, and piercing. It contains 4% lidocaine, plus menthol, comfrey, and chamomile. These soothing ingredients block pain and itching for up to 2 hours.
Apply a thick layer about an hour previous to the procedure. Since it doesn’t contain blood constrictors like phenylephrine, it won’t cause problems with the inking process. It’s also paraben-free and approved by the FDA.
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine Numbing Cream
Like the spray, the Ebanel cream starts to block pain in as little as 2 minutes. It reaches full power after 20 minutes and lasts up to 2 hours.
It features a patented technology that makes it absorb more quickly and last longer. Thankfully, it’s odor-free and non-greasy. It even comes with a child-resistant cap.
H2Ocean Nothing Tattoo Glide and Soothing Balm
When your artist asks whether you want Nothing to dull the pain, say yes. But only if they are referring to the Nothing Glide Balm from H2Ocean. It contains 4% lidocaine.
It’s a topical anesthetic and a tattoo balm all-in-one. When you’re getting tattooed in a sensitive area like the rib cage or the feet, it makes the process downright enjoyable.
It’s formulated to serve as a lubricant for the tattoo artist. It won’t mess with stencils, and it’s not greasy. Moreover, it’s petroleum-free and organic.
SCALPA NUMB 5% Lidocaine Numbing Cream
Here’s another cream that helps prepare for piercings, vaccinations, tattooing, microneedling, and more. It’s rich in moisturizers like aloe, shea butter, and glycerin to keep the skin healthy and comfortable.
Apply it 20 minutes prior, then cover with plastic wrap to ensure it absorbs. Never apply it to broken skin, like after getting a tattoo or piercing.
Dr. Numb Topical Anesthetic Foaming Soap
Did you know you could numb your skin with soap? But not just any soap will do. You need this one with 4% lidocaine. It can help you prepare for and recover from piercings and tattoos.
It also has benzethonium chloride to kill harmful germs.
Shake the soap and rub it into the skin. Let it sit for five to ten minutes before you rinse.
NeilMed NeilCleanse Piercing Aftercare
No, it’s not a numbing spray, but it should make your piercing feel better. It comes out in a sterile, fine mist that relieves stinging, soreness, and itching. What is it?
It’s pharmaceutical-grade water and salt. In other words, it’s a saline solution. It’s all you need to keep your piercing clean and comfortable.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting pain relief. If you’re looking forward to a new tattoo or piercing, but you’re afraid of how much it hurts, there’s no shame in using numbing spray.
Check with the piercer or artist first to make sure the topical anesthetic won’t interfere with the results. Then, apply the spray according to the directions. We wish you the best experience possible!
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidocaine accessed November 10, 2020
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benzocaine accessed November 10, 2020
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2148990/ Clinical effectiveness of lidocaine and benzocaine for topical anesthesia, by A.L. Rosa, et al., published in Anesthesia Progress, Summer 1999, accessed November 11, 2020
4. https://psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/19135/can-you-get-addicted-from-using-topical-or-local-anaesthetics-to-ease-pain accessed November 11, 2020