Ah yes, yet another never ending discussion in the tattoo industry – numbing cream. To numb or not to numb?

We had the chance to ask multiple tattoo artists at the Brussels Tattoo convention and they all had very mixed opinions. Let’s dissect this and see if we can finally come to a conclusion perhaps?

Argument 1: pain is part of the process

Axel Zaminga, an old-school traditional tattoo artist from Italy, doesn’t really like it.

For him, the pain comes naturally with the tattoo. It’s simply a part of the process. He doesn’t get how someone using a numbing cream for getting a tattoo can be proud afterwards. So, it’s a no from Axel.

That makes us wonder, though… should someone have to endure the pain or is it ok to use it because you just want amazing body art?

He did also say that he can accept it, even though he doesn’t like it. There are some REALLY painful spots where it can be beneficial to numb, because your artist has to be able to do a good job.

man with glasses holding an old-school artwork

Argument 2: it makes the skin ‘weird’

Because of the way that a numbing cream works your skin can act different than normal. The way that numbing cream works is as follows:

There’s usually a local anesthetic in the numbing cream (e.g. lidocaine/benzocaine). This anesthetic will block the nerve signals that transmit pain. You apply the cream to the skin before the tattooing process begins, you leave it on for an X amount of time and it’s supposed to numb or massively decrease the pain and discomfort for 2 up to 4 hours.

Because it is a ‘’nerve-blocker’’ – it may cause your skin to be ‘’weird’’. That’s Axel’s other argument of why he’s not a fan of it.

Steve Myles, a blackwork tattoo artist with a focus in traditional tattoos with a twist, supported this argument by telling us that in his experience – the skin looked ‘dead’.

From what we briefly gathered, there’s a lot of artists reporting that the skin texture gets altered or that it sometimes reacts in a way that makes the tattoo artist’s job harder instead of easier.

Argument 3: makes the artist’s job harder

This brings us to the next argument we found – it can make the tattoo artist’s job more difficult.

This is what Tasha Wild – a neotraditional tattoo artist, colleague of Steve – experienced.

Tasha told us that she doesn’t supply it personally but also doesn’t tell her clients they can’t use it. However, when she had clients of 

her use it, she experienced some difficulty with applying the tattoo. She now tells her clients that there’s a possibility of the process being actually more difficult (at least for her, but that can also elongate the sitting time for the client) and that the tattoo might heal more poorly and slowly. Tasha still leaves it up to her clients to decide for their own, though.

Argument 4: if it works for the client, there’s no harm

Another artist we asked this question to was Simon Halpern. Simon is a blackwork tattoo artist, specialized in ornamental and geometric tattoos.

His opinion is that he’s noticed it doesn’t work for linework but it might be beneficial if you’re packing in color. Overall he’s not a hater nor a fan – a bit indifferent, if you will.

He did mention that if a client needs it and it’ll help the client to not squirm, then why the heck not? After all, that’ll subsequently make the tattoo artist’s job easier too!

That’s what Steve Myles said too. He’s got no problem with people that want to use it.

Argument 5: once it wears off, the pain is amplified

There’s another good point Steve brought up.

Often with these numbing creams, once their effect wears off, the pain the client will feel is even worse! Worse than what it would’ve been without!

This might make the rest of the tattooing process unbearable for the client AND the artist, because the client will be impossible to work with (squirming, not being able to sit still, possible crying, etc…)


We think it’s up to you to decide. It might be a gift or a curse depending on the situation in which you’d use it.

It might actually help you if it’s a 1 or 2 hour tattoo session, so decide for yourself!

Well, these were the artists’ opinions. Now tell us about yours!

Have you guys ever used numbing cream? Why (not)? Do you consider it cheating? Share your thoughts with us!

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