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How Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Work?

How Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Work?

Tattoos can mean different things to different people. For some, getting a tattoo is a form of self-expression that they can proudly and permanently wear on their skin. For others, tattoos are a tribute to the people they love or have lost. And sometimes, tattoos are just fun works of art that people get for no other reason than that they like the look of it. 

The tattoo industry rakes in roughly $3 billion in annual revenue each year. That's a lot of money, ink, and people participating in the body-art phenomenon! If you ask someone who has a tattoo what it feels like, they’ll often say it's almost indescribable until you get under the needle. Why? Because people respond to the pain of tattoos differently.

Some say it's a walk in the park, while others freak out, or even faint. People who belong to the latter group may benefit from tattoo numbing cream when they go under the needle and get that new ink they've been dreaming about. 

But why do tattoos hurt, exactly? And how do cream solutions soothe that pain so you can sit in peace while you get a new piece of art etched into your skin? Read on to learn the answers to all your questions, including the big one: how does tattoo numbing cream work?

Why do tattoos hurt? 

The skin has many layers. When it comes to tattooing, the layer that the ink needs to reach is quite deep – it’s not the bottom layer, but it's not super near the top, either. Somewhere in the middle is where the ink must land, because: 

  1. A) You don't want it so shallow that the ink washes away eventually.
  2. B) You want it to be visible from the above layer of skin. 

Getting to this middle layer isn't easy, but it can be done using a tattoo gun. However, as it turns out, that sweet spot sits intricately close to your pain receptors.

A tattoo gun has needles that pierce through the upper layers of skin and into the middle layer with the ink. The rate at which the needles pierce through is roughly 80 to 150 times every second. It's not the same as getting your blood drawn – it goes much deeper than that. And because of how deep the needles go and how quickly they’re piercing the skin, pain is inevitable. 


Image by Julia Giacomini on Unsplash: Does numbing cream work for tattoos? 


Can I numb myself before a tattoo? 

To put it simply: yes, you can numb yourself before getting a tattoo. Numbing the skin down to the deeper layers reduces the pain of a tattoo for people who find getting them excruciating. It's not easy to get to that area, though – for example, you can’t just ice your chosen tattoo area for a bit and hope that the numbing has gone deep enough into the skin. 

You also can't take a pain reliever beforehand to hinder your body's ability to feel the pain, because that also won't work before getting a tattoo. There is really only one method of numbing the skin before a tattoo, and that’s using numbing cream. 

What is numbing cream? 

Numbing cream acts as a local anesthetic, which means it’s localized to one area and does not affect your overall alertness. There are several types of numbing creams, and not all are used for tattooing. Some creams have medical or cosmetic applications that reduce pain for procedures such as mammograms, giving a child needles, getting fillers, or waxing body hair. There are two main kinds you can get: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. 

The ingredients found in most numbing creams, both OTC and prescription, contain lidocaine. Lidocaine is proven to work quickly and hinder the sensation of pain. Some numbing creams also contain other numbing substances, including benzocaine, pramoxine, dibucaine, and tetracaine. 

The ingredients and strength of each will be different when comparing OTC creams and prescription options. For example, if you get a lidocaine patch OTC, it will have 4% of the active ingredient, whereas a lidocaine patch you get from your doctor will have 5%. In some cases, numbing creams are mixed with a hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation and swelling. GenBoost has its own version of numbing cream that’s now available OTC. 

How does numbing cream for tattoos work? 

As the name suggests, tattoo numbing cream will numb the area where the tattoo is being inked. But while you may assume it simply numbs the skin, that doesn't tell the whole story.

The way the human body feels pain is through nerve signals, which are sent through receptors from various areas of the body. When you stub your toe, for example, its pain receptors use the nerves in your body to signal to your brain that you have an injury – and it does not feel good!

That same process applies to getting a tattoo. The pain receptors in the sweet-spot layer of skin are essentially shut off by numbing cream. That means they can no longer perform their job of alerting the brain that something hurts. When those nerve signals are blocked during a tattoo, you'll feel nothing but the excitement of getting new ink. 


Image by José Pinto on Unsplash: How long does tattoo numbing cream last? 


How long does it take for numbing cream to work? 

When using numbing cream, you need to do so carefully and correctly for the best results. It would be a shame to misuse it and then have to deal with the pain of the tattoo anyway!

Typically, the label of the cream will provide you with an excellent step-by-step process for proper application. It will explain how long before your tattoo you should put it on, how much you should use, and how to prep your skin beforehand.

For GenBoost's cream, you will want to: 

  • Wash and exfoliate the area beforehand to eliminate dead skin cells and dirt. This ensures the cream can get deep into the skin where it needs to be. 
  • Use a 2mm thick amount of cream on the area and rub it on the skin. 
  • Once it's thoroughly rubbed in, wrap it with plastic wrap for 45 minutes before your tattoo appointment. 
  • After 45 minutes, remove the plastic wrap and wipe off the cream. 
  • Re-wash the area with antibacterial soap so that when you get the tattoo, you reduce the risk of infection.

The effects should last roughly three hours, so you'll be covered for any tattoo that takes this long or less. Different numbing creams may have slightly different instructions and last for a varied amount of time. Whichever cream you use, be sure to read all labels. This way, you'll ensure you get the fun tattoo experience without all the pesky pain that comes with it!


Featured image by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash

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