How Painful Are Tattoos? Tattoo Pain Explained

Woman getting a tattoo.

One of the first questions you ask yourself when you think about getting a tattoo is “do tattoos hurt?”. Well, it’s a complicated question, as there are many factors to consider.

In short, you should go into it expecting some degree of pain. Going in with an expectation means you’re prepared, and considering the process of getting a tattoo (which we’ll look into shortly), everyone experiences some sort of pain.

In this article, we’re going to discuss why tattoos hurt, and which body parts hurt more than others when getting tattooed.

Why Getting a Tattoo Hurts

Person getting a tattoo on their hand.

The process of getting a tattoo involves a sharp needle covered in pigment repeatedly piercing your skin. I know, that might sound a bit intimidating.

Tattoo ink sits in the dermis layer of your skin, just under the top layer, known as the epidermis. It needs to penetrate deep enough to prevent your body from naturally pushing the ink out.

Pain in Relation to the Placement

In general, tattoo pain depends on the body part that’s being tattooed.

Areas of your body with more fat, fewer nerve endings, and thicker skin will hurt the least.

On the other hand, areas of your body that have less fat, more nerve endings, and thinner skin will hurt more.

If you’re considering getting your first tattoo and are a bit concerned about the pain, think about getting one in an area considered less painful.

Below is a list of what body parts (generally) hurt the most to be tattooed, and hopes to answer the question “where do tattoos hurt the most?”.

Here’s a list of the most painful areas to get a tattoo:

  • Rib cage
  • Ankles and shins
  • Nipples and breasts
  • Armpit
  • Neck and spine
  • Behind the knees
  • Elbows or kneecap
  • Groin
  • Hips
  • Head, face, and ears
  • Stomach
  • Inner bicep
  • Hands and fingers
  • Feet and toes
  • Lips

Here’s a list of the least painful areas to get a tattoo:

  • Forearm
  • Outer bicep
  • Calves
  • Upper and lower back
  • Outer shoulders
  • Upper outer thigh

What Does Getting a Tattoo Feel Like?

Person getting a tattoo on their arm.

Everyone feels a different degree of pain. You might also experience different types of pain during the tattoo process.

The pain will be more prominent in the first few minutes of getting your tattoo. After this, your body will adjust.

Your tattoo artist can tell you what to expect based on what you’re getting inked, but most of the time, you will feel a very deep scratching sensation.

Tips for Getting Your First Tattoo

Don’t worry, nerves are normal. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re absolutely ready for your tattoo appointment.

Wear loose clothing

On the day, you want to wear clothing that you’re comfortable in. You don’t want to wear clothing that hugs your frame too much, as it could cause friction against your new ink.

After your tattoo, you may notice some small droplets of ink and blood. Do bear this in mind if you’re wanting to keep your clothing stain-free.

Don’t drink alcohol

While it may be tempting to give yourself an alcohol-induced confidence boost, you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good.

Alcohol is a blood thinner, which causes your tattoo to bleed a lot more when you’re getting it done. This can impair the vision of your artist, and thin the ink.

Get plenty of rest

Get lots of rest before the big day. This means having a good meal the night before, getting to bed on time, and staying in bed until your body is well-rested. Even if you find yourself too excited to sleep, it’s for your own benefit that you stay under the covers, as your body will still rest just by being in bed.

Rest is important – before you get a tattoo, and after you get one. Make sure that you avoid exercising for a while after getting a new tattoo.

Eat plenty

Before you get your tattoo, make sure you’ve had a big meal.

Getting a tattoo pushes your body into overdrive, as it’s trying to heal the careful incisions made by the tattoo gun.

Give your body the substance it needs. It’s going to need it.


Person showing off their wrist tattoo.

At the end of the day, getting a tattoo is going to hurt, whether you like it or not. But, that’s all a part of the process that we know and love.

After it’s done, you’ll be left with a piece that you’re proud to wear for the rest of your life. The pain of getting a tattoo is minimal compared to the value you get out of it.

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Inked and Faded is a website focused on the world of tattoos. From created to curated, Inked and Faded is your leading source for tattoo related content.

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