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How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt?

How Uncomfortable Are Tattoos, Really?

Getting a tattoo can be an exciting experience. However, the question on many first-timers’ minds is – how much will it hurt? The answers vary widely depending on several factors. Keep reading to learn what impacts the pain level of a tattoo.

Where on the Body Are You Getting the Tattoo?

Where you get the tattoo impacts the pain level significantly. Areas with lots of muscle and fat hurt less. Sensitive bony areas like hands, feet, spine and ribs hurt the most. Generally, these body areas are more painful for tattoos:

  • Ribs, chest, elbows, knees
  • Spine, sternum, ankles, top of feet
  • Hands, fingers

These spots usually hurt less:

  • Arms, thighs, calves, shoulders
  • Upper back, buttocks, hips

Your Pain Tolerance

Everyone has a different pain tolerance. If you easily tolerate shots, waxing, piercings without flinching, you may handle tattoos better. People with low pain tolerance may find tattoos extremely uncomfortable regardless of location. For tips on how to prepare for a tattoo, check out How to Prepare for a Tattoo.

Tattoo Size

Getting a small, simple tattoo over a couple of hours hurts less than a bigger, complex multi-session one. The longer the duration under the tattoo gun – the more painful and uncomfortable it becomes as the skin becomes aggravated. If you’re interested in minimizing tattoo pain, you might want to explore the use of numbing creams. Learn more about it here.

Tattoo Technique

The equipment used impacts the pain. Modern tattoo machines cause less trauma than older or homemade models. Some techniques like hand poke tattoos take longer to complete and can get more uncomfortable.

Aftercare Can Also Cause Discomfort

Once the tattoo is done, the area will likely feel sore, swollen and tender for a while. Like any wound, improper aftercare can lead to pain and prolong healing. Follow your artist’s instructions carefully to let it heal properly.

The Pain Won’t Last Forever

While tattoos do hurt, the pain and discomfort during and after is short-term. Once the tattoo has healed completely, it should not cause any pain unless infected or irritated. Most tattoo veterans agree the end result makes the temporary discomfort worthwhile!

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