How Much Does It Hurt to Get a Tattoo?

Expect a Little Pain

Yaroslav Arsenkin/Flickr

Does it hurt to get a tattoo? You bet it can. Depending on the hand and skill of your artist, the tattoo location, and of course your own pain tolerance, you can expect to feel more than a pin prick when you get a tattoo. But that doesn't mean you can't handle the experience.

Why Tattoos Hurt

Tattoos hurt because a needle is inserted and reinserted into your skin over and over again until the tattoo is complete.

Some people describe this sensation as burning, razor sharp pain, while others may describe it as feeling like you've been cut. Either way, the black outline of the tattoo process is usually the most painful and that's the first step you'll endure.

Painful Tattoo Locations

Due to their lack of tissue, the following tattoo locations are reported to be the most painful spots to ink:

  • Head
  • Foot
  • Ribs
  • Hips

Some people start in these locations with their first tattoo, whereas others build up their body art before venturing into these areas. It's up to you. The larger the piece the more process you'll endure. Some tattoos take many many visits to complete.

Tattoo Pain Tolerance

Some people are just better at dealing with pain. After a natural or even medicated childbirth experience, most women could easily tolerate tattoo pain. Many men can stave off the needle without even a glitch.

If you are one tough cookie, you'll likely sail through the tattoo process with the expected jump and cringe, but without any intense pain.

If you have a low-level tolerance for pain, please be advised that your first tattoo should be small and located in a fairly pain-free location.

Consider your forearm or leg or any other meatier part of your body. The more flesh, the less intense the sensation so don't opt for bony areas such as ribcages, the foot or the clavicle if you have a known low pain tolerance.

If you go into the tattoo process knowing to expect some pain, you'll be better prepared to deal with it. Mental focus is essential during the process, so practice meditative and relaxation techniques that will help you breathe and remain still during uncomfortable moments.

Try to bring headphones and music and zone out to that happy and peaceful place during the tattoo process. Talking with the artist during the process also helps many people. Discuss the steps as they occur and get involved in the actual technique and try to take your mind off of the pain. In the end, you'll have a much better tattoo if you can remain still and at ease for your artist.

You can't get a tattoo while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and taking a pain reliever prior to the tattoo will thin your blood which can then pose a health and safety risk.

You'll need to deal with the pain of a tattoo naturally. If you've heard of any particular artists with a light hand and you're concerned about tattoo pain, be sure to seek them out first. Many experienced and highly skilled tattoo artists are very gentle with their machines, as they should be.

Addicted to the Pain

For some people, tattoo pain can become addictive.

They'll seek out a new tattoo as frequently as they can afford to continue the rush and experience. Bear in mind that tattoos are intended to be worn forever, so put some thought into your designs no matter how addicted you become.