If you have ever had a tattoo before, the chances are you know that all-too-familiar itch to get another one. If you’re yet to have one, you will know what we are on about once you have your first one.
Whether you’re a newbie to the tattoo experience or a veteran, you may be worried about the pain. Especially in sensitive areas such as the feet, hands, ribs, pelvis, and spine.
If this is the case, you might be wondering if numbing cream will be a good idea for you. Is it a good idea, and will it affect your tattoos? Let’s find out.
Numbing Creams And Tattoos: Does it work?
Many tattoo artists do not advise to use numbing creams, although it is an option for people who may have health conditions, or just in the case of personal choices. You might have very sensitive skin when it comes to touch and could be worried about if it will hurt too much, or if it’ll hit a ticklish spot.
Numbing creams actually do work, and they can be very effective, even though they are a topical ointment. Remember, however, that not all anesthetics are created equally, and you should always do your research to try and find the perfect one.
Read reviews, ask previously tattooed people you may know, and find out information from reliable sources.
How Does Numbing Cream Actually Work?
So, we know they can work, but how DO they work? Well, tattoo numbing sprays, ointments, and creams all work in a similar way to one another. You simply apply them to the tattooed location, and they numb the local area.
One of the active ingredients in these products that actually makes them effective is Lidocaine. It causes numbness by preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain. Basically, it tells the nerves in that area to take a nap, so your brain does not register any pain.
These nerve deadeners rarely do sink below the surface of the skin, though, and this means that they will not always be entirely effective for tattoos. So, you may still feel a little pain, however, you might avoid the brunt of the pain while the ointment is active.
There are also nerve blockers that will take away the brunt of the pain, and when they are combined with a nerve deadener, the whole effect will be much stronger.
The overall most powerful tattoo cream you can get is vasoconstriction. These include something called epinephrine, which causes your blood vessels to constrict and reduce any bleeding that may occur.
One thing you need to remember is that everyone has a different pain threshold. The level of pain from a tattoo will vary based on different elements; the placement of the tattoo on the body, the technique of the tattooist, and the size and style of the tattoo.
Other things that will affect it also include your physical health, and how you prepare for your tattoo. It is also worth noting that different colors will have different effects. An all black tattoo will hurt less than a colored tattoo in the same place.
The lighter the colors, the more heat has to be applied. White is known as being one of the most painful colors to apply for a tattoo because of this.
It is also worth mentioning that using the right cream, in the right quantity is very important, and following the instructions is even more important.
If you choose to use a cream, and you tell the artist, they cannot deny you, they may not advise it, but they may be able to advise you on how best to use the cream.
Is It Okay To Use Numbing Cream?
You will be able to find over the counter numbing creams at pharmacies. You can also find prescription numbing creams too. Both can be applied to the area of skin before you get a tattoo to decrease the amount of pain that you get when you have the tattoo done.
No matter how tough you are, there are some places on the body that will hurt more than others when we get our ink. Elbows, ribs, feet, spine, all traditionally hurt.
Simply put, if it’s on a bony area, or on a joint, it will hurt more. However, some people will have a lower pain tolerance, and with a low pain tolerance the idea of getting a tattoo may be off-putting, numbing cream makes this easier to bear.
However, that being said, if a numbing cream is not used properly then it can be dangerous.
It is advisable that you speak to a doctor before you use the numbing cream, and ensure that you properly follow the instructions on application.
Do remember that no over the counter painkiller, regardless of what type, will be able to completely and successfully eliminate all pain of getting a tattoo done.
The point here is that understanding the pain of getting a tattoo is also about understanding your body and the tattoo that you are getting. If it is a small tattoo in a general area (not bony or near a joint), and if you have a decent pain tolerance, you will probably be fine without a numbing cream.
Yet, if you are considering getting a large tattoo, in color, that will be in a sensitive place such as your rib cage or a whole foot piece, then numbing creams may help you get through your tattoo appointment.
It’s worth noting that even for those of us with the highest pain tolerance, numbing creams can be useful. You could be as tough as nails, but if you are sitting in the chair for a day long 8 hour appointment for a large colored piece on your rib cage, eventually it will start to hurt.
Starting off the appointment with a numbing cream can make the later parts of the tattoo easier to bear, as the pain will not have been so intense for so long.
Can You Use Numbing Cream Before A Tattoo?
It is up to you if you decide to use a numbing cream before you get a tattoo. Tattoo artists do not typically offer up a numbing cream before an appointment because of the cost of the cream as well as the prior commitment to the initial application of the cream.
This means the cleaning of the skin, and the application of the cream before the tattoo appointment. In fact, some numbing creams may need to be applied to the skin hours before the appointment to work to their fullest effect, so this would be unreasonable for a tattooist.
Then there are other things to consider, although this is not always the case, it is said that once the cream wears off, the pain comes back with more of a vengeance than if you had not used the cream.
This does make sense, as the contrast from no pain to intense pain will feel greater than easing into it, which might make it feel worse. However, most numbing creams will ease off, so it is unlikely you will go from no pain to intense pain quickly, it will be gradual.
Yet, we have to remember the stats. A vast majority of people who have got a tattoo done, go back to have another one done.
Of the people who have tattoos, a good 70% of them have more than one, and a good 20% have more than five! So, it is safe to say that even if it hurts a lot, the pleasure you gain from having them is definitely worth it.
Things To Consider About Numbing Cream
Before you zip on down to the local pharmacy or your local doctors office, there are some things that you may want to consider. Some people will find that numbing cream can be ineffective, it does not always have the desired effect on everyone.
Also depending on the type of tattoo, it is possible that the tattoo appointment may take longer than the cream lasts, which may mean you desire multiple applications, which can take longer and lead to an increase in the overall cost of the tattoo.
Alternatively, if you use it just for the beginning of the appointment, you will have to be prepared to anticipate pain after the cream wears off.
Another thing you may want to consider is to be cautious of overuse. Overusing numbing creams can actually have an adverse effect on you and your health. Similarly, applying the cream wrong can affect the design and quality of the tattoo being done.
You should always check side effects for any form of medication, including numbing creams, to ensure that the cream will work for you and if compatible with you.
You should also look at customer reviews of the creams, reviews are a genius invention that give us the insight we need before making any purchase. If other people have had success or failure with a certain cream, their experience can help you make an informed decision.
You should also note that some creams can be expensive, so always prepare to include the costs of the cream in your budget for the tattoo.
Why Don’t Tattooists Like Numbing Cream?
It is no secret to anyone who has ever been in a tattoo parlor that tattoo artists are not the biggest fans of numbing cream. Many tattoo artists are skeptical about the effect of these products, and many artists have their own tattoos without having used any form of anesthetic for them.
If you have had tattoos before, you will probably either say, or have heard some inked people say, that pain is a part of the game when it comes to tattoos.
We kind of get this, when you decide to get a tattoo, you are inking your skin forever, and so the pain can be considered a vital part of the process; no pain, no gain.
There are also artists out there who may have tried a type of numbing cream or heard stories that do not speak well of a numbing cream.
As people react to different numbing agents differently as well, when people expect there to be no pain, and they find themselves feeling pain, tattoo artists end up finding frustration and surprise instead of expectations. This is often half the problem with numbing creams.
Another reason that tattoo artists are not a big fan of numbing creams is that they can make your skin slippery if they are water based, which makes your skin harder to tattoo and makes their job much harder than it needs to be.
There are plenty of types of numbing creams, though, and many people do still find them to be an effective way to minimize the pain.
Does It Make Tattoos Fade?
Quality over cost is important, as a quality numbing cream will not interfere with ink, nor will it cause any side effects to your tattoo. You should always avoid low quality products like the plague, remember, you get what you pay for.
Always ensure you talk to your tattoo artists before you use any numbing or skin products before you get the tattoo.
While it is unlikely that it will interfere with the tattoo and fade it, there have been accounts where people have noticed that the tattoo healing process has been exacerbated after using a numbering cream instead of using one, in that it takes longer to heal.
How Long Does It Last?
When you use a cream before getting a tattoo, follow the instructions carefully. Then, depending on the type of cream you have chosen, you can experience little to no pain for the first hour of the tattooing process.
After this, your skin will slowly start to get more sensitive, and you will start to feel the needles. Eventually you will regain full sensitivity in the area.
There are some creams that make claims lasting up to four hours after the first application. These creams are expensive and unnecessary for small tattoos.
However, if thinking of doing a longer tattoo, this can be a wise investment, as you do not want it to start fading if you have five or six hours left of your appointment.
How Can You Minimize The Pain During A Tattoo?
There are other ways that you can lessen the pain of your tattoo without using an anesthetic. Here are some options you have:
- Choose a less sensitive area of your body
- Go into your appointment on a full stomach. Low blood sugar will increase pain, so eating beforehand will prevent dizziness and lower pain
- If you get low blood sugar or know the tattoo will take some time, take a snack with you
- Sleep well the night before. A lack of sleep increases anxiety and makes it harder to sit in the chair
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid alcohol as it dehydrates you and lowers your pain tolerance
- Avoid too much sun. A tattoo on a burned area will hurt like hell
- Talk to your artist, let them know how you feel and take breaks when needed
- Deep breathing helps with pain tolerance
With or without a numbing agent, expect pain in a tattoo. And remember, regardless of the pain, a tattoo is personal, and a permanent commitment, and it is not less of a tattoo whether you use a cream or not.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Most Painful Areas To Get Tattooed?
The most painful areas to get a tattoo include; armpits, rib cage, ankles and shins, nipples/ breasts, groin, elbows, knees, behind the knees, and hips.
How Long Do You Put A Numbing Cream On Before A Tattoo?
You should apply the cream to the area 45 minutes to an hour before the tattoo begins.”
Which Body Part Hurts Least For A Tattoo?
The least painful places to get a tattoo are areas of your body with fewer nerve endings, i.e. outer shoulder, calf, buttocks, outer arm, outer thigh, etc.