Some people say that getting a tattoo is all about the pain--that they feel most alive when tattoo needles are puncturing their skin. There are also many tattoo artists who believe that the pain of getting a tattoo is a core part of the process and shouldn't be downplayed. However, there are plenty of people who desperately want a tattoo, but hesitate because they're concerned about their ability to handle the pain factor. Fortunately, there's a solution that levels the playing field and makes it so that even those with low pain thresholds can get tattooed more comfortably: tattoo anesthetic sprays, numbing creams and anesthetic gels.
Do tattoo anesthetics really work? If so, how do they work? Is there an ideal combination of tattoo anesthetic products that provides maximum pain relief during the tattooing process? We answer these questions and more and discuss some of the best tattoo anesthetic products on the market in the sections below.
Do Tattoo Anesthetics Really Work?
The short answer to this question is yes, tattoo anesthetic products can be very effective even though they're just topical. Not all tattoo anesthetics are created equal, though. Ideally, it's best to use a tattoo anesthetic that contains one or more of the following key ingredients, which each have a different impact on the pain signals sent to your brain during the tattooing process: lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and/or epinephrine. There are also natural additives that can enhance the power of a topical anesthetic, like menthol, camphor, tea tree oil, and comphrey root, just to name a few.
How Do Tattoo Anesthetic Products Work?
Out of the four key numbing agents listed above, lidocaine is one you'll find in nearly every tattoo anesthetic product. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics made in the U.S. can contain up to 5% lidocaine; the higher the percentage, the more effective the product will be at deadening nerve endings and making the tattooing process more comfortable. It's a key ingredient in minimizing the initial sting of tattoo needles hitting the skin and can prevent clients from flinching so much that they compromise their tattoo designs.
You'll find that many tattoo anesthetic products also contain either tetracaine or benzocaine, if not both. These ingredients are actually nerve blockers rather than nerve deadeners like lidocaine. They don't entirely prevent nerves from sending pain signals to the brain, but they soften the blow of those pain signals, turning "OH MY GOD" pain into a milder level of discomfort that might elicit an "Ooh!" instead.
Epinephrine is a slightly more controversial ingredient that you'll find in some tattoo topical anesthetics. It's a vasoconstrictor and one of the more powerful over-the-counter topical anesthetic ingredients available. Vasoconstrictors cause the blood vessels to tighten up, minimizing bleeding and swelling during the tattooing process. Since vasoconstrictors also slow down the rate at which the body absorbs a topical anesthetic cream, spray or gel, they also keep tattoo clients comfortable longer. However, too much epinephrine can cause tachycardia, so use topical anesthetics containing epinephrine sparingly--particularly on clients with high anxiety, since epinephrine can cause anxiety to spike along with a client's heart rate.
What's the Most Effective Combination of Tattoo Anesthetics?
It takes time for the body to absorb a topical anesthetic so that it's fully effective, so when you apply one is somewhat more important than which one(s) you apply. Some tattoo anesthetic options are faster acting than others, making them good "boosters" to apply as secondary layers throughout the tattooing process. When using a tattoo anesthetic containing epinephrine, you shouldn't have to reapply it as frequently while tattooing to maintain a client's comfort level.
Ideally, clients should apply an initial layer of topical anesthetic cream, spray or gel before they even leave home and head over to your tattoo shop. If you have a design meeting with a client who's worried about the pain factor, encourage them to take a jar or bottle of a tattoo anesthetic like Tattoo Soothe Cream or Hush anesthetic gel home with them and apply it an hour before coming back in to get tattooed. For optimal results, they should apply a thick layer to the area where they're getting tattooed, and then wrap the area with plastic cling wrap to encourage maximum absorption. If you wait to apply a topical anesthetic in your shop before tattooing someone, the client will need to wait anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes before you can start in order to get the most benefit from the topical anesthetic applied.
During the skin prep part of the tattooing process, consider washing clients' skin with a product like H2Ocean's Nothing Pain-Relieving Foam Soap or Green Soap enhanced with Bactine to reinforce the effects of any topical anesthetic applied earlier. These antiseptic skin cleansers also contain lidocaine and other numbing agents that will amplify the effects of any topical anesthetic already applied.
If you start tattooing a client with a low pain threshold and find they're still uncomfortable, you can apply a secondary layer of a fast-acting topical anesthetic like Tattoo Soothe topical anesthetic gel, Hush anesthetic spray or Feel Better Now numbing gel. These products are effective within 90 seconds to 5 minutes after application when used as a secondary layer of pain relief, and they can be reapplied several times during the tattooing process as needed.
To Numb or Not to Numb?
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of tattoo artists, enthusiasts and collectors who believe that it's wrong to deaden the pain of the tattooing process. If you take that attitude as an artist, though, you may lose yourself some decent-paying jobs, and the negative word-of-mouth that could ensue may be even more detrimental to your business than losing a few clients with low pain thresholds. It's much better to be flexible and meet each client's individual needs to ensure they have a positive tattooing experience. Doing so will win you more happy customers and more referrals than being unyielding about minimizing squeamish clients' pain.
If you're a consumer who desperately wants to work with a tattoo artist who doesn't believe in using topical anesthetics, don't fret! You can buy one or two topical anesthetic products through us, use them at home, and bear through the tattooing process much more comfortably without your artist ever knowing.
Tattoo Anesthetic Options
Whether you're a tattoo artist looking for tattoo anesthetic options to numb pain-sensitive clients' skin or an individual who wants to be prepared when you go to get a tattoo, we have tattoo anesthetic and numbing options to meet your needs. Many of our tattoo anesthetic options come in single bottles or jars as well as display cases, so you can buy a bottle for yourself or a pack to stock your shop. Learn about some of our most popular tattoo anesthetic options below, or visit our Tattoo Anesthetic & Numbing Options section to see every topical anesthetic cream and spray we offer.
Tattoo Anesthetic Creams
We carry a variety of tattoo anesthetic creams to numb the skin and keep it moisturized during the tattooing process. Choose from tattoo anesthetic cream options like Tattoo Soothe, Feel Better Now and Instant Numb Cream.
Recovery Numb Tattoo Anesthetic Cream
Recovery Numb Tattoo Anesthetic Cream is a vegan-friendly topical anesthetic that can dramatically reduce your clients' sensitivity to pain during the tattooing process, cosmetic procedures, laser tattoo removal, and more. It contains 5% lidocaine--the highest percentage of topical anesthetic that the FDA allows in over-the-counter numbing creams. This highly-effective formula reduces inflammation and eases pain for up to six hours.
Each tube of Recovery Numb Tattoo Anesthetic Cream contains 2.2 oz. of numbing cream that takes effect within 15 minutes of application. (Cases of 12 2.2 oz. tubes are also available.) For maximum relief, have clients apply a layer at home before coming in to get tattooed, or apply it in your shop 15-20 minutes before you begin the tattooing process. You can enhance the effects of Recovery Numb by wrapping the treated skin with plastic cling wrap for optimal absorption.
Tattoo Soothe is a topical anesthetic cream that's available in 15g jars, 8g jars, and cases of 12 8g jars. This topical numbing cream relieves pain, swelling and bleeding during the tattooing process. Tattoo Soothe is a fast-acting formula comprised of 5% lidocaine, tetracaine and epinephrine that allows clients to relax during extended tattooing sessions. When you're working on more sensitive areas, like underarms and ribs, Tattoo Soothe will sufficiently numb the skin so your clients flinch less and end up with better-looking tattoos. Apply Tattoo Soothe to your clients' skin 15-25 minutes before you start tattooing, and re-apply this numbing cream throughout the tattooing process to keep clients comfortable for hours on end.
Note: Tattoo Soothe cream and Tattoo Soothe gel can be used in combination for enhanced relief that lasts throughout the tattooing process.
Feel Better Now Topical Anesthetic Cream
Feel Better Now is a high-quality topical tattoo anesthetic cream that comes in a 15g jar. It contains 5% lidocaine, 20% benzocaine, and 4% tetracaine for optimal numbing. Apply Feel Better Now topical anesthetic cream to clients' skin 15-25 minutes before you start tattooing to minimize their discomfort. It can really help ease the sting of starting the tattooing process.
Use Feel Better Now topical anesthetic cream in combination with Feel Better Now numbing gel to amplify the effects of the anesthetic and provide clients with an additional layer of comfort while you tattoo them. You only need to wait 3-5 minutes after applying a secondary layer of Feel Better Now gel over top of the initial application of Feel Better Now numbing cream before resuming tattooing.
Instant Numb Cream
Instant Numb Cream is a strong tattoo anesthetic designed specifically for relieving discomfort in sensitive areas like the lips, eyes and eyebrows during permanent makeup procedures. Instant Numb cosmetic tattoo anesthetic cream contains tea tree oil, aloe and 4% lidocaine, making it a superior numbing agent that also refreshes, cools and soothes the skin. It comes in a 12g jar for multiple applications. You can combine Instant Numb Cream with BioGel to control swelling and bleeding during cosmetic tattoo procedures.
Tattoo Anesthetic Sprays
Tattoo numbing sprays are a convenient alternative to topical anesthetic creams, because they don't have to be massaged into the skin. Simply spray Hush, Bactine, Derma Numb, or System One Tattoo Ice topical anesthetic spray on your clients' skin, wait 15-20 minutes, and start tattooing.
Hush Tattoo Anesthetic Spray
Hush is a hot new tattoo anesthetic spray option that comes in 2 oz. bottles, 4 oz. bottles, cases of 12 2 oz. bottles, and cases of 12 4 oz. bottles. It's one of the strongest over-the-counter topical anesthetic sprays allowed by the FDA. Hush contains a mixture of 4% lidocaine, purified water, alcohol, botanical extracts like aloe, menthol, chamomile, green tea, and comfrey root, and other ingredients that reduce pain, minimize bruising, and boost the healing process. Hush allows tattoo clients to sit through longer sessions more comfortably, and it doesn't negatively impact color ink. This topical anesthetic spray was formulated specifically for tattooing, it can be used on all areas of the body, and it's gentle on sensitive skin. Hush is epinephrine- and paraben-free.
To apply Hush tattoo anesthetic spray, wait until the skin is broken, and then apply Hush spray generously to the area being tattooed. The formula activates within 90 seconds, but for the best results, let Hush soak into your clients' skin for 15 minutes before resuming tattooing. Reapply it as necessary throughout the tattooing process.
Bactine Antiseptic & Anesthetic Spray
Bactine is a tried and true grandaddy of tattoo anesthetic spray options that doubles as an antiseptic. It contains 2.5% lidocaine and 0.13% benzalkonium chloride, as well as purified water, fragrances and other inactive ingredients. Bactine anesthetic spray relieves pain on contact with no sting. You can use it to minimize the discomfort of tattooing and prevent infection from minor cuts, scrapes and burns. Bactine soothes the skin, promotes healing, reduces redness, and minimizes swelling caused by tattoo procedures. You can spray it on, apply it with gauze or use it to enhance your tattoo skin prep solutions. Bactine comes in 5 oz. bottles and is intended for external use only.
Derma Numb Tattoo Anesthetic Spray
Derma Numb tattoo anesthetic spray is a proven formula that enables clients to more thoroughly enjoy the tattooing experience. It contains yarrow root and yucca glauca root--two ingredients known for their healing, numbing, cell rejuvenation, sterilizing, and anti-inflammatory properties. Derma Numb also contains lidocaine to boost its numbing abilities; the lidocaine makes Derma Numb start working within 90 seconds of application.
Derma Numb was designed specifically as a tattoo anesthetic spray, so you won't have to worry about it negatively impacting ink colors or the healing process. You can purchase Derma Numb tattoo anesthetic spray in 1 oz. bottles or cases of 12 1 oz. bottles. Reapply it as often as necessary to keep your clients comfortable while you tattoo them.
System One Tattoo Ice Numbing Spray
System One's Tattoo Ice topical tattoo anesthetic spray was developed specifically for use during the tattooing process. It's a fast-acting formula that reduces redness, irritation and discomfort. Tattoo Ice numbing spray starts working just 90 seconds after application, and it can be reapplied as often as necessary throughout the tattooing process. It contains 3.5% lidocaine and is safe on all skin types. Pick up an 8 oz. bottle of System One Tattoo Ice Topical Anesthetic Numbing Spray to make long tattooing sessions more comfortable for your clients.
Tattoo Anesthetic Gels
When you need to boost the effects of a tattoo anesthetic cream, you can typically add a layer of an anesthetic gel over top to further numb clients' skin and make the tattooing experience more enjoyable for them. Most tattoo anesthetic gels make great topical numbing agents on their own, too. We offer a wide variety of tattoo anesthetic gel options to give you the choices you crave, including numbing gels by Derma Numb, Tattoo Soothe, Hush, and Feel Better Now.
Derma Numb Tattoo Anesthetic Gel
Derma Numb tattoo anesthetic gel is available in 2 oz. bottles and cases of 12 2 oz. bottles. Each bottle contains 4% lidocaine, menthol, yarrow extract, yucca glauca root extract, aloe, and other ingredients to thoroughly numb and soothe your clients' skin during the tattooing process. Derma Numb anesthetic gel is easy to apply, and it's formulated with natural ingredients that are safe for all skin types and that won't impact ink colors or shading. As an added benefit, Derma Numb tattoo anesthetic gel also acts as an anti-inflammatory and skin cell rejuvenator that opens skin cells and yields better tattoo results.
Apply a generous amount of Derma Numb anesthetic gel one hour before you start tattooing. For best results, wrap the treated skin with plastic cling wrap to seal in the product and ensure optimal absorption. When the numbing effects start to wear off, spray the skin with Derma Numb tattoo anesthetic spray to ensure your client's comfort for the duration of the procedure.
Tattoo Soothe Topical Anesthetic Gel
Tattoo Soothe topical anesthetic gel comes in 1 oz. bottles, 10g jars, and cases of 12 10g jars. This topical numbing gel relieves pain, minimizes swelling, and reduces bleeding from tattoo procedures. It has a fast-acting formula consisting of 5% lidocaine, tetracaine and epinephrine that allows clients to relax and enjoy the tattooing process with less discomfort.
Tattoo Soothe topical anesthetic gel is intended for use in combination with Tattoo Soothe topical numbing cream. Apply a thin layer of the cream over the area you'll be tattooing 15-25 minutes before you begin. If your client is still uncomfortable after you've made a few passes with your tattoo machine, add a thin layer of Tattoo Soothe Gel over the area, wait 3-5 minutes, and resume tattooing. You can reapply the numbing gel one or two more times during the tattooing process, as needed for your client's optimal comfort.
Like Hush topical anesthetic cream, Hush topical numbing gel comes in 2 oz. bottles, 4 oz. bottles, cases of 12 2 oz. bottles, and cases of 12 4 oz. bottles. This special formula is intended for use before tattooing as well as prior to laser tattoo removal and piercings. It's a clear, non-oily gel consisting of a blend of botanical extracts that numb the skin, like menthol and comfrey root extract, 4% lidocaine, aloe to soothe the skin, and other calming, nourishing ingredients. Hush tattoo anesthetic gel is safe for all skin types. It won't effect ink colors, it reduces redness, and it minimizes inflammation during the tattooing process.
Apply a thick layer of Hush tattoo anesthetic gel to the skin before you begin tattooing. Spread it evenly over the area, and reapply more gel along the edges. Wrap the area with plastic cling wrap and let it sit for an hour for maximum absorption. You can then remove the plastic wrap, prep the skin as you would normally, and start tattooing.
Feel Better Now numbing gel is a great tool for cosmetic tattoo artists. It's formulated specifically for use on sensitive facial areas where permanent makeup is applied, like eyebrows and lips, and it's safe to use around the eyes. This numbing gel contains 5% lidocaine, tetracaine and epinephrine to relieve pain, minimize swelling, and reduce bleeding from cosmetic tattoo procedures. It can also be used for laser hair removal and other cosmetic procedures that can be harsh on the skin.
Feel Better Now numbing gel is intended for use in combination with Feel Better Now topical anesthetic cream. Apply the cream to a client's skin 15-25 minutes before you begin a cosmetic tattoo procedure. Then, after you've made a few initial passes, ask your client about their pain level. If they're finding the procedure uncomfortable, add a thin layer of Feel Better Now numbing gel over the area, wait 3-5 minutes, and resume tattooing. Add additional layers of Feel Better Now topical anesthetic gel as needed to give your clients optimal comfort during permanent makeup procedures.
Tattoo Anesthetic Soaps
In addition to tattoo anesthetic sprays, creams and gels, you can now get pain-relieving foam soap from H2Ocean! H2Ocean's Nothing pain-relieving soap is specially formulated to clean the skin and relieve pain during tattoo procedures. It prevents swelling, distortion, and ink color alteration. Simply wash your clients' skin with this antibacterial anesthetic foam soap to clean, disinfect and soothe it before you start tattooing.
H2Ocean's Nothing pain-relieving soap consists of 5% lidocaine, 0.13% benzalkonium chloride, purified water, aloe juice, sea salt, and other inactive ingredients that clean, soothe and nourish the skin. This soap will make the tattooing process more comfortable for your clients, and they can take a bottle home with them to minimize discomfort and clean tattoos thoroughly during the healing process. H2Ocean's Nothing pain-relieving soap is available in 1.7 oz. bottles and cases of 24 1.7 oz. bottles.