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January 12 2024

Japanese Cherry Blossoms tattoo sleeve

Tattoo numbing cream, should you use it?

I’d like to talk a bit about using numbing cream to get tattooed. It’s been a popular topic lately and I often get asked my opinion on whether to use it or not? I’ve had clients use all different types of numbing cream. Most commonly the type that is pre applied and the wrapped for a couple hours ahead of the tattoo appointment. There are also sprays that can be used during the process, but generally they aren’t as common. At least from what I’ve seen. I’ve personally used both types on myself for particularly bad areas. But, its not something I will continue to do while getting tattooed, and I’ll explain why. Also why I no longer recommend people use numbing cream for their tattoo appointment. 

It takes time to work.

This means it usually has to be applied 60 min to 2 hours ahead of time and be wrapped up the whole time. Meaning for someone that does mostly large scale Japanese tattoos, and all day sessions, like myself. You have to plan out a specific area to start, figure out how long that spot will take and then apply the tattoo numbing cream to a different area at least two hours ahead of moving to that spot to tattoo it. It’s not the worst thing in the world. But I do feel like that kind of restriction can get in the way of the natural flow of work throughout the day. 

Once you start using it, you won’t want to get tattooed without it.

Seriously, some of this stuff works so well, you’ll never want to feel a tattoo again. That’s obviously why they make it. But also why you should consider not using it. It also doesn’t always work the way it did the other times you’ve used it. Whether that’s from not wrapping it properly, not applying it the same way or whatever. You’ll start the tattoo and realize it’s not as effective or it wears of sooner and may want to stop the appointment. 

Lidocaine can be dangerous.

Lidocaine is what is in numbing cream. This stuff is no joke. There is a reason the legal limit is 5%. It can slow down your heart rate and decrease the power of respiratory functions. And that’s in perfectly healthy people with no sensitivity to lidocaine in the first place. You often won’t no you have any allergy to it until you use it. It can also be dangerous covering too large an area with it, which can slow the heart rate and can be dangerous. 

It doesn’t last the whole tattoo appointment.

And when it wears off the perception of pain can be much worse than if you’d gotten used to it from the start of your tattoo. You can get around that by trying to add more as you go. But, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll hit an area that is unfrozen. 

Your tattoo might not heal very well.

Some people heal fine after using numbing creams, but some do not. Sometimes colours don’t come out as bright or saturated and require touch ups. Other times tattoos will take longer to heal or have a rough time while healing. Some numbing creams will react to adhesive in medical tape or in clear bandages like Saniderm. So if the numbing cream isn’t completely cleaned from the skin and you apply that type of bandage overtop, it can be really nasty. Take my word for it, or google it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

Conclusion.

This is all just what I’ve seen personally from using different types of numbing creams during the tattoo process. In the end, it’s up to the person getting tattooed and the artist if they want to try it or not. For me, if it makes the difference between getting tattooed or not, then maybe try it out? But a better option might be trying shorter tattoo appointments, making sure to be well rested, eat a substantial meal beforehand, and generally try and relax as much as possible. I know that can be hard depending on the shop environment, I’ll cover that in another blog. 

I’d also like to mention that this in no way is a criticism of clients that have requested I use it with their tattoos or that want to use numbing in the future. Only what I’ve seen in my own experiences with it. For me as a tattooer, the client needs to be as comfortable as possible. If that means using some type of numbing cream for the appointment, that’s fine. (But I would recommend trying without.)

Here is a link to an article by Very Well Health for a more in depth analysis of numbing creams in general. https://www.verywellhealth.com/skin-numbing-cream-511683

It isn’t written by a tattooer but does give some things to consider. You’ll want to talk to your tattoo artist about it personally before deciding to use it or not. I know for some artists, it’s a hard no, regardless of what type it is.

Hope you enjoyed the first blog post and found this informative or at least interesting? If you have a topic you’d like me to write about feel free to email me at kevinpyyc@gmail.com or send a message through the site. 

Thank you. 

Kevin Pregitzer