Let’s be honest here; one of the main reasons people avoid getting tattoos is the fact that tattoos hurt. Now, the general assumption that tattoos hurt is true, of course, but because different people have different pain tolerance levels, it can sometimes be hard to truly describe the tattoo experience to someone who has never gotten a tattoo.
Now, because some people are already aware of their lower pain tolerance or general skin sensitivity, they don’t want to give up and keep looking for ways to minimize the pain of tattooing and go through the process like heroes. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, we’re going to explore the ways one can truly manage tattoo pain and whether painkillers are really the best pain management option. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Can You Take Painkillers Before A Tattoo?
Tattoo Pain – Why Do Tattoos Hurt In The First Place?
Before we get into the specifics of this topic, it is important to explain why the general tattoo experience isn’t the same for everyone. As we have touched upon it in the introduction, different people have different pain tolerance levels. Why? Well, this is quite simple, because, levels of pain do not only depend on the external pain causes (tattoo needle in this case) but also on;
- The size of the tattoo
- The location of the tattoo on the body
- The tattoo artist’s skills and technique
- Your personal physical health
- Your own preparation for the tattoo
Now, what do we mean when we list out all of the pain level factors? Let’s go through each one of them in greater detail.
For example, it is always easier to manage pain when you know it will only last for a few seconds or minutes, right? So, getting a smaller tattoo may mentally affect your body’s pain management since you know you’ll be done with it in no time.
But, even by disregarding the psychological notion of this example, we can all agree that larger tattoos require more work, and longer sessions, and logically, they might also hurt much more. And, by that logic, we wouldn’t be wrong. It is well known that the bigger the tattoo, the more it will hurt. The body simply gets exhausted, loses energy, becomes more sensitive throughout the long process, etc.
Now, if you happen to get a tattoo on a location of your body where the skin is super thin, especially if it’s directly over a bone or in its proximity, you can expect higher pain levels. This even applies to people who have had tattoos done in the past.
This is a normal occurrence since thinner skin allows the tattoo needle to affect the multitude of nerve endings as well as the bone. And this hurts. So, if you want a painless tattoo, stay away from getting a tattoo on the following body areas; head, ribs, chest, elbows, knees, inner thigh, feet, etc. You get the gist.
Now, when it comes to tattoo pain, one of the biggest roles in pain management plays your tattoo artist. If you’ve chosen to work with an experienced professional, there is probably nothing to worry about.
Experienced and skilled tattoo artists know how to tattoo without inflicting too much pain. They recognize when clients require breaks and won’t technically mess up the tattooing process (by pushing the needle too deep into the skin, for example). Inexperienced tattoo artists are more likely to make mistakes during the process, and such mistakes oftentimes hurt.
And finally, we get to talk about how your personal health and preparation for the tattoo appointment can either lessen or worsen the pain during the process. If you’ve recently experienced illness, or you’re currently ill, you’re more likely to experience higher pain levels due to overall sensitivity and a compromised immune system. It is essential to get your health back on track before getting a tattoo, mostly because the tattoo will hurt less and heal properly, with minimum risk.
Taking care of your health doesn’t mean showing up to a tattoo appointment under the influence of drugs and alcohol, smoking before the appointment, being sleepy, tired, etc. Going to your tattoo appointment right after a night-long party is just a bad idea.
Drugs, alcohol, and nicotine will not only make the tattoo hurt more, but they will also cause you to bleed excessively which can mess up the tattoo’s visibility as well as the tattoo artist’s work. Not to mention that these substances prevent proper tattoo healing and make you more susceptible to tattoo infection.
So, How Do I Deal With the Pain? With Pain Killers?
It may seem intuitive to simply take an Ibuprofen before a tattoo appointment and go through it with minimum pain and discomfort. Sounds ideal, right? Well, things may not be so jolly, so keep on reading for the explanation!
When you’re getting tattooed, your skin is poked with super sharp tattoo needles thousands of times per minute. Normally, your skin reacts to the poking and becomes irritated and starts bleeding. Now, generally speaking, bleeding is a normal occurrence and the tattoo artist wipes the blood off easily every time it appears. As the tattooing process goes on, the blood starts to clot and the bleeding reduces.
However, when taking pain killer before the tattoo appointment, you’re risking blood thinning. This means that when you start bleeding during the tattoo process, there will be significantly more blood. As a result, the tattoo artist will have a hard time managing the blood, as well as the tattoo through it. The visibility of the skin and the tattoo is minimized in this case. Why? Well, painkillers prevent the natural process of blood clotting causing a mess.
It is essential to mention that this isn’t always the case, especially when people are doing smaller tattoos. But, it is an expected occurrence when clients take painkillers. The tattoo process can truly get complicated, especially if the client is bleeding excessively. Health complications in such cases are expected since the bleeding cannot stop that easily and can lead to blood loss.
That is why it is important to be upfront with the tattoo artist about any medication, whether pain killer or antibiotic, you’ve taken prior to the appointment. It is also important to mention whether you’ve been drinking, taking drugs, or smoking before getting tattooed. Your tattoo artist may refuse to provide the service in this case, but for your own good.
Now, because painkillers are no good in this case, here are some of the best ways you can deal with tattoo pain without causing a bloody mess;
- Pick less sensitive body parts – go for body parts that have thicker skin and are not in close proximity to bones (forearm, upper back, out/front thigh, front and rear shoulder, outer upper arm).
- Reschedule if you’re sick – sickness increases your pain sensitivity, so try to reschedule the appointment until you feel 100% well.
- Eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water – this is general health advice that may seem obvious, but many don’t really adhere to it. Proper nutrition and hydration are the keys to a strong, resilient body, especially before a tattoo appointment.
- Avoid substance abuse – we’re talking about drugs, alcohol, as well as smoking, since all three increase pain sensitivity, cause blood thinning, and dehydration, and increase the risk of a tattoo infection.
- Get enough sleep – this goes without saying, but getting enough sleep helps you handle the pain much easier.
- Go for an experienced and skilled tattoo artist – choosing a professional in any case often minimizes the health risks; the same goes for a professional tattoo artist.
- Consider numbing creams – the majority of tattoo artists don’t do this, but some of them do offer numbing creams as a pain management option. The artist applies the cream at least half an hour before the tattooing process and helps you deal with the pain much easier.
Being worried about the pain involved with the tattooing process is completely normal, especially if you’re aware of the levels of your pain tolerance or pain sensitivity. The idea of being poked with a needle for hours can truly make everyone simply cancel their tattoo appointments and never go back to the idea of getting inked.
However, by choosing the right tattoo placement, preparing your mind and body for the experience in a healthy way, and choosing the right tattoo artist, you can minimize the pain and truly enjoy the experience. Hopefully, we’ve managed to take the fear away and present you with some tips and tricks that will truly help you. Therefore, we wish you good luck, and may you enjoy your tattoo experience, should you go for it!