What To Know About Topical Anesthetic Creams?


Topical anesthetic creams, generally known as numbing creams, are used to dull the skin patches for the processes like tattooing, piercing and surgical incisions. These creams are used to eliminate the pain and discomfort from these processes. Generally, topical anesthetic creams are available as OTC. Sometimes they are prescribed by a physician. Here we will know some important things about topical anesthetic creams.

How Do Topical Anesthetic Creams Work?

Topical anesthetic creams block the pain receptors being responsible for sending a pain signal to the brain. Once they are blocked, the skin is desensitized against any feelings or sensation.

What Does a Topical Anesthetic Contain?

They contain anesthetic medications like lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine in a cream, treatment, or gel. These items can be assimilated into the blood system.

How Long Does it Take for a Topical Anesthetic to Numb the Skin?

Generally, topical anesthetic numbs the skin within 30 minutes while the effect will last nearly 60 minutes. If you wear the cream for 60 minutes, the skin may numb for 2 hours, even after you wipe it off. In simple words, the numbing effect is the double of the time you wear the cream.

If the application time is 30 minutes, the skin numbing impact will last roughly 60 minutes. If you apply the cream for 60 minutes, your skin will stay numb for around 2 hours, even after you wipe it off!

Somebody parts take more time to be numb because of their thickness as many layers acting as a barrier. For example, lips are easier to numb than the thighs.

Which is the Best Topical Anesthetic Cream?

Well, there are many types of topical anesthetic cream, from lidocaine, benzocaine, prilocaine to Tetracaine. And all of these key ingredients vary on numbing efficiency—some are strong while some are mild. For example, lidocaine based numbing creams keep the skin dull for an hour or two, thereby being the suitable cream for intense skin processes like tattooing, piercing, and surgical incisions. The recommended percentage of a lidocaine in a numbing cream is 5%.

Benzocaine, on the other hand, is a mild numbing cream being suitable for mucus membranes like gums and rectum area. It may not give you desired numbing effect for the intense skin processes.

How to Use a Topical Anesthetic Cream?

Although the instructions may be varied based on a brand, the general instructions of using a numbing cream are…

  • Wash the skin with soap and water.
  • Pat it dry with a towel.
  • Apply thick amount of numbing cream over the skin.
  • Cover it with a plastic wrap
  • Remove the wrap after 40-45 minutes

The thickness of the cream’s layers should be taken into account. The ideal size of the cream’s layer over the skin is nearly 1/8 inch (the size of a penny). With very thin layer, you may not achieve the desired effect, and the numbness will not be effective or hourly long.

What are the Side Effects of a Topical Anesthetic Cream?

Topical anesthetic creams are safe as long as you are using it with instructions and precautions as well. However, inappropriate use may lead to side effects like skin itching, irritation, redness and seizures. The cream may lead to a comma.

According to the FDA—“When applied to the skin surface, they can be absorbed into the bloodstream and, if used improperly, may cause life-threatening side effects, such as irregular heartbeat, seizures, breathing difficulties, coma, or even death.”

FDA claims to receive “reports of adverse events and deaths of two women who used topical anesthetics before laser hair removal.”

Therefore, it should be used carefully, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To avoid such conditions, here are some Precautions to follow

  • Don’t apply numbing cream to the broken skin as the cream can enter your bloodstream.
  • Consult your physician first if you have sensitive skin.
  • Don’t use numbing cream if you are allergic to lidocaine.
  • Don’t use numbing cream on the tongue, near eyes or inside the nose.
  • Don’t use a heating pad or clothes. Instead, use only plastic cling or wrap to generate heat.
  • Avoid wearing the cream for longer.
  • Consult your physician if you are taking medication or have a health condition.

Where Is Topical Anesthetic Cream applied to?

Generally, the cream is applied to the skin. Some creams like benzocaine can be used over gums and rectum area.

Topical anesthetic as eye drop is used to dull the surface of the eye to perform treatment of removing the foreign objects from the uppermost layer of the cornea or conjunctiva. The cream in dentistry is used to desensitize the oral tissues before operating over the soft tissues in the oral region. Sometimes, a topical anesthetic is used to control premature ejaculation when applied to the glans of the penis.

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