Guide to Tattoo Numbing Cream & Foam

The truth hurts. Tattoos hurt. Whether you know from past experience, or you’ve asked around to get the honest truth, you probably know this by now, and it likely is not stopping you from taking the next step.

How painful is it?  That depends to some extent on the size of the tattoo and where it will be on your body. Maybe you consider yourself a person with a high threshold for pain, or you like the idea of “toughing it out” or developing your “mind over matter” pain management techniques, but here’s the question that begs to be asked: Why be in pain when there are great products available to make the process of inking more pleasurable and less painful?

In fact, numbing creams are used for many purposes beyond tattoos. They are also popular for piercing, waxing, and other forms of hair removal. If you ARE in the market for a numbing cream before tattooing, be aware that not all the general topical anesthetic products found in the market are suitable for your needs during tattooing. Your best bet is to ask your tattoo artist if there is a product they favor, or suggest one you’ve found and see if they are open to using it.

There are plenty of tattoo numbing creams that are readily available by prescription, over the counter and online. Lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and sometimes epinephrine are the most common ingredients found in most numbing creams. They work by blocking the pain signals sent by the nerve receptors of the skin, and in turn anesthetize the area where the cream is applied. It is unlikely that any product will 100% eliminate any pain or discomfort during tattooing, but for a majority of those who use them, they definitely do block out MOST of the pain.

Another benefit to using a numbing cream is that it may allow you to sit for an extended period of time without needing to rest/stop the artist during the process, or break up the tattooing into multiple sessions. Certainly, the idea of ‘one and done’ is far more desirable than having to make another trip back to finish up the tattoo at a later date.

Look for a product that takes effect quickly and will last a while, especially if you are going for a tattoo over a large area of your body, you don’t want the numbing effect to wear off mid-way through! Usually, the cream is applied to the area about 30 minutes before the tattoo session to allow it to take full effect. If you are planning a very long session, you can discuss with your artist about the possibility of applying more cream as needed. 

Ingredients do matter, so when you’re choosing a numbing foam or cream for your tattooing experience, look for the one with the highest quality ingredients, from a company with a solid reputation. Some products may affect your artist’s fingers. Even with gloves, they could become a little less agile. Depending on the other ingredients found in the cream, they sometimes leave behind an oily residue that can impact the consistency of the ink, causing it to look dull or dilute the color.

Many tattoo artists have given their thumbs up for Hustle Helper. Not only do they consider it a top choice as a great numbing foam, but it also fits the bill as a great all-around product for before—and after—tattooing. It’s 100% Vegan with luxurious ingredients such as Shea Butter, Mango, Green Tea, Coconut, Sunflower, Aloe Butter, Rice Bran Oil and Vitamin E.

Since it can be used at every stage of your tattoo, it is also a wise choice for your wallet as you can use just one product instead of 2 or 3 for before, during and after.

Are there any side effects when using a tattoo numbing cream?  Well, yes, there’s always that possibility, and those with more sensitive skin or any medical conditions need to do proper research when choosing a product. If there’s any question, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional. 


About the author: Yaffa Baslaw (@yadeinu) is a Freelance Writer with over a decade of experience copywriting and blogging compelling content. She has written for more than 20 companies in the fields of healthcare, skincare, and retail.