A numbing cream is a type of topical anesthetic that numbs a part of the body you apply it on. From the front skin of the eyelids to the inside of the ear, the numbing cream can be used anywhere; however, caution is mandatory.
Have you ever had a minor surgery or got a tattoo? Numbing creams are used before such processes to ease the feeling of pain these processes manifest.
What Do Skin Numbing Creams Do?
Skin-numbing creams or topical anesthetic creams block the sodium channels, resulting in the hampered transmission of neural signals to the brain. It implies that following the application of these numbing creams, the nerves in our skin are not able to send pain signals to our brain.
Active Ingredients in Such Creams
One of the most active ingredients in numbing creams is lidocaine. It is frequently used in most brands of numbing creams. Lidocaine is regarded as an ingredient that provides immediate results in the form of pain relief. Some famous brands of numbing creams that use this as an active ingredient are Dermoplast, Lidoderm, and LidoRx.
Some other active ingredients in these creams include:
Uses of Numbing Cream
The main purpose of using numbing creams is to desensitize the skin to pain. This is why it has a wide variety of uses in general and surgery settings. The main uses of this cream are as follows:
- Used as local anesthetics before minor surgeries
- Relieve pain in areas where you have got a tattoo or a new piercing. It helps ease the pain while the said patch of skin heals
- For relieving pain or itching followed by extreme conditions, such as sunburns, minor burns, insect stings or bites, poison oak, ivy, sumac, and minor scratches.
- Used as topical anesthetics in ophthalmology or optometry fields to numb the outer area of the eyes. The outermost area of the eye comprising the cornea and conjunctiva are also the areas where numbing cream is applied.
- Application of numbing creams in such cases help in performing a contact or applanation tonometry
- Also, topical anesthetics for eyes are necessary to perform a test called Schirmer’s test, or the reliability of the test is impeded.
- In case where small foreign objects in the eye need to be removed, numbing creams help reach out to the object and remove it without pain.
- In the dentistry process, numbing creams are used as topical anesthetics to numb the oral tissues before a dental anesthetic is used. A dental anesthetic is administered with the help of a needle inserted into the oral cavity. Therefore, applying a numbing cream to the targeted oral cavity is necessary to avoid pain.
- For relieving pain from certain dermatologic surgeries or procedures such as Botox, filler injections, dermabrasion, or laser procedures
- Used before hair removal procedures from wax or laser
Medical or Over-the-Counter Numbing Creams
Though they both might have the same active ingredients, some over-the-counter skin-numbing creams may have varied strengths or concentrations than the prescription ones. Most OTC medicines or ointments are not FDA approved, per se, but are considered FDA compliant as they follow the regulations provided by the FDA.
For instance, lidocaine is mostly available in 5% concentration in numbing creams, but over-the-counter topical ointments have a much lower concentration of this ingredient.
There can be different side effects of the numbing cream, depending on the type of cream you use. In many cases, people develop an allergic reaction to these creams. The following side effects are grave and need medical attention immediately.
- Blurred vision
- Breathing difficulty
- Chest pain
- Irregular heart rate
- Skin rash or itching
- Swelling on lips, throat, or face
Some other side effects that do not mandate immediate medical attention but can quite possibly occur are:
- Changes in ability to sense things, such as differentiate between hot and cold
- Skin redness or swelling on the applied area
Some Warnings and Interactions of the Numbing Cream
No matter how beneficial a topical cream is, it is important to consider the warnings and interactions it comes with. Use of numbing creams should also be considered with the following warnings in mind:
- Never let the cream come into contact with your eyes
- If this happens accidentally, rinse your eyes thoroughly with water immediately
- Numbing cream is a topical anesthetic that is only to be applied on the skin and never to be taken by mouth, no matter how grave the emergency is
- Numbing creams can make you cry with pain if you apply them on open cuts, abrasions, or scratches
- Following the application of numbing cream, beware of accidentally bumping the numb area to something very hot
Note: It is important to seek medical care and attention right away if hives appear on the skin or you have trouble breathing.
How to Use Numbing Cream
Always check the directions on the leaflet that accompanies the topical ointment. In general, numbing cream has to be applied several hours before a surgical procedure. Your surgeon will guide you in this regard. For cases other than minor surgeries, you can seek the guidance of your physician regarding the use of numbing cream.
- Use a small amount of numbing cream on the affected area
- Do not apply this cream to a large area of skin
- Avoid applying it on sensitive areas of your skin, such as lips
- Avoid exposing the numb area to heat
- Do not cover the numb area with a bandage or plastic wrap
- Even if there is any need to cover the area of skin where numbing cream has been applied, first consult your doctor
- Keep these creams away from children at all costs
- Numbing creams need to be stored at room temperature
Besides using numbing cream before surgical procedures or tattoo and piercings, some mild numbing creams also work as pain relief medications. They are a lot of instances when you have to desensitize the skin to lessen the pain. In such cases, numbing creams come to the rescue. However, they should be used in moderation with medical considerations in mind, as these topical anesthetics have some dire consequences in the form of overdose.