You can find numbing cream over the counter in a variety of places, including your local pharmacy, online and through medical supply distributors. The active ingredients typical found in numbing cream over the counter are lidocaine, benzocaine and tetracaine. These active pharmaceutical ingredients or API’s are available to numb the skin for a variety of uses, such as pain caused by needles, tattoos, piercings, blood draws, injections, skin irritations, hemorrhoids, insect bites and other related superficial procedures and conditions.
The way the API’s found in numbing cream over the counter work is by blocking nerve impulses of pain and itch that are transmitted to the brain. Once the API enters the skin and gets to the nerve, it blocks it by interrupting what is called, the high voltage sodium ion channel, which is the mechanism that signals pain and itch sensations.
There are a wide variety of brands supplied as numbing cream over the counter. Each of the more effective ones have some mechanism of delivering the API into the skin in order to exert its effect. The ingredients that help make the skin more permeable and therefore deliver the API to the affected area are called “driver.” The most commonly available safe and effective drivers are: MSM, ethoxydiglycol, isopropryl myristate, propylene glycol and urea. When a topical numbing cream over the counter does not contain a combination of two or more of these drivers, the API will simply sit on the skin without entering it and not perform its job. It is important that the topical anesthetic contains one of more of these drivers in order to be effective.
Those products that you can find as a numbing cream over the counter will have varied doses of API’s that have to be within a certain range to be supplied without a prescription. The list of common API’s and their respective concentrations are: lidocaine 4%, benzocaine 20% and tetracaine 2%. Any products that have higher concentrations are not a numbing cream over the counter and require a prescription.
When seeking a numbing cream over the counter, always make sure to find one that has an API within the limits listed above to ensure safety and also those that have effective drivers in order to get the best effect.