How painful is a tattoo? The art of tattooing is one of the oldest traditions of mankind to beautify and change the body. Whether as a ritual or a status symbol, tattoos have always been a fascination for us. Of course, a tattoo hurts. Multiple needles penetrate the skin thousands of times to work the tattoo ink into the layers of skin. Some people just seem to enjoy this and are completely relaxed, others can hardly stand the pain.
How much does a tattoo hurt
This can be several levels of pain. Of course, it depends on the tattoo artist, how gently or not he or she works. It also depends on the duration of the tattoo. You can easily bear the gentle pain for a few minutes, but after a few hours, it’s a different story. Everyone has a different pain tolerance, just like some people are ticklish and others are not. But some parts of the body are particularly painful to tattoo, and others where even a tattoo beginner can easily get through their first tattoo.
It is easy to understand that some parts of the body are more sensitive to pain than others. It is the areas where many nerve endpoints come together that are most sensitive to pain. And of course, the places where we do not have any ‘fat cushions’ because the needles can be felt particularly well here.
The most painful places for a tattoo
We asked our tattoo artist pro team as well as the Barber DTS crew to find out which parts of the body are the most and least painful to tattoo. Of course, it’s difficult to judge which areas hurt the most if you’re not tattooed all over. But let’s start with the places that are also suitable for tattoo beginners.
The classic upper arm tattoo seems to cause the least pain. With sufficient tissue and tough skin, this is the best place to get a tattoo with little pain. Right after that comes the forearm and calf, these areas can also be tolerated well and are excellent for tattoo beginners who want to get to know how to handle the pain.
Now we jump to where it really hurts! One of the most painful places for a tattoo is definitely the nipples. A lot of nerve endings come together here and the pain is really hard to bear. Also, the neck, lower back, upper ribs and head are high on the list of our Pro Artists and Barber DTS crew. We have prepared a tattoo pain chart where you can see which areas are the most painful from our experience.
Tattoo pain explained
The fact that some areas hurt more than others when tattooing is due to the nerve connections. If there is a cushion of fat between the skin and the nerves, the pain is not transmitted as directly to the nerve endings as in other places. This is why the upper arm is a popular place for the first tattoo. If, on the other hand, you want a tattoo on your ribs or feet, where we have relatively little fatty tissue, you should prepare yourself for some pretty unbearable pain!
There are also places on the body where we simply have fewer nerve endings. These are mainly the places that are in contact with the environment every day. Our forearms, for example, have very little fatty tissue at the elbow bone, so that you can even feel the bone through the skin. Nevertheless, this area is quite easy to tattoo on most people because there are not so many nerve endings here. The same applies to the knee and the shin, these areas can also be tolerated well, despite the almost non-existent fat cushions.
On the other hand, many nerve endings converge on the hands, feet and thighs for example. Consequently, tattoo pain is also pretty rough in these areas.
How to cope with tattoo pain
There are a few tricks to make tattoo pain more bearable. First and foremost, make sure you are rested and have had a good night’s sleep. Eating a healthy meal before the tattoo also helps to make the tattoo pain more bearable. The healthier you were before the tattoo, the easier it will be for you to deal with the pain. Of course, it is also important that you feel comfortable with your tattoo artist. Through trust, the excitement and anticipation of your new tattoo can push the pain into the background.
Mental preparation for the tattoo and your inner attitude can also have a big impact on tattoo pain. When you are relaxed and your mind is free of problems, pain is usually easier to bear. On the other hand, if you’re going through a break-up and have that heartache feeling, a tattoo can also offer some distraction from the inner pain. A heartbreak tattoo has helped some people deal with a break-up better – and you’ll look better afterwards!
Breathing is also very important. Regular, deep breathing helps to better tolerate pain. Think of the tattooing process as a kind of ancient ritual and make sure to breathe evenly and meditatively, and you will notice that the pain is much easier to bear.
Another trick to make your tattoo hurt less is to use over-the-counter medications. For our pro team artists, ibuprofen and paracetamol are definitely at the top of the list. These substances have an analgesic effect and soften the pain somewhat to make it more bearable.
Ibuprofen also has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps to heal and reduces the risk of inflammation. If you want to take one of these medications, you should read the package leaflet carefully beforehand and/or consult your GP about taking it. Never take more than the maximum recommended dose to prevent complications and side effects.
Special tip: The pain-relieving effect of ibuprofen can be enhanced with caffeine. So if you drink an espresso or a caffeinated drink before it gets really painful, you can tolerate the tattoo pain a little better.
With tattoo pain, it always depends on the individual how they perceive pain. However, there are parts of the body that are more sensitive than others and should therefore be avoided by tattoo beginners. In our tattoo pain chart, you can see which areas are the most painful and which are the easiest to get over.
If you’d like to learn more about how tattoos heal after they’ve been inked, check out our Advice Hub article “The Healing Process of a Tattoo“.