Best tattoo numbing creams to take away the pain from inking sessions

Can you skirt the hurt?

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Tania Leslau9 October 2023
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Tattoos hurt. Which is probably why so many people don’t get them.

But what if there was a way to get inked without feeling the relentless spur of a needle piercing your skin for hours on end?

Numbing cream is a divisive method of reducing pain during the tattooing experience. Numbing cream can be directly applied to the area of skin you want tattooed and will work by first blocking the nerve endings so they aren’t able to send pain signals to the brain.

Once the cream is absorbed into your skin, it works as an anaesthetic to numb the area which is being needled.

Why is numbing cream divisive?

On paper, it all sounds peachy. But numbing creams can pose certain problems.

Celebrity tattoo artist Pablo, who goes by the name Certified Letter Boy, has curated a glittering clientele including Liam Payne, Sabine Getty and all three Beckham brothers Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz. He says that many tattoo artists dislike numbing cream for several reasons, such as lack of artistic control.

“Numbing creams can make the skin less responsive, potentially affecting the artist’s ability to gauge pressure and make precise, delicate strokes. While numbing creams are effective for reducing pain, they have a limited duration of action. Longer tattoo sessions may require reapplication of the cream, which can disrupt the flow of the tattooing process.”

The Peruvian artist, who set up shop in Soho’s The London Social tattoo studio, adds: “Some clients may have allergic reactions or skin sensitivities to the ingredients in numbing creams. Tattoo artists may prefer not to use products that could cause potential complications or skin issues for their clients.”

Do tattoo numbing creams really work?

If you have sensitive skin or would prefer a guaranteed first-class tattoo no matter the levels of pain involved, then going creamless is the best option by far. However, for those with low pain tolerances who are not willing to go au naturale, then a numbing cream may be the only option for getting your dream tattoo.

The popularity of tattooing never seems to dwindle. It’s an ancient practice that has roots in the Neolithic times, with the earliest example on record hailing from around 3370 BC. Today, over 6000 years later, tattooing is a practice granted celebrity status, thanks to the likes of adored by David Beckham, Miley Cyrus, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa. While we aren’t sure if this cluster of stars used numbing cream, we can safely say the New Stone Agers didn’t and they seemed to manage just fine. Do with that information what you will.

Tattoo numbing creams only work temporarily, but they do work. Certified Letter Boy, aka ‘CLB’ as he is affectionately known by his A-lister clients, posits that pain is all part of the process and helps the artist gauge the client’s comfort level. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice, but as the saying famously goes, beauty is pain.

Discover the best tattoo numbing creams for a painless tattoo experience below.

Shop now

Tattoo Numbing Cream Co. Signature Tattoo Numbing Cream

Tattoo Numbing Cream Co.

Tattoo Numbing Cream Co.’s signature product has reaped five star reviews from across the board. The product numbs areas of skin for up to three hours and can be reapplied for lengthier sessions. It’s available to purchase in one, three, five or eight tubes depending on how much skin you want to cover. For reference, a 1x 10g tube can cover a 20cm2 area.

The cream works by blocking the pain receptors in the skin, reducing pain and discomfort during the needling process. Apply at least half an hour before your tattoo session starts.

Buy now£18, Tattoo Numbing Cream Co.

Emla Numbing Cream


Brace yourself for an intense session with Emla’s numbing cream. Designed for all procedures that require needles including injections, the cream incorporates two active substances; lidocaine and prilocaine that are known as local anaesthetics. Together the ingredients create a numbing effect that lasts for short periods only.

Apply to clean, unbroken skin to ease the pain of needle-based processes, although you may still experience feelings of pressure and touch. It takes effect after one hour of initial application, so be sure to get your timings correct before heading to the tattoo parlour.

Note that the cream requires approval by a pharmacist before purchase, so you may be asked to fill out some questions before purchase.

Buy now£5, Lloyds Pharmacy

LMX4 Lidocaine 4% Cream 30g

My Pharmacy

Lidocaine skin cream is known for numbing the skin before potentially painful procedures that require a needle. It is a local anaesthetic that works by stopping nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.

While it’s mainly used for medical processes such as having blood taken or having a drip inserted, it can also be bought from a pharmacy to use before cosmetic procedures such as tattooing and piercing.

The majority of people will start to feel the effects within 30 to 60 minutes. Like other creams listed, it shouldn't be applied to broken skin.

Buy now£29.99, My Pharmacy

TattooNumbx Numbing Cream


TattooNumbx is a topical agent used to numb and temporarily soothe the skin. As per the name it can be used for tattoos, in addition to laser tattoo removal, microneedling, waxing and more. A handy product to have on standby for regular salon-goers.

The fast-absorbing cream takes as little as 30 minutes to kick in and lasts from three to five hours. It incorporates a water-based formula so the skin isn’t left feeling oily, which may affect the precision of the tattooing process.

Buy now£14.99, Amazon

Blue Rose Tattoo Numbing Cream

Blue Rose

Sit pretty during your session with Blue Rose’s cream. The multipurpose solution preps your skin before procedures involving needles. Apply an hour before your appointment for the best results and ensure your skin is undamaged and graze-free.

The product is designed for effortless application. Apply a thin 2mm layer under a protective wrap prior to your session and let the cream work its magic.

Forgot to buy your cream and have an upcoming tattoo booked in? Order quickly via Amazon to ensure a painless artistic experience.

Buy now£15.99, Amazon