Tattoos have been a form of self-expression for centuries, used by various cultures worldwide to showcase identity, devotion, and creativity.
But let’s face it: getting inked isn’t a walk in the park. The anticipation, the buzzing sound of the tattoo gun, and the prickling sensation as the needle paints a story on your skin — it all contributes to a memorable, albeit nerve-wracking experience.
But why read this article, you ask?
Simple. Knowledge is power. Understanding what to expect and how to mitigate potential discomfort can transform your tattoo journey from daunting to empowering.
So let’s dive into the labyrinth of tattoo pain, starting with the million-dollar question: “How bad does it hurt?”
How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt?
Everyone has a unique pain tolerance level, making the “pain game” subjective. For some, the sensation could be likened to a cat scratch — a bit annoying but bearable. For others, it’s more akin to a searing burn or constant pinpricks.
However, before you get discouraged, remember that the human body is incredible, releasing endorphins (natural painkillers) to combat discomfort. And at the end of the day, the feeling of flaunting your new piece of art often trumps the transient pain.
Factors Affecting Tattoo Pain
Tattoo pain isn’t universal. It can vary depending on a myriad of factors. Let’s dive deep and understand what can influence your tattoo experience.
Interestingly, women may have a higher pain threshold due to estrogen, making them a bit more resistant to tattoo pain. However, women may also experience increased pain sensitivity during certain periods of their menstrual cycle.
Age affects our skin’s elasticity and thickness. As we age, our skin thins and loses its fat, making us potentially more sensitive to tattoo pain.
An extra layer of fat can act as a cushion, reducing the pain of a tattoo. However, this doesn’t give a free pain pass to all the chubby spots. Areas with less fat and more bone or nerve endings can still be sensitive.
Just as you grow more comfortable with each visit to the dentist, the same applies to tattoos. As you become more familiar with the sensations associated with getting inked, the less intimidating it becomes.
The location of the tattoo plays a significant role in determining the pain level. Body parts with thinner skin or closer to bones tend to be more sensitive.
Logically, larger tattoos mean longer sessions, and longer sessions translate into prolonged discomfort.
The complexity of your design also matters. Intricate details or shading might require more passes with the needle, which could mean more pain.
The thickness of your skin varies across your body. As a rule of thumb, areas with thicker skin are less sensitive to tattoo pain.
A skilled and experienced tattoo artist can make a world of difference. They know how to work efficiently, causing as little pain as possible. Don’t hesitate to ask about their experience or customer testimonials.
Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo
Now let’s dig into the meat of our discussion: the Tattoo Pain Chart. We’ll begin by exploring the most painful places to get a tattoo.
|Knee/Knee Cap||10||Very little muscle or fat padding, lots of nerve endings|
|Armpit||10||High concentration of nerve endings|
|Ribcage||10||Close proximity to bones and organs, less fat padding|
|Nipples||10||Extremely high concentration of nerve endings|
|Ankles and Shins||9||Close to bones, few muscle or fat padding|
|Breast||9||Sensitive skin, more nerve endings|
|Groin||9||High concentration of nerve endings|
|Feet||9||Close to bones, few muscle or fat padding|
|Neck||9||Thin skin, close to the cervical spine|
|Spine||9||Very close to the central nervous system|
|Lips||9||Highly sensitive area with many nerve endings|
|Head||9||Close proximity to skull bone|
|Elbow||9||Close to the “funny bone” nerve|
|Face||8||Sensitive skin, many nerve endings|
|Fingers||8||Close to bones, less muscle padding|
|Chest||8||Close to the sternum and ribs|
|Underboob||8||Sensitive skin, more nerve endings|
|Hips||8||Close to pelvic bone, fewer muscle padding|
|Inner Thigh||8||Close proximity to femoral nerve|
|Hand||8||Close to bones, less muscle padding|
|Stomach||7||Thin skin, less muscle padding|
|Inner Bicep||7||Less muscle padding, closer to nerves|
|Wrist||7||Close to bones, high concentration of nerve endings|
Knee/Knee Cap Tattoo Pain – Level 10
The knee might not be your first choice for a tattoo, but in case it is, brace yourself. It’s a bony area with a high concentration of nerve endings and very little fat padding. The outcome? A pain level that hits the top of our chart.
Armpit Tattoo Pain – Level 10
The armpit, rich in nerve endings and extremely sensitive, holds the second spot on our pain chart. It’s also an area not used to much contact, making the tattoo process more intense.
Ribcage Tattoo Pain – Level 10
Our ribcage is another area that’s not for the faint-hearted. The skin here is thin, and there’s not much between the needle and your bones, making the sensation quite sharp.
Nipples Tattoo Pain – Level 10
Considering a nipple tattoo? Bear in mind that the nipple is one of the body’s most sensitive areas. Some people compare the pain to a hot knife slicing through the skin. Definitely not a decision to be taken lightly.
Ankles and Shins Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Ankles and shins are bony, with a thin layer of skin covering them. Getting a tattoo here would feel akin to the needle pressing directly onto your bones.
Breast Tattoo Pain – Level 9
While the upper outer quadrant of the breast is meaty and thus less painful, the inner and lower areas near the nipple can be excruciating due to increased sensitivity and thinner skin.
Groin Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The groin is a very sensitive area, and getting a tattoo here can be extremely painful. You’ll also need a decent dose of bravery to expose such a private area to the tattoo needle.
I think we’ve covered quite a bit for now. Ready to dive deeper? Let’s continue our journey through the Tattoo Pain Chart.
Feet Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The foot, particularly the top part, is a popular spot for tattoos, especially for designs that look great in heels or flip-flops. But prepare yourself for a hefty dose of pain, mainly due to the proximity of bones and nerves.
Neck Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The neck is sensitive, making it one of the more painful spots for a tattoo. To add to the discomfort, the vibrations of the needle can resonate in your head and ears, creating a disconcerting sensation.
Spine Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The spine is a daring choice for a tattoo. This area has a high density of nerves running down the middle of your back, making it an exceptionally painful spot.
Lips Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Lip tattoos have recently gained popularity thanks to celebrities, but remember, the mouth area is incredibly sensitive. The inner lip is more bearable compared to the outer edges that come closer to the nerves.
Head Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Your scalp is more sensitive than you might think, and getting a tattoo here is a serious commitment. The pain, combined with the sound of the tattoo machine echoing in your skull, makes it a challenging experience.
Elbow Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The elbow, like the knee, is a joint with very little muscle or fat padding. Tattooing this area can feel like the needle is striking bone.
Face Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The face holds a myriad of nerve endings, making it an extremely sensitive area. Areas like the forehead or cheekbones can be particularly painful due to the proximity to the bone.
Fingers Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Fingers might not seem like a big deal, given their size, but don’t let that fool you. The skin here is thin, and the bones lie just beneath the surface, making for a more painful tattoo experience.
Chest Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The chest can be a painful area for tattoos, particularly around the collarbone and the sternum. However, the pain level can vary, as the upper chest has more muscle and fat tissue.
Underboob Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Underboob tattoos are trendy, but they come with their share of pain. The skin in this area is soft and sensitive, making the tattooing process quite uncomfortable.
Hips Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The hip area is close to the bone, and depending on your body shape, might not have much fat. This can make the tattooing process quite painful.
Inner Thigh Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The inner thigh is one of the most sensitive areas of the body. As such, expect a high level of pain when getting a tattoo here.
Hand Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The hand is a common place for small, meaningful tattoos. But remember, it’s a sensitive area, with lots of bones and tendons close to the skin surface.
Stomach Tattoo Pain – Level 7
The stomach, especially the lower part, is a sensitive spot due to the thin skin and lack of muscle tissue. Plus, the needle’s vibrations can create a ticklish, uncomfortable sensation.
Inner Bicep Tattoo Pain – Level 7
The inner bicep has thinner skin and less muscle mass than the outer bicep, which can lead to increased sensitivity when getting tattooed.
Wrist Tattoo Pain – Level 7
The wrist, with its thin skin and close proximity to tendons and nerves, can be quite a painful spot for a tattoo. However, its visibility and convenience for smaller designs make it a popular choice.
Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo
While we’ve navigated through some pretty painful territory, don’t lose heart. There are still areas of the body where getting a tattoo can be less discomforting.
Let’s venture into these safer harbors.
|Outer Thigh||2||Ample amount of muscle and fat padding|
|Forearm||3||Good amount of muscle padding, fewer nerve endings|
|Outer Bicep||5||Ample muscle padding, fewer nerve endings|
|Shoulder||5||Thick skin, good muscle padding, fewer nerve endings|
|Calf||5||Dense muscle tissue, fewer nerve endings|
|Upper and Lower Back||6||More muscle padding, relatively less sensitive|
|Butt||6||Plenty of muscle and fat padding, relatively less sensitive|
Outer Thigh Tattoo Pain – Level 2
The outer thigh, with its ample muscle and fat padding, ranks as one of the least painful places for a tattoo. It’s an excellent area for larger designs and is conveniently easy to cover up if necessary.
Forearm Tattoo Pain – Level 3
Forearms, especially the outer part, have a decent amount of muscle and thick skin, making it relatively less painful to get a tattoo. It’s also a popular spot for first-timers due to its lower pain level and high visibility.
Outer Bicep Tattoo Pain – Level 5
The outer bicep, thanks to its thicker skin and more significant muscle mass compared to its inner counterpart, makes for a less painful tattooing experience. Plus, it offers a substantial canvas for medium to large designs.
Shoulder Tattoo Pain – Level 5
Shoulders are a great spot for a first tattoo. The thick skin and generous muscle padding provide a buffer against the tattoo needle, making it a less painful experience.
Calf Tattoo Pain – Level 5
The calf, with its substantial muscle padding, ranks lower on the pain chart. It’s an ideal spot for showcasing artwork, especially if you’re fond of shorts or dresses.
Upper and Lower Back Tattoo Pain – Level 6
The upper and lower back areas, especially the areas well-padded with muscles, can be less painful places for tattoos. However, steer clear of the spine and the area close to the kidneys, as these can be more sensitive.
Butt Tattoo Pain – Level 6
The butt offers a meaty canvas for a tattoo, thanks to the muscles and fat padding. However, while the pain might be less, the potential awkwardness of the tattooing process is worth considering!
How To Minimize The Tattoo Pain
Now that you’re well-versed with the tattoo pain map, let’s look at some ways to make your tattoo experience less daunting.
Choose Your Artist Wisely: An experienced artist can make the process less painful. They know how to handle the needle with precision and speed, causing minimal discomfort.
Stay Hydrated and Well Rested: Your body can better cope with pain when it’s well-hydrated and rested. Avoid alcohol before your session as it can thin your blood, leading to more bleeding and pain.
Eat a Meal: Eating a meal before your tattoo session can help stabilize your blood sugar levels, making you less likely to feel dizzy or faint.
Use a Numbing Cream: Consult with your tattoo artist about using a numbing cream. While it won’t eliminate the pain, it can make it more manageable.
Deep Breathing: Deep, meditative breathing can help you relax and manage the discomfort during the tattooing process.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve traversed the territory of tattoo pain, covering the highs, the lows, and how to manage it. But I’m sure you’re brimming with questions. So, let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked ones.
1. Can I use painkillers before getting a tattoo?
While it might seem like a good idea, it’s generally not recommended to take painkillers before getting a tattoo. Certain painkillers can thin your blood, leading to excessive bleeding during the tattoo session. Always consult with your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional for advice.
2. Are there any side effects to using numbing cream for tattoos?
While numbing creams can make your tattoo experience more comfortable, they can have side effects like redness, swelling, or a burning sensation. Always patch test the product, and consult your artist or a doctor before using one.
3. Does it hurt more to get a color tattoo compared to a black and grey one?
Color tattoos can sometimes be more painful than black and grey ones. This is because they often require more needle work to pack in the color, particularly for vibrant or large designs.
4. Why does my tattoo hurt weeks after getting it?
While it’s normal to experience some tenderness and swelling after getting a tattoo, prolonged pain can indicate an infection or an allergic reaction to the ink. If your tattoo continues to hurt weeks after getting it, seek medical attention.
5. Do all tattoos peel and itch?
Peeling and itching are normal parts of the tattoo healing process. It usually starts a few days after getting the tattoo and can last for up to two weeks. However, excessive itching or the presence of a rash can indicate an allergic reaction.
6. How long does a tattoo usually take to heal?
On average, the surface layer of the skin will take about 2-3 weeks to heal. However, the deeper layers can take up to 4 months to fully heal. Proper aftercare is crucial during this period to ensure the longevity and vibrancy of your tattoo.
Let’s face it, getting a tattoo involves some level of discomfort. But armed with the knowledge of the pain chart and tips to minimize the hurt, you’re now ready to make a more informed decision. Always remember, everyone’s pain tolerance is different. So, your experience may differ from what’s listed here.
In the end, a tattoo is a form of self-expression, a piece of art etched onto your skin. So, choose wisely, brace yourself, and embark on your tattoo journey, adding your story to the annals of inked skin!