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Precautions to Follow while Using a Numbing Cream

Posted on May 23 2019


Follow these things while using numbing cream for tattooing, piercing or other purposes.)

Numbing cream or a topical anesthetic is a quite popular choice when it comes to making tattooing or piercing painless. The cream works by desensitizing the top skin layers so that you don’t feel anything happening to your skin. Scientifically speaking, it blocks the pain receptors from carrying signals to the brain. The numbing effect usually lasts 1-2 hours depending on the efficiency of the cream. Lidocaine, the strongest numbing agent, is often found in many numbing creams available. Numbing cream is an OTC drug and easily available without a doctor’s prescription. It is easy to use, just like any ordinary topical skin cream.

However, numbing cream can do harm if used inappropriately. Since the cream dulls the nerve endings, it can lead to several health hazards ranging from racy heartbeat, seizures, trouble in breathing, coma and even death. Sometimes the cream might lose its effect or interact with the ink.

No wonder that the FDA comes with this concern—

“When applied to the skin surface, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and, if used improperly, may cause life-threatening side effects, such as irregular heartbeat, seizures, breathing difficulties, coma, or even death.”

FDA claims to receive “reports of adverse events and deaths of two women who used topical anesthetics before laser hair removal.” 

According to the National Capital Poison Center, covering “a large area of the body with lidocaine or leaving it on the skin for a long time can lead to absorption of the drug into the bloodstream. This can also occur when it’s applied to skin that is not intact such as open wounds, blisters, or burns. Wrapping the treated area also increases absorption.”

The center also warns that lidocaine can cause “methemoglobinemia which impairs the ability of iron in red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Methemoglobinemia is the condition of having blood that has this altered kind of iron. Methemoglobinemia can result even from normal use of lidocaine, especially in children.”

Therefore, the cream should be used safely.

Here are the precautions to keep in mind while using a numbing cream.


  • The cream shouldn’t have more than 5% of lidocaine.
  • Avoid applying the cream on broken skin like wound, scar, and rashes as it can enter the bloodstream.
  • Prefer water-based numbing creams as they are easy to wipe off and don’t interact with ink.
  • Avoid using numbing cream on the tongue, near eyes or inside the nose. Most numbing creams are for external use only. However, there are some numbing creams like benzocaine which can be used on internal parts or mucous membranes. But ask your doctor before using any numbing creams to be used on internal parts.
  • The application of the cream shouldn’t be thicker than the prescribed amount. The thick layers can cut the oxygen supply to that area.
  • Use only a plastic cling or wrap to cover the area. Never use a heating pad or cloth.
  • Don’t wear the cream for more than one hour, although the time may be varied from cream to cream.
  • Consult your doctor if you are pregnant, nursing mother, or suffering from any health conditions.


  • Experiencing burning and irritation where the cream is applied to.
  • Swelling and redness
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Blurred vision or ringing in your eyes.

How to Use Numbing Cream Rightly?

Wash Your Skin with Soap and Water to Remove Oil and Debris.

  • Pat, it Dry with a Clean Towel.
  • Apply the Cream to the Skin Patch to be treated.
  • Cover it with a Plastic Cling or Plastic Wrap.
  • Leave the Cover on for 45 minutes to 1 Hour or as directed by the cream.
  • After the Time is Up, Remove the Cover and Wipe off the Excess.

It is Important to Choose the Right Cream

How to tell if numbing cream is effective? Well, first of all, it should contain lidocaine no more than 5%. Consult your doctor or talk to your tattoo artist or piercer. You can check the user reviews of the cream on their website, independent review sites or social media platforms.




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