ela-max vs emla

Do they work equally well or is one better?

I’ve used emla, but it’s expensive and you need a prescription, so I’m thinking of switching to ela-max.

p.s. for those who don’t know: these are creams you can put on your sensitive areas to numb them

They are both good products. With Ela-max, now called LMX (name was changed in September of 2003), you’re are ready to go in 30 minutes and you don’t need to occlude, meaning you don’t have to tape saran wrap over the areafor it to absorb. EMLA takes about an hour to penetrate and occlusion is needed, as is a prescription. Of course, no prescription is needed for ela-max (LMX). You can obtain it on the internet if you’d like. It comes in 4% or 5%. I always get the 5% even though it’s a little more expensive. Price just went up for LMX on June 15th. For a 30 gram tube you will pay around $46.50 for 15 grams $25.35 at prestige electrolysis. Shop around for both on the internet or see if your electrologist will order a tube for you. I do this for my clients if they need it and present them with the receipt. They pay me exactly what I pay for it as I’m not interested in profiteering if it helps them. The website for LMX is www.ferndalelabs.com if you need more info.

I saw EMLA awhile back at the cheapest for $55.00 at bluesky.com. A client of mine paid $77.00 for EMLA at a local CVS.

They both work nicely, some swear by one more than the other. One of my clients uses both together??? HmMMM.

Alocane Medicated Cream (4% Lidocaine)www.alocane.com is available for around $15 off the internet or maybe you can find at your local pharmacy. They have a formula for sensitive skin, too. This is a cream for burns, but it is also used for electrolysis. Haven’t had any feedback on how it compares to EMLA and LMX. Sorry.

I have to learn to keep these posts more concise. I apologize for the length.


I find Emla very effective for my clients. Application methods are very important for this cream to work effectively. I find that clients are usually ready within 30 minutes. Use very thin layer with airtight occlusive dressing. Any airleaks and this cream won’t be as effective. For genital mucosa: 5 to 10 minutes with occlusive dressing is sufficient. Applying too thick can have contraindications for those with a heart condition. If leg ulcers exist, application should be for no more than 30 minutes with occlusive dressing. Persons with methemoglobinemia should never use Emla. I suppose that may be one of the reasons you need a prescription in the USA. Here in Canada, you don’t. For a 30 gram tube I pay CDN $37.00 . This is complimentary for my clients.

Hi everyone.

When you’re supposed to cover the layer of emla or lmx or whatever… how are u supposed to cover it airtight?? i don’t understand. for instance the eyebrow or upper lip areas…how would u cover them airtight? You’re supposed to do this with saran wrap, correct?

With emla, you cover it with occlusive dressing, which means the thinnest saran wrap you can find.
For your upper lip, spread a thin layer of emla over an area a little larger than you are going to treat. Then apply a piece of saran wrap over this area and lightly press your finger over the saran wrap from the center outwards in all directions. The idea is to push out all air bubbles and have the saran wrap sticking to the emla, against all the skin that the emla is applied to. You want to make sure that all the edges of the saran wrap are stuck to the emla. This prevents any air from seeping under the dressing, which if it happened, would lessen the effect of the numbing process. The same goes for the eyebrows but be extremely careful not to get any emla into your eyes.


It’s not easy or pretty to occlude EMLA on the upper lip or eyebrow. You do not want to get the stuff in your eyes or mouth, so be careful.

L.M.X. (Ela-max) does not need occlusion.

You can view good information that I won’t have to repeat here on: http://www.hairfacts.com/tips/pain/emla.html

However, some things are worth repeating:

I tell my EMLA clients to wash the area with a very mild soap like Purpose. Harsh soaps strip the skin’s natural oils and it is these natural oils that help the medicine to penetrate the tough, top layer of skin to get deeper into the lower layer of skin where the nerve bundles are located around each hair follicle. Hold a clean, very warm washcloth to the skin for several minutes before applying a thick layer of either. (Rubbing in a thin layer before putting on the thick layer is helpful.) Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the area and tape with scotch tape or some hypoallergenic tape if you have sensitive skin. Just do the best you can. It will feel awkward and look goofy, but hey!

Lastly, the electrologist SHOULD NOT wipe the area with alcohol products prior to treatment as the alcohol can interfer with and lessen the numbing effects. All that is needed is a kleenex to wipe the cream away before working on an area.

Let us know how effective these topicals are for you. If your electrologist can adjust timing and intensity on her epilator, perhaps you won’t need to bother with an anesthetic. Many clients become acclimatized after a few sessions and tolerate treatments pretty well.

Forgot something.

Check this out:

Compounding sounds intriging to me. I’ve not had any experience with having a special “blend” brewed just for electrolysis. Has anyone had good results using a specially compounded formula? Cost? Side effects?


Thank you Eddy and Dee. Much appreciated. :grin:

Do topical anesthetics decrease the effectiveness of the treatment in anyway? perhaps by causing blood vessels to dilate or something along those lines?

No, topical anesthetics don’t reduce the quality of your treatments. The whole idea behind these topical applications is to dull the pain receptors of the skin (in the area) that is being treated and this in turn tends to raise the pain threshold of the nerves which serve the stimulated area. We electrologists know this as “dulling the synapses” which transmit messages to the brain saying for example: “ouch it hurts”.
As frequency is a factor in the intensity of pain, the slower the synapse is allowed to relay this message, the less one will feel the pain. The objective of applying a topical anesthetic is to “tire out” the synapse, causing it to send messages more slowly. There are many methods of increasing the pain threshold level, this is just one of them. If this system works for you, you will find treatment more comfortable and effective as well as being able to take treatment for a longer period of time at one sitting. So again, it enhances treatment and is not a detriment to treatment. You have asked a very good question as I hear this one asked quite often. Take care.

I have a question, how effective will ele-max be for needle insertion vs. laser? I’ve had five sessions of laser now and my neck has cleared up nicely, however my chin and lip areas need help.

I’ve heard others say that ele-max is not effective with electrolysis since needles go several millimeters into the skin, and laser is applied topically. Is that true?

Each person is different.

Some may be ok with LMX-4 or LMX-5, some will need Emla, some will have results with LMX-5 but not Emla, some won’t have any results with anything but Topicane, or some other product.

You just have to try them and see what works for you.

Go to our sister site www.hairfacts.com and read the section on pain management.

dfahey asked about compounds. I had my doc prescribe a compound consisting of benzocaine 20%, lidocaine 6% and tetracain 4%. It seemed to work better than Ela-Max (lidocaine 4%) - now called LMX. It takes the edge off the pain but I can still only handle about an hour before its effectiveness is reduced to the point of major discomfort. Hopefully something similar will work better for you. I think it was about $68 for a one ounce tube. You could probably leave out the benzocaine since it is just short acting and they say to put the stuff on an hour or so before treatment. I guess I have pretty “thick” skin, however. Tend Skin has no effect and Nair for Men doesn’t even turn my skin pink after 20 minutes. The only thing that really works for me is marcaine injections. The last treatment lasted 4 hours before I started feeling discomfort.