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What Is Lidocaine & What Is It Used For?

Lidocaine is an anesthetic-class drug which means it causes loss of feeling. Okay, sounds a bit intense, like that stuff they gas you up with when you go for a wisdom tooth removal. 

The name alone does sound very medical. This can be a turn-off, but lidocaine is a pretty run-of-the-mill topical you can buy over-the-counter (OTC) at any drug store.

Why would you want lidocaine? Topical lidocaine is a numbing topical that helps ease pain or irritation on the skin's surface. So any bumps, itches, cuts, or burns that bother you can be reduced with the use of lidocaine.

We love a bit of lidocaine here at Mad Rabbit because it makes your tattooing session and healing process that much easier. Follow along for the how and why.

What Is Lidocaine?

Lidocaine, also known as lignocaine, comes in two forms: injectable and topical. Topical lidocaine, like lidocaine cream or lidocaine patches, is the form you’ll be most familiar with. 

It’s available for over-the-counter consumer use and is a common ingredient in other branded numbing products, including our Mad Rabbit Relieve Numbing Cream. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that reduces pain by numbing the nerve endings from sensing much of anything; the most noticeable effect is that pain is lessened. 

It is highly effective in reducing sensation in the area it’s directly applied to, so you'll feel less when there’s an itch or a prick of a tattoo needle. Injectable lidocaine is a local anesthetic drug commonly used in medical procedures, tooth extractions, and skin treatments. 

It is an excellent drug for dentists as it helps numb teeth and gums in preparation for a teeth cleaning or a teeth extraction. It works similarly to the topical anesthetic and reduces sensation in the areas it’s injected into. This version is not available over the counter.

Lidocaine has been used for more than 50 years. Topical lidocaine, applied to the skin, has been used for painful conditions such as shingles, herpes simplex, contact dermatitis, sunburn, minor burns, nerve pain, insect bites, and stings, and now it’s popular to use for tattoo sessions.

How Does Lidocaine Work?

Lidocaine is a type of drug known as a local anesthetic. When applied to the affected skin, it can prevent nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. Local neurons are disabled from signaling the brain when it’s used as a local numbing agent. 

This can be helpful for people experiencing pain or undergoing a painful treatment in certain areas such as the gums, mouth, or skin. Some other benefits of topical lidocaine include relief from itching and tingling sensations. The injectable form is also used to numb the skin and other tissues before a medical or dental procedure. 

Once applied, the effects of lidocaine start up after about four to five minutes. However, for topical lidocaine, you will want to let it sit on the skin for 30 minutes to one hour before any procedure. 

If a stronger dose is used, the numbing effects can last up to a few hours. It’s possible to combine lidocaine with epinephrine to elongate the numbing effects.

Your typical, over-the-counter lidocaine usually has 25-50 mg/mL of strength, and the injectable stuff doctors use doesn’t usually have more than 75-100 mg/mL. Topical lidocaine is applied the same way you’d apply a lotion, except you limit the area you apply it to just where the pain or irritation is. 

You don’t need to put it all over. Which injectable lidocaine, a doctor or trusted professional will administer the dose through a needle. Lidocaine is a local anesthetic as opposed to a general anesthetic. 

General anesthetics induce numbed nerve signals all over the body, while local anesthetics numb nerve signals only around the area they are applied. It’s very different than the gas they use during medical procedures to put you “under.” Topical lidocaine is available on the shelf of your local drugstore.

Some common brand names you’ll see lidocaine marketed under include:

  • LidaMantle
  • LidoDerm
  • Xylocaine

    How Is Lidocaine Used?

    Lidocaine can be used for various medical procedures, and you’ll probably be most familiar with it in dental settings. Have you ever gotten any tooth work done? 

    If you’ve ever needed to be numb for any of the work, chances are you’ve previously experienced the effects of lidocaine. You still feel what’s going on in your mouth, but the sensation is dull; it’s mostly the pressure you feel instead of the prickly bits.

    It can be used for people of any age, including children and older adults. It’s used on all types of people and isn’t too strong to use on children or the elderly.

    It does not cause any long-term damage to the body. The effects of lidocaine wear off after about five hours and less than 5 hours if a lower dose is used. Topical lidocaine can wear off after just 30 minutes. 

    It can be applied to the skin in the form of a cream or an ointment. This can be helpful for shingles, joint pain, itching, general pain, cuts, scrapes, and other ailments that need a little numbing. 

    It can be injected into the gum, skin, or tissues before a dental procedure to prevent pain.

    It can be used alongside another local anesthesia for a greater numbing effect.

    We like to use lidocaine before tattoo sessions in difficult areas. Using a bit of our Numbing Cream with five percent lidocaine can help your tattoo sessions go smoother. 

    Instead of breaking often, you’ll experience less pain and be able to sit longer. It can also help limit redness and irritation, giving your tattoo artist a better eye on the details of the tattoo ink.

    Friendly reminder that just because you use a bit of lidocaine and numb the area doesn’t mean you can go and act the fool. It’s still a sensitive area that needs to be taken care of, don’t forget just because it’s not hurting like before!

    How Do I Use Lidocaine?

    So how do you use the topical lidocaine you can buy? Well, in this case, we’ll use our own Relieve Numbing Cream as an example of how you can reduce your tattoo session pain or healing stages irritations.

    Pre-tattoo session application:

    1. Prepare by cleaning and shaving (if necessary) your tattoo area before applying.

    2. Apply a thick layer of Mad Rabbit’s Relieve Numbing Cream to the desired area and rub it in thoroughly until it’s fully absorbed.

    3. Wrap the area with film (plastic wrap). The wrap will activate the cream and stop it from drying out. To supercharge the numbing effects, let it stay wrapped for 45 minutes to an hour before your tattoo session, which will help numb pain receptors before the artist starts.

     

    General application:

    1. Prepare the area with gentle washing to not disturb the already irritated skin.

    2. Apply a thin layer of our Relieve Numbing Cream to the desired area and make sure there is enough to be fully absorbed but not enough to suffocate your healing tattoo.

    3. Remember to check the instructions on your product. Many lidocaine creams and patches aren’t designed for open wounds.

     

    We highly recommend using our Numbing Cream for treatments beyond tattoos: piercings, microblading, hair removal, permanent makeup, waxing, injections, etc. It can be used on the face; just don't get it in the eyes or mouth.

    Over-the-counter lidocaine is great and will do the job, but there are benefits to using a formulated ointment like our Relieve Numbing Cream. We formulate with lidocaine and other ingredients to support the body’s natural healing process.

    Who Shouldn’t Use Lidocaine?

    Lidocaine is FDA-approved and safe to use, but some factors would make it a risky choice for some people. For instance, anyone allergic to other amide-type anesthetics like prilocaine should stay away from Lidocaine.

    Additionally, some prescription or OTC medications may have drug interactions with lidocaine. These include (but are not limited to) Ativan, Xanax, benzocaine, nitroglycerin, and omeprazole. If you take any prescription medications, consult your healthcare provider for medical advice to avoid any serious side effects.

    Additionally, you should seek professional medical advice if you have had prior allergic reactions to lidocaine if you are breast-feeding, and if you have any of the following health conditions:

    • Liver disease
    • Arrhythmias
    • High blood pressure
    • Methemoglobinemia
    • Lung problems

      Final Words

      Lidocaine is a topical and injectable pain reliever that blocks pain signals sent to the brain. Lidocaine numbs just the area it’s applied to, unlike a general anesthetic which numbs the entire body. Lidocaine is a very safe formulation used widely in the medical industry.

      We suggest using a topical ointment formulated with lidocaine and other ingredients that supplement the effects of Lidocaine. Our Numbing Relief cream uses five percent lidocaine with a combination of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory ingredients and lightweight hydration that support the skin’s natural barrier. 

      This protects the area from bacteria while it’s being numbed and doubles down on the anti-inflammatory nature of the topical. It can be used before the tattoo session and during the healing stage when you get that unnerving itch.

      Although lidocaine can be very helpful for certain medical conditions and general skin relief, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t last long. Once the effects of the drug wear off, the pain will return. So use lidocaine as liberally as you want but take care as well.

      Sources:

      Lidocaine - StatPearls | NCBI Bookshelf

      Bupivacaine Versus Lidocaine Local Anesthesia | ClinicalTrials.gov

      Anesthesia | MedlinePlus

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