Do Tattoo Numbing Creams Really Work?

Tattoos are painful. No matter where they are on your body, big or small, tattoos hurt.

And if you’re worried about the pain, you’ve probably heard of tattoo numbing creams. And you probably have the same question as everyone else, do tattoo numbing creams really work?

Yes, tattoo numbing creams work. 

Tattoo numbing creams help you sit pain-free for hours at a time, allowing you to add ink without all of the pain. 

But you still might be asking yourself, how do they work? And are they the best solution for me?

How Tattoo Numbing Creams Work

There are three primary categories of tattoo numbing creams. Each is classified by different active ingredients.

Nerve deadeners

The most common active ingredient in nerve deadeners is lidocaine.

Nerve deadeners work by temporarily deadening the nerves in the skin to prevent them from registering pain to create a numbing effect. Essentially, your body is temporarily unable to register pain on the skin where the numbing cream is applied. 

Our Signature and Signature+ Numbing Creams are made with a blend of lidocaine, glycerin, and butylene glycol to keep your skin completely numb and hydrated for 5-7 hours. 

Shop our Signature Numbing Creams below!

signature numbing cream button     signature+ numbing cream button

Nerve blockers

The most common active ingredients in nerve blockers are benzocaine and tetracaine.

Unlike nerve deadeners, nerve blockers work by preventing pain signals from reaching your brain. Though you’ll still feel discomfort in the tattoo area, the pain will be noticeably dulled.


The most common active ingredient in vasoconstrictors is epinephrine and they are often the most powerful (and dangerous) type of tattoo numbing creams. 

Vasoconstrictors work by constricting blood flow which reduces bleeding & swelling in the tattoo area. 

And oftentimes, vasoconstrictors are combined with nerve blockers and nerve deadeners to create a blend of numbing agents that have a longer, stronger numbing effect. 

Numbing Cream Risks

Combining numbing agents can have serious health effects on both your skin and your blood pathways.

Blood Absorption

Though combining vasoconstrictors with nerve blockers and nerve deadeners can create a long-lasting numbing effect, there are serious health risks if not taken as instructed.

Because vasoconstrictors constrict blood flow, issues such as increased heart rate and lack of oxygen have occurred, leading to long-term skin & heart issues.

Constricted blood vessels also cause chemical absorption to occur at a slower rate. If your body cannot process the chemicals quickly enough, there could be a toxic buildup of these numbing agents in your bloodstream. 

This can cause serious long-term health effects. 

Allergic Reactions & Skin Sensitivity 

Many numbing creams are filled with artificial ingredients & preservatives that may cause an allergic reaction or discomfort to those with sensitive skin.

If you have a history of allergic reactions or sensitive skin, make sure to check the ingredients and with your doctor to see if numbing cream is right for you. 

And even without a history of allergens, we recommend trying numbing cream on a small spot before applying to a larger area to test for allergic reactions or skin sensitivity. 

Should I Use a Tattoo Numbing Cream?

Rite of passage

Some tattoo enthusiasts consider the pain to be an important part of the process, a rite of passage of sorts. They believe that the pain that accompanies the ink makes it more meaningful. 

Though this belief is shared by many, there are plenty of tattoo enthusiasts who have lower pain thresholds that require tattoo numbing creams to sit for their ink.

And just because their pain tolerance is lower, doesn’t mean that their tattoo is any less important.  

Artist Preference

Some artists also believe that pain is a rite of passage in the tattoo process. Others are skeptical to use numbing creams that they’ve not yet tried before or are worried might interfere with the process. 

On the other hand, some artists prefer working with these numbing creams as it allows them to work uninterrupted, especially if you have a lower pain tolerance or if the tattoo is in a sensitive area.

If you want to use a numbing cream, just let your artist know ahead of time and if you have any questions.

Size & Location

Even with a “normal” pain threshold, tattoos in sensitive areas such as the ribs, inner thigh, or feet can be very painful. In this case, the right numbing cream will allow you to sit without pain and still enjoy your experience. 

The same goes for large tattoos. For larger pieces that take upwards of 4-8 hours, a numbing cream is a perfect solution to ensure you’re not in pain for the entire session.

Ultimately, it’s your decision whether or not to use a tattoo numbing cream based on your preferences, pain threshold, tattoo location, and more. 

If you’re concerned about the pain of your first tattoo or just want more ink without the added pain, our
Signature+ Numbing Cream will keep you completely numb for 5-7 hours. 

Related Posts