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Article: All About Anesthetics

All About Anesthetics

Written in collaboration with Amanda Grebinsky

Do the terms pre, peri, post, primary & secondary have you scratching your head and thinking WTF is that? Does the idea of applying something that can numb.someones.face. scare you?? WELL, we have some juicy info on anesthetics for you! While some pain and discomfort are typical during a procedure, you don't want your clients crying and cursing your name because they felt every hair stroke! 

We asked Amanda Grebinsky, Founder of Boujee Brows and incredible PMU artist & educator, to collaborate with us to give you the most detailed info possible. Read on to find out more!

What Are Anesthetics?

Anesthetics to the rescue! Anesthetics are over the counter (or website) drugs that cause a complete or partial loss of feeling. These bad boys are made up of lidocaine, benzocaine, tetracaine, or epinephrine. Typically for tattoos and permanent makeup, you will find a combination of the above. They come in creams, ointments, liquids, or gel. Directions for use depend on the manufacturer and type of anesthetic being used. 

Common Terms

Pre, peri, post, primary, & secondary are words that have to do with anesthetics and when to apply!

Pre or primary = Before procedure on closed skin

Peri or secondary = During procedure on open skin

Post = Post-procedure (helpful hint: the best post anesthetics can be used as aftercare ointment like Numpot!).

Primary vs. Secondary Anesthetic

Primary: A primary numbing product usually comes in the form of a topical cream. This numbing option is designed to be used on "intact skin" which means the skin has not yet been opened by the PMU procedure. 

Secondary: A secondary numbing product usually comes in the form of a gel or ointment. This numbing option is designed to be used on "broken skin" which means the skin has already been opened by way of the PMU procedure.

When To Use 

Generally speaking, the order in which these products are used is in the following ways. 

A primary numbing topical is used at the beginning of an appointment for approximately 30 minutes (depending on instructions). The intention behind using this product first is that it eliminates almost all of the client's pain. You are free to move forward with the procedure without fear that your client might move around in discomfort. Usually at some point throughout the procedure, the primary numbing will begin to wear off and the client will start to experience pain. 

This is where the secondary numbing comes into play. A thin coat of secondary numbing is then applied to the procedure area. The secondary numbing formula is slightly different than that of a primary, therefore it results in a much faster reduction in pain. Both types of numbing play an important role in a successful procedure. 

NOTE: You will not be able to just fast-track the numbing procedure by just going in with a secondary numb right away, the skin MUST be open first in order for it to successfully relieve pain. This is why we use them in this specific order. 


Primary Topical Anesthetic

The benefit to this type of numbing is that you are able to move forward with your PMU procedure without fear that your client might move around in pain while you are trying to meticulously create your masterpiece. Taking the time to numb your client for 30 minutes at the beginning of your appointment allows you to really take the time to ensure you are completely set up and ready to execute a perfect appointment. It forces you to slow down a little and not rush right into the service. 

Secondary Topical Anesthetic

The benefit of this type of numbing is that it efficiently provides relief in pain for clients who are in discomfort in the middle of their appointment. Unlike the primary numbing option, this numbing cream does not take as long to become effective. The other benefit would be that some secondary numbing products include the ingredient "Epinephrine" which is a vasoconstrictor that removes blood from the surface of the skin which results in the appearance of a trauma-free procedure area. Epinephrine reduces the appearance of redness and helps the artist take more appealing photos of their work at the end of the procedure.

Choosing Your Anesthetic

Each anesthetic contains either lidocaine, tetracaine, or epinephrine (or a combination of the three). Some are specific to one area of PMU, while others can be used on multiple areas. We get quite a few questions about how to choose but it is really artist, client, and procedure-specific. Here’s a breakdown of all the anesthetics we carry: 

Zensa: Zensa is both a pre-procedure and open skin anesthetic. It is a cream with 5% lidocaine and can be used on all PMU areas.

Ultra Duration: This liquid open skin anesthetic is great for brows and lips. To be used on open skin and formulated with 4% lidocaine, 2% tetracaine, and 0.05% epinephrine. 

Tag45: Tag45 is an open skin anesthetic to be used on all areas for PMU procedures. This gel contains 4% lidocaine and 0.04% epinephrine.

Numpot: This ointment can be used both pre-procedure and on open skin for all areas of PMU procedures. Contains 5% lidocaine and only takes 2-5 minutes.


Want a quick side-by-side comparison? Check out our anesthetic guide here.

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