PMU Numbing Agents: All Your Questions Answered

By Katarina V.| Last updated on February 13, 2024

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about numbing agents for permanent makeup, from what they are to how they work, plus our top product recommendations to try out.

All about numbing agents used in permanent makeup

Image Source: Freepik

Just like any other esthetic treatment that involves needles, permanent makeup wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is today without the assistance of effective numbing methods.

Similar to tattoo clients, PMU clients are well aware of the fact that PMU procedures can be painful, so they often ask about the best numbing agents, their effectiveness and overall safety.

If these questions sound familiar, but you can’t answer them with confidence, make sure to keep reading.

Let’s explain the science behind the most common numbing agents used for permanent makeup.

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What Are Numbing Agents?

PMU numbing agents are chemical substances designed to effectively relieve pain and minimize discomfort during all sorts of permanent makeup and other micropigmentation treatments.

Their application results in a temporary numbing of the skin, creating a sensation of reduced sensitivity.

This effect is crucial during PMU procedures, as it allows artists to work with greater precision while minimizing the discomfort experienced by clients.

numbing agents treatment momentImage Source: Instagram @stjohnink

Why Is Understanding Numbing Agents Vital for Every PMU Artist?

Although PMU practitioners don’t need to be experts in the chemistry of anesthetics, being familiar with numbing agents, how they work, and what the potential risks are is vital.

And, here are the main reasons why.

Legal Limitations

PMU artists, particularly professionals without medical background, are subject to stringent regulations governing the application of numbing agents.

These regulations vary not only between countries but also between states or regions within a country.

In the US, for example, the concentration of numbing agents available over the counter is capped at 5%. Yet, some states impose even stricter limitations. Texas, for instance, allows the use of products containing only a single numbing agent.

For PMU artists working across borders, understanding the regulations becomes even more critical. The UK, for instance, prohibits artists from manually applying numbing agents, requiring clients to self-apply before treatments.

To avoid potential problems, it’s best to proactively seek information, contact local health authorities, and establish clear lines of communication to stay informed.

Ingredient Safety

To avoid the combination of incompatible numbing agents, PMU artists must be intimately familiar with the ingredients list of the numbing products they use.

Otherwise, complications can range from allergic reactions to more serious systemic issues.

For example, when epinephrine is mixed with other numbing agents, it may cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), or even tissue necrosis (cell death) in some cases.

This is why certain countries, states and regions have strict regulations governing the combination of numbing agents. In Texas, for instance, using numbing products with epinephrine in them is officially restricted.

To protect your clients and your business, it’s important to always contact the department and double-check which regulations are actively enforced and which of them may have been changed.

Health Concerns

The last but perhaps most important reason for this familiarity with numbing agents is rooted in health and safety concerns.

Misuse or uninformed application of these agents can lead to adverse reactions in clients, ranging from mild irritation to severe health issues.

By being well-acquainted with the agents’ properties, PMU artists can mitigate these risks and provide a safer experience for their clients.

What Are the Key Numbing Agents for PMU?

In the world of permanent makeup, there is a whole spectrum of numbing agents commonly used in PMU procedures and each of them contributes to pain relief through distinct mechanisms.

Being familiar with each specific type allows PMU artists to tailor their approach based on individual client needs and procedural requirements, as well as the desired balance between effectiveness and client comfort.

Let’s take a closer look at the key-numbing agents and explore their specifics.

Lidocaine

Lidocaine is a numbing agent commonly used for local anesthesia, and it is also the most common in PMU numbing formulations.

This active ingredient is commonly found in numbing creams and gels, and has short to moderate duration of effect.

Its popularity lies in its superior safety profile, which makes it the top choice for PMU artists who prioritize a more comfortable and focused application.

girl with numbing cream for freckle tattooImage Source: Instagram @stjohnink

Tetracaine

As a rapidly metabolized anesthetic, tetracaine can induce a localized and super quick numbing effect at the application site.

Whether you’re doing fine detailing for eyebrows or delicate micropigmentation work around the eyes and lips, its rapid action makes it a great asset in time-sensitive situations.

But, it’s crucial to ensure that in these cases the correct dosage and application technique are used to avoid potential adverse effects associated with overly aggressive use.

Prilocaine

Similar to lidocaine, prilocaine functions by providing a localized numbing effect during PMU procedures.

However, its true power lies in its lower potential for allergic reactions, which makes it an ideal option for even the most sensitive clients.

Its suitability extends to a variety of PMU applications, including eyebrows, eyeliner, and lip procedures, contributing to versatile and well-rounded pain management. However, it’s not that common in PMU numbing formulas.

Benzocaine

Less potent than some other numbing agents, Benzocaine offers a milder numbing effect, which makes it ideal for clients with lower pain thresholds.

It’s found in some PMU formulations like numbing creams, gels and sprays.

However, it’s not that common, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see it on many ingredient lists.

Extra Ingredient – Epinephrine

Not a numbing agent, but a common ingredient in PMU numbing creams.

Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is occasionally incorporated into PMU numbing formulations for its vasoconstrictive properties.

By constricting blood vessels, Epinephrine minimizes bleeding and slows down absorption at the application site, enhancing the effectiveness of local anesthetics.

This synergy contributes not only to improved pain relief but also to procedural efficiency, making it a perfect match with lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine and benzocaine.

How Do Numbing Agents Work?

Lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine, and benzocaine have a localized anesthetic effect and work by binding to sodium channels on nerve cell membranes — basically, they’re just like keys that block the doors, so the bad stuff can’t get in.

In essence, this interaction blocks the nerves that convey pain sensations, leading to a temporary numbing effect at the application site.

application of numbing agents

 

How Quickly Do Numbing Agents Work?

The speed at which numbing agents work varies among different types, with lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine, and benzocaine each offering unique onset characteristics.

  • Lidocaine and prilocaine are known for their relatively fast onset of action. Typically, these agents begin to take effect within 20 to 30 minutes after application.
  • Tetracaine is known for its rapid numbing effect and it often works within 10 to 15 minutes after application.
  • Benzocaine has a relatively rapid onset of action and it usually starts working within 15 to 20 minutes after application.

application of numbing agentsImage Source: Instagram @eye_design_ny

NOTE

The speed at which numbing agents work is not only dependent on the type of agent but also on the formulation and concentration.

PMU artists need to consider the specific requirements of each procedure when determining the optimal timing for numbing agent application.

How Long Does It Take for Numbing Agents to Wear Off?

The duration of numbness induced by numbing agents varies, with lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine, and benzocaine offering distinct timelines.

  • Lidocaine and prilocaine typically provide a duration of numbness that ranges from one to two hours after application.
  • Tetracaine tends to have a slightly shorter duration of numbness, with an expected numbing effect of around 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Benzocaine in numbing creams and gels typically provides a duration of numbness ranging from 1 to 2 hours.

NOTE

Several factors can influence how long the numbing effect lasts, including the specific formulation of the numbing product, the concentration of the active ingredient, and individual variations in the client’s metabolism.

Additionally, the location and intricacy of the PMU application can influence the overall duration of numbness.

Are There Any Side Effects to Numbing Agents?

While the majority of PMU procedures involving numbing agents go smoothly, it’s important to be aware of potential adverse reactions that may arise.

Here are the possible side effects to consider.

Localized Skin Reactions

Some individuals may experience localized skin reactions at the application site. This can include redness, swelling, or irritation.

These reactions are often mild and temporary, resolving on their own shortly after the procedure.

However, artists should be attentive to any signs of excessive or prolonged skin reactions, as they might indicate an underlying sensitivity.

Allergic Responses

Though rare, allergic reactions to numbing agents can occur. Symptoms may range from mild itching and rash to more severe manifestations like difficulty breathing or swelling.

PMU artists must conduct thorough pre-procedure assessments to identify any known allergies or sensitivities in their clients.

Choosing a different product with an alternative numbing agent may be necessary if allergies are a concern.

Systemic Absorption

Excessive use or improper application of numbing agents can lead to systemic absorption, which is when too much of the numbing agent gets into the client’s body, affecting more than just the area you wanted to numb.

This may result in symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, or even more serious complications.

PMU artists should adhere strictly to recommended dosages and application guidelines to minimize the risk of systemic absorption.

Interaction with Medications

Certain medications or pre-existing medical conditions may interact with numbing agents, potentially leading to a wide range of serious side effects.

Clients must disclose their medical history and any medications they are taking to ensure the safe and effective use of numbing agents during PMU procedures.

Best Numbing Products with Lidocaine

Whether you’re preparing for a brow, lip, or any other treatment, numbing products with lidocaine are a great choice because they:

  • Can be used for both primary and secondary numbing
  • Offer advanced efficacy, safety, and comfort

Here are the industry’s top choices:

Microcaine PH Safe Topical Anesthetic Cream

This is a reliable choice for numbing before PMU procedures, featuring a non-melting formula, a pH range of 7.5-7.8, and a potent 5% lidocaine for lasting comfort and safety.

Specifically designed to be eye-safe, it ensures a smooth and effective numbing experience, even in the most delicate areas.

Numpot Gold Numbing Cream

This innovative and versatile product with 5% lidocaine is great for different sorts of permanent makeup procedures as it has balm-like properties that numb and moisturize the skin.

The formula is safe for pre-numbing brows, lips and eyelids, as well as for secondary numbing for lips and brows. Additionally, it can be used post-treatment to seal in color.

Tag 45 Numbing Gel

The original formula contains 4% lidocaine and 0.04% epinephrine, and is used on broken skin during microblading, machine permanent makeup, and similar treatments.

It provides a smooth and consistent application, and effectively relieves the potential pain and swelling.

Best Numbing Products with Tetracaine

Usually found in combination with lidocaine, tetracaine adds to the numbing sensation, especially for clients who don’t get a significant numb from lidocaine alone.

DOTC Blue Topical Anesthetic Cream

This is a high-performance topical analgesic cream crafted for pre-numbing during various permanent makeup procedures.

With a balanced formulation of 2% tetracaine and 3% lidocaine, this cream ensures optimal comfort on intact skin. However, it is advised to keep it out of the eyes for a safe and effective application.

Comfort Cream Topical Anesthetic Cream

This is the go-to topical anesthetic for pre-PMU procedures on intact skin, including the delicate eyelids.

With a carefully balanced pH of 7.22 and a powerful combination of 2% tetracaine, 3% lidocaine and 0.015% epinephrine, it ensures optimal safety and advanced effectiveness.

NumQuick Pink Numbing Cream

This is a specialized numbing cream designed for pre-numbing the eyelids before PMU procedures.

Safe for use on intact skin without occlusion, this pH-balanced (7.8) formulation features 2% tetracaine and 3% lidocaine for a comfortable and effective numbing experience.

Ultra Duration Numbing Liquid

This is a professional-strength topical anesthetic designed for use on broken skin during microblading, eyebrow PMU, and lip blush procedures.

It features 2% tetracaine, 4% lidocaine and 0.05% epinephrine, and is particularly praised for its optimal formula tailored for the sensitive area of the lips.

Numbing Agents – Main Takeaways

  • Numbing agents like lidocaine, prilocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and the inclusion of epinephrine collectively form a diverse toolkit for pain management, each with its unique characteristics and applications.
  • The market offers a variety of formulations catering to different preferences and procedural needs.
  • With the right knowledge and product choices, PMU artists can elevate their art, offering clients not just exceptional aesthetic results but an amazing transformation marked by comfort, safety, and satisfaction.

LEARN MORE ABOUT NUMBING CREAMS

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