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Numbing lotions are topical anesthetics used to temporarily reduce sensation and eliminate pain. The most effective over-the-counter lotions contain certain numbing ingredients, including lidocaine, tetracaine, and benzocaine. Although each of these ingredients are effective, lidocaine is the strongest numbing agent available without a prescription. To choose the best numbing lotion, select a product according to the pain you are trying to prevent. Stronger lotions are typically better for minor medical procedures and painful beauty treatments, while less powerful lotions are effective in treating less severe pain.
Lidocaine is an anesthetic that works by inhibiting nerve impulses. If you need a strong lotion, look for a product that contains around 5% lidocaine. While stronger creams are available, 5% is the maximum amount approved for over-the-counter creams in several different countries. Due to the effectiveness of these numbing creams, they are often used before minor cosmetic procedures like laser treatments, tattooing, and waxing.
Lotions that contain equal portions of lidocaine and prilocaine are also effective in numbing skin, but most are only available with a prescription. If you are searching for a numbing cream to help you get through a medical procedure, it might be possible to get a prescription, but otherwise, over-the-counter lotions will be easier to obtain.
Tetracaine is another topical anesthetic that temporarily numbs the skin. Lotions containing this ingredient are usually less intense than those containing lidocaine, but they can be used to reduce pain caused by sunburns, insect bites, and other small injuries. If you need a numbing cream to help you get through a waxing session or laser treatment, a tetracaine numbing lotion might not be strong enough, however, and it's best when used for minor pain.
If you need a cream to reduce itching or mild pain, one containing benzocaine should be sufficient. These creams are available in both over-the-counter and prescription strengths. Benzocaine numbing gels are also used to help fight toothaches.
The amount of numbing that is required to keep you comfortable is not the only factor to consider when choosing a numbing lotion. To choose the best one, also look for formulas that are grease and/or oil-free. Using a greasy lotion might make it difficult to wax or tattoo the area.
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