There are several reasons why you might need to numb your skin. You may want to numb the skin before undergoing a painful procedure such as a cosmetic treatment or getting a tattoo. You may also have a cut or burn and want to numb the skin to relieve pain. There are natural and medical methods to numb the skin, each with varying degrees of effectiveness. Some numbing agents require a prescription, while others are available over the counter and may even be found in your garden.
Why do people numb their skin?
You might want to temporarily numb your skin for two main reasons:
- to get rid of current pain
- to prepare for future pain
Numbing Skin to Relieve Pain
Most of the time, you may want to temporarily numb your skin to stop pain from:
Most small cuts, scrapes, and burns don’t need pain relief on the surface. But there are many natural and man-made products that can help ease pain after an injury, especially burn pain.
2. Poison ivy/rash
Dermatitis is what doctors call a rash that happens after coming in contact with something irritating. Depending on what caused it and how much it touched the skin, the rash can be mildly uncomfortable or very painful.
Burns caused by UV radiation are painful and could be bad for your health in general. The safest thing to do is to stay away from them altogether. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen and sun protection can help. But if you get a sunburn, you can use pain relievers on the burn to make it less painful while it heals.
4. Peripheral neuropathy
Nerve damage can be caused by a fall or other accident. Nerve pain is not easy to treat with the same things that help with skin injuries. But there are products that numb the skin and natural remedies that may help.
Numbing Skin in Anticipation of Pain
Some reasons you might want to temporarily numb your skin to prepare for future pain are:
Botox and filler injections are the most common ways that dermatologists and medical spas help people look better. Botox is used to get rid of fine lines and wrinkles, and fillers are used to get rid of wrinkles, make lips fuller, and do other things. The injection can be painful, so a cream that numbs the skin is often used to make the process easier.
Some people who get tattoos use numbing cream to make the process less painful. This is especially true for bigger tattoos that take longer to do. There are a lot of creams you can buy over the counter that will numb the area.
3. Needle pricks
People often have a fear of needles, which can make the pain of the needle feel worse. When a patient is afraid of needles, numbing the skin before a needle prick, like before getting blood drawn or an Insertion of an intravenous (IV) put in, can sometimes help.
Microneedling is when a group of small needles are used to make tiny holes in the skin. This helps collagen and new skin grow. Since needles are used to poke holes in the skin, it can be painful, so numbing creams are often used.
5. Hair removal
Waxing and laser hair removal can be painful, especially if a large area of the body is being worked on. Products that numb the skin can help make hair removal less painful. It’s important to use these products the right way, because putting numbing cream on a large area of the body can cause toxic side effects and even serious problems.
In many cases, this will feel like a needle prick, but it could be more painful depending on where on the body the piercing is and how big it is.
Over-the-Counter Skin Numbing Creams
There are several over-the-counter topical anesthetics that can help numb the pain of certain medical procedures and treat minor discomforts and itching.
Even though these over-the-counter topical anesthetics aren’t as strong as prescription creams that numb the skin, they are easy to find at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that works by killing the nerve endings in your skin. This makes the area where it is put temporarily numb. It is in many over-the-counter creams that numb the skin.
Make sure to only use as much lidocaine cream as you need, and wash your hands after putting it on your skin. Creams with lidocaine should also be put on smaller parts of your body. LMX and Lidocaine Plus Maximum are two creams that people often use that contain lidocaine.
Local anesthetics like benzocaine work by stopping nerve signals in your body. Orajel is a popular over-the-counter cream that numbs the skin and has benzocaine in it. This topical anesthetic is meant to make the skin inside the mouth feel numb. This medicine is often sold as a gel, but it is also available as a cream.
Creams with benzocaine start working right away and relieve pain quickly, unlike creams with lidocaine. Because touching your gums and teeth can accidentally let harmful bacteria into your body, you should always wash your hands well before putting a topical anesthetic in your mouth. Do not take any medicine that contains benzocaine by mouth.
Camphor, methyl salicylate, and menthol are the three active ingredients in Bengay that help relieve pain. Bengay can be rubbed right onto skin that is not broken to help with arthritis and muscle pain. Bengay is unique in that it can numb not only the skin but also the area under the skin.
Methyl salicylate makes you feel warm, which, when combined with the cooling feeling of menthol and the pain-relieving properties of camphor, helps relieve minor pain. Don’t take more than the recommended amount of Bengay, because methyl salicylate is very dangerous.
Herbal pain relievers, like belladonna and echinacea, are used in Topracin cream instead of chemicals. The company that makes Topracin says that the medicine is a homeopathic topical treatment that helps the body balance its own healing chemicals.
As with any over-the-counter (OTC) product, putting it on your skin may cause side effects. Before you use an over-the-counter cream, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Natural Remedies for Numbing Skin
There are a number of natural products that can be used to numb your skin to relieve pain or get ready for pain.
A small cut, sunburn, or other pain can be eased with an ice pack or cold compress. Ice can also make your skin feel numb before a procedure like getting your ears pierced.
A fresh poultice made from plantain (the weed, not the fruit) may reduce inflammation and soothe the skin at the same time.
Chamomile has been used to treat things like inflammation, wounds, rashes, and more. It is well known that this herb can be used to treat health problems. It is mostly used on the skin as an anti-inflammatory and to help wounds heal.
Aloe vera gel is a well-known way to treat sunburns. It may make the burn less red and help it heal faster. But the main benefit of the gel is often that it cools and hydrates the skin, which helps ease some of the pain while the sunburn heals.
People often use clove oil (eugenol) to ease the pain of a toothache. Some studies have shown that clove oil is just as good at numbing the skin as benzocaine.
Capsaicin is the thing that makes chili peppers “hot.” When it is put on the skin, it can overload the pain signals and make them hard to understand. This makes the pain feel less.’
Plantain can be put on a burn to make it feel better. It is also sometimes used to treat skin irritations and bug bites.
There is some evidence that oils like lavender, rosemary, and peppermint can help ease pain. When essential oils are put on the skin, they must be mixed with a carrier oil.
You have natural and medical options for numbing your skin to relieve pain or prepare for pain. Check with your doctor before using any numbing agent to discuss safety concerns and the best options for your specific needs.