Listen, we get it: tattoos are painful. And for many, it’s often the deterrent from moving forward with getting your first - or your largest - piece. But that’s where tattoo numbing cream comes in.
Tattoo numbing cream is applied prior to getting your tattoo and the good stuff can last for a handful of hours making the tattooing process a lot less distressing. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of our (x) favorites for your next session.
Quick glance at the best tattoo numbing cream:
Table of Contents (clickable)
NumbSkin topped the charts as our very favourite tattoo numbing cream for a few reasons. Firstly, it contains the maximum allowable non-prescription amount of lidocaine (5 percent) which means you are working with a powerful cream. In addition, the effects of the cream seem to last longest with this product than with other comparable products. The effects last four hours while, on average, numbing cream efficiency sits at around the two hour mark.
NumbSkin is also advertised as being a 100% cruelty free product, and the ingredient list shows that it includes aloe vera. We love aloe vera because it’s medically proven to be antibacterial, antiviral, virucidal, and an antifungal agent, meaning it combats bacteria, viruses, and fungus growth. It also has been shown to combat inflammation, which can definitely happen to your skin during the tattooing process.
Tattooers love this product as well, saying: “I am so surprised by this product! I bought this before getting a pretty large tattoo on my outer forearm. About 1 hour prior to getting the tattoo, [d]uring the tattoo, there was absolutely no major pain as I usually felt. You can feel the needle on your skin, but it’s not an intense pain at all. Worth the money! ”
Ingredients:Lidocaine 4%, benzethonium Chloride 0. 25%, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Benzyl Alcohol, Glycerin , Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Menthoxypropanediol, Phenoxyethanol, Selaginella Lepidophylla Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Water.
Ink Inspired was a numbing cream designed specifically with tattoos in mind. Not only does it have the highest non-prescription percentage of lidocaine, but it also includes Arnica and Emu Oil, which are two ingredients that are known to accelerate tattoo healing times. This means that while the numbing cream is applied prior to getting the tattoo, the healing benefits will continue once it's complete.
Ink Inspired seems to continue to continue to work until around the two hour mark, but it absorbs quickly and you will immediately begin to feel it taking effect. They also offer a 100% satisfaction guaranteed promise which means that if you’re not satisfied, they’ll make it right by you.
Reviewers seem to sing the praises of Ink Inspired as well, saying: “Used this before a 4 hour session and it lasted most of the session. I exfoliated the area to be tattooed and took a long, hot shower to open up and clear the pores as much as possible. Then I slathered on a bunch of the cream. It’s very silky, I like the texture. Then wrap it up in plastic. I applied about 15 before leaving for the shop, so probably an hour before ink. I have already purchased more for another 5 hour session and I would definitely recommend this cream over other products I’ve tried. ”
Ingredients: Lidocaine HCL 5%, Aqua (Deionized Water), Arnica Montana Flower Extract, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Chondroitin Sulfate, Dimethyl Sulfone (MSM), Emu Oil, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glucosamine Sulfate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Laureth-7, Phenoxyethanol, Polyacrylamide, Propylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Tea Tree Oil, Triethanolamine.
Ebanel Lipsomal Numb520 Numbing Cream is an especially impressive candidate in the numbing cream ranks because it is infused with aloe vera, vitamin E, and other moisturizing and healing ingredients.
Ebanel also absorbs significantly faster than most over-the-counter numbing creams, beginning to take effect at around five minutes, and peaking in about 20 minutes. It’s also cruelty-free, cGMP Certified, and hypo-allergenic which is great for the sensitive skin types out there. That being said, it contains aloe vera and aloe allergies can be rather common, so you should patch test prior to using this product.
Though its effects only last around one hour, tattooers seem to love it as well, saying, “This is the best ]thing] I’ve ever experienced, 110% . . . This stuff really works! . . . Definitely will never get another tattoo without this product, it’s life changing. ”
Ingredients: Lidocaine 5%, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera), Benzyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Cholesterol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Disodium EDTA, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Lecithin, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water, Sodium Polyacrylate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Trideceth-6, Triethanolamine
Zensa markets itself as being the “most natural numbing cream on the market”, being exceptionally cautious about the ingredients that go into its formula. It also contains vitamin E which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties which is essential to the healing process of a tattoo. In addition, it has one of the longest shelf lives of all the numbing creams on our list, boasting that it will continue to work for up to three years of usage.
Zensa also has one of the longer-lasting numbing effects, kicking in at around the 30 minute mark and lasting just over three hours. It also has federal government certification (FDA Approved) to back up its claims, and it stresses that the formula will not affect the tattooing process in any way.
Reviewers love this product, saying, “This worked SO WELL I couldn't even feel the needle, only the vibration of the machine. I could definitely feel the tiny spots where I hadn't put the cream and thought I wouldn't be able to handle it, but then back to the numb areas. Truly amazing! I have already recommended this to people, and have told people I could get my whole body covered in tattoos as long as I have this cream. Also, my arm was still numb 5 hours after applying it. ”
Ingredients:Lidocaine 5% w/w, Benzyl Alcohol, Carbopol, Lecithin, Propylene Glycol, Vitamin E Acetate, Purified Water.
Dr. Numb is cruelty-free, 100% hypoallergenic, and formulated with vitamin E for anti-inflammatory effects, which makes this numbing cream a powerful tool to have in your backpocket.
Most numbing creams are oil-based which may make tattooing the area rather difficult for your artist; Dr. Numb stresses that it’s got a creamy consistency that is fast-absorbing. It’s extremely short ingredient list also adds to how impressive this numbing cream truly is.
One of the primary reasons why we love Dr. Numb so much, apart from efficiency (effects are said to last around three hours), is the fact that it can be found basically anywhere you look. Pharmacies, grocery stories, or online, you’re likely to find Dr. Numb sitting on a shelf in the first aid section.
Tattooers love Dr. Numb, saying, “I had a tattoo done recently which took a little over 2 hrs. If I did not have Dr Numb, I would of [sic] never been able to sit through. This product is amazing. It started to wear off just about when he was done. . . Have another appt [sic[ next week. A little pricey, but well worth it. ”
Ingredients: Carbomer 934, Lecithin(Soybean), Propylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Benzyl Alcohol, Water
What tattooers want from a numbing cream is effectiveness, but more than that, they want something that will make it through an entire tattoo session. The problem with tattoo numbing cream is that when the product wears off mid-tattooing, the pain you feel is usually amplified or gives off a more severe burning sensation as you’ve been desensitized to the experience. It’s for this reason that we chose NumbSkin as our favorite numbing cream.
The cream is marketed - and backed by reviewer experience - as lasting around the four-hour mark, which is two to three hours more than the average experience with other numbing creams. It is often not recommended that you reapply numbing cream mid-tattoo, so NumbSkin takes you to the finish line with the longest pain-free experience.
We also loved that NumbSkin was cruelty-free and was formulated with aloe vera, which is known to be antibacterial and have anti-inflammatory benefits; a crucial factor during the irritating tattoo process.
With the highest allowable percentage of non-prescription lidocaine and long-lasting effects, NumbSkin made the top of our review list.
When we are selecting the numbing creams that top our list, there are a few factors we keep in mind.
This, to us, is reflected in how quickly the product absorbs and takes effect, and how long those effects last. We want a product that doesn’t fade away and stop working mid-way in a tattooing session, especially for those pieces that are going to take a few hours in the chair.
For products that don’t seem to peak for as long, we make sure they’re powerful, so they can get you through a mini session pain-free. But primarily we focus on those numbing creams that can really kick it for a handful of hours.
Ease of Use
Most numbing creams are best applied thirty minutes before a tattoo session, and it’s recommended that you use saran wrap to truly absorb the product within the depths of your epidermis. This is slightly tedious, so we prefer those products who kick-in with little hesitation and start absorbing on contact.
We also looked for products that will not give off an oily residue that could make the job more difficult for your artist.
Have a look at our complete guide on how to use numbing cream and how it works, here: Does Tattoo Numbing Cream Work?
Standards are important, so in our own review process, we considered the products that were either professionally certified or were recommended by individuals in the tattooing or esthetician industry.
We also looked at the experiences and reviews of other people who were using the product for tattooing. While testimonials for numbing products seem to be all across the board, we honed in on the products that people truly raved about.
All the numbing creams on our review list have the highest non-prescription dosage of lidocaine (5%), which is the primary numbing agent in these products. This ensures you are getting the maximum effect from the cream.
We also love products that contain additional ingredients that help increase the healing time of our tattoos. Aloe vera, vitamin E, and other antibacterial or antimicrobial properties are definitely a bonus to us. If we can find a cream that does it all, why wouldn’t we want to use it?
Truth be told, some artists really don’t like you using numbing cream. It’s for this reason that we always advise that you discuss your desire to use numbing cream prior to getting your tattoo. Oftentimes, the artist may recommend their preferred cream that will allow you to experience the tattoo process pain-free but won’t influence the tattooing process for them.
Some tattoo numbing cream could constrict your blood vessels making your skin more difficult to tattoo, while some may amplify the pain as it starts to wear off. In addition, you should never apply numbing cream during or after getting your tattoo, as it will not only burn the wound but could severely affect how it heals. It’s for this reason that any usage should be discussed with a professional, first.
Of course, as with any product you put on your skin, whether or not it works will vary from one person to the next. It’s important to consider environmental conditions, skin sensitivities, and our own personal metabolism when it comes to selecting a numbing cream for our needs. Just as the reviews for all of our numbing creams mentioned can greatly differ, so too will your own experience with these creams.
You should always conduct a patch test prior to using any product. This can be done on the inside of your elbow. Monitor how you react to the numbing agents, and over 48 hours, keep an eye on any reactions you may have to the product, as well.