Does It Hurt to Get a Tattoo?

Even the most convincing of spin-doctors would struggle to pitch that getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt at all. After all, this is a process which involves having a vibrating needle dragged through your skin. Some pain is inevitable; many would even say it’s an important part of the experience, to drive home the seriousness of the commitment.

Sure enough, almost anyone looking to be tattooed knows it will hurt, but their concern is with exactly how much discomfort is involved. And this could depend upon a range of things.


Selecting the location of your tattoo is your first chance to control the pain. Although the body can be unpredictable, the general wisdom is that less skin and fat between the tattoo and the bony or squishy parts beneath means a greater likelihood that it will hurt.

tattoo hurting

Arms are a popular location for tattoos, as they have a bit of flesh to work with, in particular the outer arm or shoulder area. The upper back is often cited as a bearable area, if the spine itself is avoided, but few definitive answers are available. Speak to friends, search the internet, or even ask your potential tattoo artist.

But, even allowing for individual quirks, common sense can still be applied. You know where your most sensitive areas are, and if you elect to have tattoos on your genitalia, lip or eyeball, a degree of stabbing agony seems likely.


Before your tattoo, there are ways in which you can prepare yourself to make the process as pain-free as possible. For example, drinking alcohol in the time leading up to your appointment causes your blood to thin. This will make you much more likely to bleed during the process, making it harder for both yourself and the artist.

(Many tattoo artists refuse to work on blatantly drunk customers, for obvious reasons, but even the previous night’s drinking could cause problems.)

It’s also frequently advised to make sure you eat before getting your tattoo, as your chances of fainting or going into some form of shock are a lot higher with low blood sugar. This comes particularly recommended if it’s your first time, or if you know yourself to have a very low pain threshold.


There are numbing creams available, in order to ease the potential pain. Some tattoo artists do not have much time for these, saying they further complicate the process and often offer relatively little relief. However, if you are determined to get a tattoo but find yourself deeply troubled by the potential pain, the option may be of interest to you.

Because, regardless of measures, pain is inevitable. But on the other hand, millions go through it, and emerge with a piece of body art that they wear proudly for the rest of their lives. If you really want your tattoo, then it seems likely you’ll find a way to deal with the discomfort, even if simply by accepting it as a necessary rite of passage.

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