Please suggest a good quality numbing cream that I can use for getting a tattoo
April 10, 2012 3:06 PM   Subscribe

Please suggest a good quality numbing cream that I can use for getting a tattoo in a painful area of my body.

(I'm in the UK.) So I want another tattoo... but I was in agony from having a small one (took half an hour to do) on the fleshy part of my arm. Because of the nature of this tattoo, it has to be on my chest plate. I've put it off for 2-3 years from being afraid of how painful it will be, but a friend of mine mentioned that you can use a numbing cream on the area before you go and get a tattoo.

The area that would need to be covered would be about 2 inches squared.

Basically, can someone recommend a good quality numbing cream please.

(Cheers in advance.)
posted by sockpim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
Everyone's experience of pain varies, but I found when I was in my tattoo-getting stage that the perception of pain was much more intense going into the session tense and apprehensive. Half a Valium took my edge off and honestly the pain was a lot more manageable.

You may prefer a different benzo.

I have also heard of (though not tried) marijuana for the same purpose: only a little obviously, because if you turn up totally baked, the artist may refuse to work on you.

Not exactly an answer to your question, I admit, but perhaps it will be of use.
posted by La Cieca at 3:13 PM on April 10, 2012

I'd ask your tattoo artist.

Even if they don't have specific recommendations you should at least warn them that you're planning on using something topical on the area.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:17 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know how it's distributed in the UK, but in the US you can get topical lidocaine OTC at the drugstore, in a brand called LMX Cream. Weirdly enough, you don't need a prescription but you have to ask the pharmacist for it.
posted by radioamy at 3:31 PM on April 10, 2012

Suck it up.
Part of having a tattoo is enduring the application.
If you need better reasons: your skin will not react to the trauma like it should and this will effect how it heals. You may have a skin reaction to whatever you apply, and even if you have used it before with no problems it may react differently when actually being repeatedly driven into a wound. You are going to be amped up and expecting pain, even if it's completely painless. When it wears off it's going to hurt more than it normally would and you are going to be wrecked. You're going to tense up in your chest, more than you realize because you're not feeling it and your body will be flooded with chemicals to deal with pain that then sit around doing nothing. Expect the worst hangover of your life combined with the hurt of a fresh tattoo.
I say all this as someone with about 50% coverage myself and many years of working in tattoo shops.

Also, different areas are going to feel different for every person. The fleshy parts of my arms, which are supposed to be the easiest, hurt way worse than doing my hands, neck, chest and ribs.
posted by gally99 at 3:35 PM on April 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

I recently heard (no verification of this) that numbing an area relaxes the underlying muscles, and thus changes their shape. So that after you get the tattoo, and the numbness wears off, it might distort the image.
posted by purpletangerine at 3:37 PM on April 10, 2012

How long do you approximate the tattoo will take? When you say "chest plate" do you mean it's going to be over your sternum? Your experience of pain may also depend upon how fleshy the area is and the sensitivity of your skin. Some people have trouble with bony regions but for me the worst part was the very soft and unexposed skin on the underside of the upper arm. If you're that worried about pain, consider moving or rearranging the design so that your most vulnerable areas can be avoided or only minimally needled. Otherwise, talk to your artist but don't be too surprised if they don't endorse the idea of a numbing agent.

In my experience (having just had over 8 hours of work on a piece that covers my upper arm from shoulder to elbow) the endorphins kick in after the first hour or so and then you feel nothing. I'd just suck it up if were you. I wouldn't want to risk having some kind of weird reaction with anything topical. I did have a bad reaction to an unscented lotion I put on the tattoo and I had to have a portion of it redone. Oh, and don't take OTC pain meds because you'll bleed a lot more.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 3:49 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am heavily tattooed. Like others have said, I would forego a topical numbing cream for your tattoo, for several reasons (many of which have been stated, but I will reiterate): your skin will react differently to the tattoo than it would without the numbing cream, which could affect tattooing time and healing; you may feel pain from other areas (bone, muscle, etc. can be affected by the vibration and pressure from the machine, and I can't imagine a topical cream would tackle all of that pain); and most importantly, you will be forcing a treatment that is only meant for topical use directly into your bloodstream. I emphasize this last fact because you do not know how your body will react to the topical cream once it is in your bloodstream, and it may well have an unexpected adverse effect on you.

Rather than dealing with all that, I recommend eating a full meal that has lots of protein and some complex carbohydrates with fiber an hour or so before the tattoo session, refrain from drinking for at least 24 and preferably 48 hours prior to the session, make sure you are well-hydrated before and during the session, and if you are really concerned about the pain and can tolerate it, take paracetamol or nurofen 20 minutes or so before the session (I find that nurofen works better because it's an anti-inflammatory as well as a pain reliever). And remember to breathe.
posted by bedhead at 3:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

You need to ask your tattoo artist beforehand - they may either have a recommendation or... tell you they won't do a tattoo with it. Various reasons I'm aware of include that it increases the time it takes to tattoo, the pain will hit you very suddenly and strongly, it may swell the skin/leave a residue, it can get into your system/bloodstream, or just flat out tell you that pain is part of the experience.

The only person I know who used one said that it didn't really help, either.
posted by sm1tten at 4:01 PM on April 10, 2012

Chest doesn't hurt too bad, really, in my experience. Especially something small. Drink plenty of water, control your breathing, and if it gets rough just drink some soda.

You'll be fine! The pain is half the fun!
posted by broadway bill at 6:00 AM on April 11, 2012

I have a tattoo on each shoulder. Although the tattoos are the same size and style and were done by the same person just a few weeks apart, one tattoo hurt and the other didn't hurt at all.

So buck up. It might not be that bad. There are variables other than location, and tattoos on bony areas aren't necessarily painful.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2012

Response by poster: Bummer..... I thought the majority of the answers would be to 'man up' and not buy the cream =(.

Thanks anyway. With the explanations behind the answers I think I may just have to bare it on my chest plate.

posted by sockpim at 2:06 AM on April 15, 2012

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