Tattoo numbing agents (cream, spray, or gel) are now commonly used in many tattoo shops. If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo and using a numbing product to decrease the pain, there are a few things to consider.
First, it’s not that painful. Most people say that the experience of getting a tattoo is similar to the discomfort you feel with a mild sunburn. If you can tolerate that, using a numbing cream for your tattoo session might not be necessary. The idea is to always use it with caution and moderation, if you need to use it at all.
Skin numbing products are topical or local anesthetics applied to the surface of the skin to deaden sensitive nerve endings and pain receptors. Most of these use medications like lidocaine, prilocaine, benzocaine and tetracaine or a combination of these to produce the numbing effect.
The efficacy of most numbing creams lasts only a couple of hours. If you’re getting a large tattoo design and the session lasts for more than 2 hours, you might experience more pain as the numbed nerve endings start to send pain signals to the brain in the middle of your session. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to apply the cream to a very large area of your body as the tattoo artist might not actually have enough time to cover the entire numbed area before the anesthetic loses its effect.
If you really can’t tolerate the pain, you might want to suggest to your tattoo artist to cut the work into several one-hour sessions so you’ll always have the benefit of the topical anesthetic during each session. Of course, this might not always be practical as it would entail additional costs.
If you have a negative reaction to the numbing cream being used, your skin might swell or become distorted and the image being tattooed on your skin will not come out right. There’s also the danger of rubbing the cream over an open wound or scratch and possibly passing the chemical to your bloodstream. This can have an adverse effect on some people - from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions like breathing difficulty and seizures if you’re allergic to anesthetics.
Tattoo numbing products are useful but not always appropriate. Always ask for expert advice, and talk to your tattoo artist before using it.