I'm going to step out of my usual "following the rules" thinking and actually take the time to respond to this, even though in some places ( even my own country) it could be considered illegal to do so.
I'm going to preface this by saying,neither I nor any electrologist here are NOT medical doctors and cannot prescribe you anything nor advise you on medical aspects of your treatment. This is one key reason I dont retail lidocaine products from my practise, though I can tell people where they can buy it over the counter.And a lot of this depends greatly on where you are located and the local laws. Laws for europe, will be different from the US, and different again in canada.In some places we can get in trouble for giving this advice, in others, its perfectly alright.
Topical Anesthetics are created using several drugs usually of the "caine" family, example, lidocaine, prillocaine, and quite a few otheres. they have different effects and lasting times, and strengths. Depending where you are, in some places you can buy lidocaine or EMLA over the counter, in others you need a prescription from a medical doctor, and in others you can buy some, but the stronger stuff you need a prescription. Since we as electrologists are not trained medical personnel ( with the possible exception of Dee who isalso a registered nurse, NURSE practitioners can prescribe in canada, I'm not so sure about OHIO) .
So the first thing you need to know, is these are drugs. Lie any drug, they can be abused, and misused. There has been one recorded case of a death occurring from licocaine toxicity in a case of significant misuse of the product. A person getting laser bathed their body in EMLA from naval to toes including the privates with mucas membranes which spped absorbtion. They had never used the product before and reacted badly to it, and died ont he way to the laser clinic. You've been warned.Though I feel strongly this was a case of misuse and abuse of the product, the recommendation from the FDA for lidocaine containing products is that you do not cover an area larger than an a4 sheet of paper, do not use it on areas with mucas membranes. In the case of an adverse reaction medical advice should be sought without delay.
Be that as it may, here are my general tips and tricks for topical anesthetics . In my practice I usually recommend one of 2 products, Xylecaine (usually can be purchased over the counter for about $15 a 30 gram tube at most walmarts) which is 5 % lidocaine, or EMLA, which is 2.5 % lidocaine and 2.5% prillocaine. for around $75 at shoppers drug mart in canada.In some parts of the US, the percentage you can buy over the counter varies from our standards.It is also possible to get a prescription for a stronger anesthetic from your doctor.
The use of occlusion ( plastic wrap over the lidocaine covered area to keep it from coming off on clothing etcetera) is recommended and will help with absorbtion. I tend to recommend Glad "press-n-seal" whch has a mild adhesive which sticks to uncovered areas helping to keep it all contained.
For clients who use lidocaine, I tend to recommend they leave it on the area up to 2 hours before the proceedure.I leave it on the skin in areas I am not working on yet and clean off only the area I am working directly on.
Some clients feel lidocaine is enough to take the edge off and make the treatment tolerable. It's never going to completely numb the area. Injected lidocaine monitored by an MD can do this, but no topical product can.