Tattoo Removal

Does Tattoo Removal Numbing Cream Affect Removal?

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Published: 09.26.2023
Updated: 07.11.2024

Laser tattoo removal is the most effective way to get rid of unwanted ink. However, there is a lot of hesitation around laser treatments because of fear of pain. 


Laser tattoo removal sessions are not nearly as painful as you’ve been led to believe! It is a common misconception that laser treatments are unbearable. But laser removal sessions are quick and not nearly as uncomfortable as getting tattooed. 


Most people compare laser tattoo removal to the feeling of a rubber band snapping against the skin. While it certainly isn’t pain-free, laser removal is mostly just irritating. In addition, professional removal clinics use the best pain management methods to make treatments as comfortable as possible. 


However, if you have a low tolerance for pain, you might be considering adding extra relief to your laser tattoo removal experience. Numbing cream is the most common product purchased for skin procedures. 


This article tackles the big questions around tattoo numbing cream. So can you use numbing cream before laser tattoo removal? Should you? Read on to learn the best ways to manage pain during tattoo laser removal sessions.

How Does Numbing Cream Work?

Skin-numbing creams block nerve signals in the body. They are a practical choice for local anesthetic and reduce sensitivity to pain. Numbing creams are used before minor medical treatments and are especially common for cosmetic procedures. 


Numbing creams usually contain lidocaine or benzocaine. These active ingredients prevent pain by blocking nerve signals in the skin. Low-concentrate numbing creams are available over-the-counter, while more potent formulas require a doctor’s prescription.

Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Numbing Cream

OTC and prescription numbering creams contain similar active ingredients. The primary difference between these formulas is the concentration of active ingredients. For example, prescription numbing creams will contain at least 5% lidocaine. In comparison, over-the-counter options have a 3-4% concentration. 


OTC numbing creams can often include hydrocortisone. This ingredient helps with inflammation, redness, and itchiness. As a result, these formulas are often used to manage discomfort from bug bites and rashes. Due to the lower concentration of pain-blocking ingredients, these creams are moderately effective at reducing discomfort. However, they are affordable and easy to find, making them a common choice.


In comparison, prescription numbing creams are designed as preparation for medical procedures. They are used to block pain at injection sites and provide comfort throughout skin treatments. On average, prescription numbing creams last up to three hours.


Both over-the-counter and prescription numbing creams take time to work. As a result, applying the lotion at least 30 minutes before a procedure or treatment is recommended. Always check the instructions and follow any advice given by your medical professional.

Tattoo Ointments: Removal vs. Numbing vs. Aftercare

As tattoos become more accepted, the number of tattoo-related products has increased. Every drug store carries treatments to care for tattoos, making selecting the right product for your needs even more important.


Tattoo Aftercare Ointment: Aftercare products are designed to moisturize a new tattoo, reduce inflammation and itchiness, and speed up the healing process. Tattoo aftercare ointments should be applied multiple times daily for up to two weeks after getting new ink.


Tattoo Numbing Cream: Numbing cream temporarily blocks nerve signals in the skin. As a result, skin procedures are less painful. Numbing creams are used before getting tattooed to ease discomfort. They are also used before tattoo removal appointments to make treatments more bearable.


Tattoo Removal Cream: Tattoo removal cream is an over-the-counter option for people who want to remove ink at home. These treatments are affordable but ineffective. For the best tattoo removal results, choose laser removal procedures. Do not combine tattoo removal creams with any other removal methods.  

Will the Laser Be Affected By Numbing Cream?

Laser tattoo removal works because it targets ink molecules in the skin’s second layer (dermis). The ink is blasted into tiny particles that the body can naturally process as waste. Unfortunately, the dermis is challenging to access, which is why tattoos are generally permanent. However, laser tattoo removal machines easily penetrate the upper layers of the skin, making it the most effective tattoo removal method.


A thin layer of cream is no match for the powerful laser beams that remove tattoos. As a result, applying numbing cream before a removal appointment will not affect the overall results of your session. However, in some cases, an application of numbing cream is recommended, especially for those who struggle with pain management.

Pros and Cons of Using Numbing Cream Before Tattoo Removal

Applying numbing cream before a laser tattoo removal treatment will not affect the session’s outcome. The laser beams will still easily penetrate the dermis and obliterate ink molecules. As long as you follow the recommended usage instructions for the cream, there are minimum side effects associated with topical numbing agents. 


Before deciding if this pain management method is suitable for you, check out the pros and cons of numbing cream before tattoo removal. 

Pros of Using Numbing Cream

Several people choose to prepare for tattoo removal with numbing cream. This inexpensive product is available at most drug stores and offers slight relief during skin procedures. 

Numbing creams are easy to apply. Spread a light layer over the area to be treated – a little goes a long way! Apply tattoo numbing cream one hour before a laser appointment for the best results. 


Using numbing cream before a tattoo removal appointment offers the following benefits:

  • Pain reduction
  • Comparative with other pain management methods like ice or cold air
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • It can help with reducing redness or further irritation

Cons of Using Numbing Cream

It is not necessary to use numbing cream for tattoo removal. The application of these products will not affect the outcome of your laser appointment. It is a common misconception that laser removal procedures are extremely painful. However, most clients describe the process as mildly uncomfortable.


Overall, patients who forgo the use of numbing cream do so for the following reasons:

  • Pain is not completely blocked
  • Additional cost
  • Requires 30-45 minutes to work

Is Numbing and Pain Relief Necessary for Laser Tattoo Removal?

Using numbing creams or other pain relief methods is unnecessary to get laser tattoo removal.

While laser tattoo removal feels different for everyone, most clients report feeling the same or less pain than getting a tattoo. In addition, the size and location of your tattoo will affect the pain you experience. Referencing the tattoo pain chart can help predict the level of discomfort to expect.

Overall, tattoo removal is uncomfortable but bearable for most. It is commonly compared to a rubber band snapping against the skin. 


However, you know your body best. If you have a low tolerance for pain, consider using a numbing cream or one of these other tattoo removal pain management methods.

Other Tattoo Removal Pain Management Methods

Numbing cream isn’t the only way to manage pain during laser tattoo removal. Other options include OTC pain relief, ice, cold air, and local anesthetics. 

OTC Pain Relief

OTC pain medication is a great source to ward off aches and discomfort. However, proceed with caution if you are considering taking a pain reliever before your tattoo removal appointment.

Certain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen will increase bruising after laser treatments. Instead, elect for a non-aspirin product such as acetaminophen. Not sure what to take? Consult with the staff at the laser removal clinic. They will offer recommendations and potential side effects from OTC pain relief.

Ice Packs

Ice is a natural numbing agent. Applying an ice pack to your tattoo for 5-10 minutes will help block sensation. This tattoo removal pain management method is short-term and only effective for the start of a procedure. Unfortunately, ice packs cannot be reapplied during laser treatments. Depending on the length of your laser removal session, the numbing effect will fade before the laser treatment is completed. 

Cold Air Machines

Cold air machines are one of the most effective forms of pain relief during tattoo removal treatments. This state-of-the-art technology blasts freezing air on the skin. Cold air can be applied before, during, and after laser removal for consistent pain management for the duration of your session.


Removery embraces cold air therapy in their clinics. They use top-of-the-line Zimmer Cryo 6 cooling systems to provide relief during laser tattoo removals. Removery cools the skin before, during, and after procedures to limit pain. 


So is cold air more effective than numbing cream? 


Professional laser treatment clinics like Removery recommend cold air machines over numbing cream. While creams can provide temporary relief to the top layer of skin, they are not strong enough to penetrate the dermis. As a result, clients will still experience discomfort during laser removal. In addition, numbing creams cannot be applied during treatment. Once its effect wanes, you cannot add more to ease new pain. 


In comparison, cold air machines provide relief throughout the entire laser removal experience. This method naturally numbs the skin before lasers and can be applied during treatments. As a result, cold air offers consistent pain reduction that is more effective than a single application of numbing cream. However, numbing cream and cold air can be used together for those anxious about pain from laser tattoo removal.

Lidocaine Injections

Lidocaine injections are most commonly administered during cosmetic procedures. They are a local anesthetic that blocks nerve receptors at and around the injection site. While this pain management method effectively numbs the skin, it is not ideal for laser tattoo removal because:

  • Lidocaine injections do not numb large areas, requiring lots of injections for substantial tattoos
  • Injections can only be administered by medical professionals
  • This method is excessive compared to the amount of pain laser tattoo removal causes
  • It is very expensive

The debate is short when considering numbing cream vs. lidocaine injection tattoo removal. It is too costly and takes too many injections to make this targeted lidocaine treatment worth it. So if you are looking for relief during laser tattoo removal, opt for the tube, not the needle. 

Do You Have More Tattoo Removal Questions? Contact Removery Today!

Are you ready to blast away old ink? Removery’s professional laser removal treatment centers erase unwanted ink in as little as four sessions! The laser procedure is quick and causes moderate discomfort. The knowledge Removery team uses ground-breaking technology to make your tattoo removal sessions as painless as possible. 


In addition, Removery has locations all over the country! So whether you live in Texas or are looking for tattoo removal Chicago locations, a Removery clinic is nearby! Their efficient laser removal process is available nationwide.


So if you are contemplating getting a tattoo removed, make Removery your first call! Schedule a consultation with a laser technician to learn how their treatments can help with unwanted ink. Plus, get the answers to all your questions, including how to manage pain, how long sessions will take, and the total cost for removal.


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Dr Kevin Shomaker Dr. Kevin Schomacker VP Medical Research

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