Tattoos have been around for what’s believed to be thousands of years. However, the popularity of tattoos surged again in the following years after it became more acceptable to have them. One of the most common questions people ask their tattoo artists is “do the tattoos hurt?” The short and painful answer is – Yes, they hurt, sometimes a lot.
Although we can’t give a subjective guestimate about how much pain is “a lot,” because everyone reacts to pain differently, we can list the more and less painful areas that react when making a tattoo.
We’ll also reveal other potential secrets such as what exactly accounts for experiencing pain as well as how to minimize it.
Factors That Affect The Pain When Getting A Tattoo Done
Like with everything, certain factors affect how much pain you’ll experience when doing a tattoo. These factors vary from person to person, so make sure to read them all and see whether your pain tolerance relates to the factors below.
Sex: People who are biologically male or female react to the pain differently. Although that difference isn’t significant, it’s still noticeable. A study conducted at Stanford University concluded that women react to pain more intensely compared to men.
Still, there’s no definite evidence that women experience more pain when getting tattooed as opposed to men. There’s no evidence to support why sex differences occur when getting a tattoo, but one indication can be different chemical and hormonal composition.
Age: Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who have older skin have more chance to experience a more intense painful response to the needle than those with young skin.
Weight: People who have loose skin, which is associated with higher weight and body fat, are more likely to be more sensitive to pain due to getting tattooed.
Experience of a tattoo artist: People who’ve worked with a lot of people and experienced different pain tolerances are more sensible and careful when tattooing.
Endorphins: Endorphins are special chemicals that help relieve pain and stress. Our body releases it when it’s under stress and pain to feel more relieved and relaxed. Based on how your body responds to pain by releasing endorphins also depends on how much paint you’ll feel when getting tattooed.
Commonly Asked Questions About Tattoo Pain (FAQ)
People who are curious about tattoo pain levels may have a lot of questions. With that in mind, we wrote this frequently asked questions section to help answer all the potential questions you may have.
1. What Does Tattoo Pain Feel Like?
The tattoo pain feels different for everyone. What happens exactly is that a needle is going through your skin, and scratching through it. That said, the primary type of pain will feel like scratching as if a cat is scratching you or you’re experiencing constant bee and wasp stings.
Besides scratching, the tattooing process pain feels sharp, and leaves a burning sensation. However, the pain sensation, and the type of the pain you’ll experience is different on different parts of the body.
If the skin is loose, the burning and scratching sensation with intensify. Also, when bone is too close to the needle like on elbows for example, the pain will also intensify. The area will also be left vibrating after a bit.
2. Is Shading As Painful As Outlining Tattoo?
People who are keen on getting colorful tattoos are scared because they think that the coloring process, also known as shading hurts more than outlining the tattoo. However, it’s not that way, at least not for everyone. A lot of people say that the shading experience gives an individual reaction, but that in most cases, the pain is milder, and the process is more relaxing.
3. How To Reduce The Pain When Getting Tattooed
Tattooing is painful, and if the artwork is large, it can also be time-consuming which can make the pain even greater. Here’s how to reduce the pain.
Before the session:
- Make sure to be sober for at least 24 hours before getting a tattoo.
- Make sure to get enough of sleep before going to get your tattoo.
- Make sure to eat before coming to the session.
- Try to get a morning session because the endorphins are high at that time.
During the session:
- Bring your headphones and listen to some light music.
- Play a movie or some funny videos during the session
- Use a painkiller like tylonal or ibuprofen.
- Try out the creams that induce the numbing in the skin and reduce the pain.
After the session:
- You can use pain killers every 6 hours to lessen the pain.
- Make sure to stay hydrate.
- Wear loose clothing and rest the inked area as much as you can.
- Avoid scratching or touching the wound.
4. What Not to Do After Getting A Tattoo?
Of course, you shouldn’t touch and scratch the tattoo, and only touch it when you’re cleaning the wound twice a day. However, there are other things that you can do such as avoid the direct sunlight, avoid bathing, but just have quick showers, exercise vigorously, swimming and other things. It’s also important to avoid drinking alcohol.
5. What Is The Most Painful Place To Get Tattooed?
Although that is individual, the most painful place are armpits and the area around the rib cage. For some people, this will be different, but generally a lot of people experience the most pain around armpits, which is why they avoid getting tattooed there.
6. What is the Least Painful Area To Get Tattoo?
Areas such as the stomach, outer shoulders, outer bicep, outer thighs cause the least pain. For women, the area on the back, feels the least painful.
7. When Will The Tattoo Stop Hurting?
You can expect the wound to hurt intensively for at least three days after getting inked. As the swelling is coming off and the wound is starting to heal, you’ll experience the pain. Although you may still feel discomfort after two weeks, it’s considered the general time for all the pain to disappear. You’ll feel most of the pain gone within the first week after getting tattooed.
8. Can You Get Sick After Getting A Tattoo?
You may feel a bit sick after getting a tattoo, and even feverish. But, those sensations should go away after a few days. If the fever rises and persists, as well as the pain and swelling, you should visit a doctor.
9. Do Tattoos Hurt More When You’re Tired?
Tattoos generally hurt less during a morning schedule because body is rested and more effective at generating endorphins. Getting your tattoo done when you’re tired means that your body is more sensitive and feels more tender so you may experience more pain.
Tattoo Pain Chart: Which Parts Are The Most Sensitive?
Now that we listed factors that affect the pain when getting a tattoo done, let’s take a look at the response of different body parts to the inked needles.
Below, we listed a table with definition of every type of the pain. We also scaled it in numbers that also mark.
- Mild – 1-3
- Moderate – 3-6
- Severe -6-8
- Extremely severe – 8-10
|Shinbones And Ancles||9||9|
|Breasts And Chest||8||9|
|Head And Face||7||6|
|Hands And Fingers||7||7|
The rib cage is one of the most painful areas for getting a tattoo done. Many people who had their full torso tattooed called it the most painful areas of all, because of the extremely severe pain. As the rib cage moves as we breathe, tattooing gets additionally challenging and more painful in the process.
Rib cage, being one of the most painful areas is rated at 9 for both men and women.
Female: For women, the area around the rib cage is extremely painful, as well as on the chest between the breasts. Although it’s often advised not to make tattoos there, the bravest among women endured the pain for the inked symbols they desired to paint on themselves.
Male: Similarly to women, this area is extremely painful. Given that men have a larger and wider constitution compared to women, the larger area also means more painful points, which makes the pain hard to endure.
The second most painful place includes the armpit, which is often advised against tattooing. That is mainly because of closure to the breast glands.
Many argue whether armpits or rib cage are the most painful areas. We say that armpits sting a bit more, giving it the rate of 10 on each.
Female: The females may find this area particularly more difficult because the breast glands are more active compared to those of men.
Male: Although the pain may be slightly less severe compared to women, the pain is still rated as extremely severe and hard to endure.
Shinbones And Ankles
Both shinbones and ankles are covered with a thin layer of skin, which makes tattooing difficult and painful. Both sexes experience the level 9 of pain in shinbones, still, males experience a little less pain than females.
Female: Tattooing both shinbones and ankles gets severely painful, the back of the ankles also feels extremely painful. However, the leg skin next to the shinbones is less painful compared to the actual shins, which is quite relieving if you’re tattooing the entire leg.
Male: Both shinbones and ankles get extremely severe pain when in contact with the ink needle. Nevertheless, the paint on the rear of the ankle is less severe than that of females.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, the pain in the breasts is extremely severe. The male scale for the pain in chest and breasts is 8, while females experience it at the level 9.
Female: Women have more loose skin on breasts and usually larger breasts, which makes the pain more severe. Still, genuinely the sensation of pain is the same. It gets particularly painful on the nipples.
Male: Men may experience less pain when tattooing the breasts, depending on the weight and shape of the breasts. Still, the pain is rated as severe.
While there are a lot of nerve endings around the groin area, the pain is still less than that on the armpit or rib cage. It’s still rated as quite painful, with males experiencing the level 9 of pain and women level 8.
Female: The groin area and the area of inner thighs can be rated from painful and severely painful. Still, it should be endurable.
Male: Males experience more pain in the groin area, as well as the inner thigh area.
The skin that surrounds your hip joints and the bone is thin and fragile, full of nerve endings which can easily make designing a tat extremely painful. Males experience the hip pain at level 8, while females experience it at level 7.
Female: The hip area is rated as painful, but still less painful than that of men.
Male: The top of the hip may be more painful compared to the rest of the hip area. It can get severely painful when the tattoo is large and the tattoo artist isn’t taking frequent breaks.
Knees And Behind The Knees
The pain in the knees and behind could be maximized based on the conditions of your knees and your pain tolerance. Both males and females have the rate of 7 for the knees.
Female: If your area around and behind knees has a lot of loose skin, the tattooing experience may be extremely painful.
Male: Similarly to the female, loose skin that is easy to stretch could make tattooing a struggle. Luckily, the skin around the knees shouldn’t cause more than moderate pain.
Elbows are a painful area regardless of the biological sex. It lays just under the skin, so the needle is in close contact with the bone. Men are rated at level 8, while the women experience pain at level 7.
Female: The skin surrounding the elbow should be severely painful to tattoo. The area around the elbow itself could result in extremely severe pain.
Male: Males generally experience more pain than women in this area.
A lot of people who tattoo their spine will experience extreme pain, due to sharp nerve endings and how close the spine is to the skin. Being extremely painful area, both men and women experience the level 9.
Female: A thin layer that surrounds the spine could make tattooing so painful that it could result in shedding a tear.
Male: Back and spine is more painful for men compared to women, so it can be hard to bear.
Similar to the spine, tattooing the neck can be extremely painful for both men and women. The pain for men and women is 7 and 6 respectively.
Female: Front area is less painful compared to the backside of the neck.
Male: The area around the neck feels unbearably painful, especially on the front, against the neck bone.
Aslo Read: Are Neck Tattoos A Bad Idea?
Head And Face
Because of the multiple nerve endings on both head and face, both women and men can experience piercing pain when making their tattoos. For men, entire face hurts at the level 7. For women, the lower facial area is more painful, but overall the pain experienced is at level 6.
Female: The pain on the head can be rated as severe, while the area surrounding the mouth and cheekbones can be rated as extremely severe. The back of the head can also be considered quite painful.
Male: The entire head and face may be rated as extremely severe. Additionally, the same feeling is on the back of the head, with fewer nerve endings, and thus pain in the lower area.
Also Read: Can A Tattoo Cause Nerve Damage?
Ears may not be the most popular area for making a tattoo, but for those who decide to take this brave step, tattooing the ears can be considered quite painful. The skin layer is thin, but there’s not a lot of fat cells that can ease the pain. Both experience the pain at level 7.
Female: The pain in the ears and around the ears can be rated as severe.
Male: The back of the ears and lower part of the ears feels severe, while the front can cause extremely severe pain.
Lips have a lot of loose skin, and nerve ends in the process, which can result in extreme pain especially for those with thinner lips. In the case of the rough needle, it can even result in bleeding and lip sores. Both experience the lip pain at level 8.
Females: The area around the mouth and lips is rated to cause an extremely severe painful sensation.
Male: Similarly with the female lips, male lips can be painful to tattoo, rated as extremely severe.
Also Read: Pros And Cons Of Getting An Inner Lip Tattoo
Hands And Fingers
Similarly to the feet, hands and fingers can be quite popular to tattoo, especially in recent years. However, it can cause severe pain because of the thin layer of skin that surrounds the fingers. You can also expect painful spasms and swelling in the area. Both experience the pain at level 8.
Female: The inner palm can cause intense pain that intensifies around the wrists. The outer finger and hand layer can result in extremely severe pain.
Male: The inner layer except palms will cause little to moderate pain, but the outer layer of the hand and fingers are more painful to tattoo.
The area around the rib cage is extremely painful, if not more than any other area. The stomach area may cause less pain, but if you have loose skin or a thin stomach it’ll be more painful. The tighter the skin around the stomach, the less painful it is. The pain males experience is rated at 6, while the pain women are feeling is rated at 8.
Female: The lower stomach is more painful for women, as well as the area about abdominal muscles. The rest of the stomach feels less severely painful.
Male: Although the pain still exists, it’s more moderate compared to other areas.
Back is less painful than the area around the spine, it can even be rated as mild or moderate pain, depending on the size of your tattoo, biological sex, and other factors. Males experience the pain at level 7. The pain for women is significantly lower for women, at level 5.
Female: The pain across both the upper and lower back feels mild and moderate in some areas for women.
Male: Fewer nerve-endings make the pain more moderate, although in some areas pain may be rated as severe. Genuinely, men experience more pain in the back than women.
Thighs are also among the parts that result in less pain, especially in the upper area.
Female: Females will experience less pain across the entire outer thigh area.
Male: The upper outer thigh feels less painful, but the pain is more moderate in the lower thighs, while the upper area is mild. Outer thigh pain feels mild for males at the level 3, while for women it’s moderate at level 5.
Also Read: 30+ Sexiest Thigh Tattoo Designs For Girls
The good side of the shoulders is a thick skin layer and not so many nerve endings, making it a good area for making a tattoo that won’t cause too much pain. Men experience the pain that is moderate at level 4, while the female pain rate sways towards severe at level 6.
Female: The outer shoulder pain is moderate and stronger than the same area in males.
Male: The pain in the outer shoulders and shoulders, in general, is rated as mild.
The outer bicep is rich in muscles and not so many nerve endings or fat cells. It won’t cause a lot of pain, but you may still be able to feel it. For men, the pain in the outer bicep is rated at 2,while the pain at the inner bicep is rated at 5. For females, the outer bicep hurts at level 5, while the inner one is more severe at 7.
Female: Outer bicep in women and bicep, in general, will cause less pain than other body parts, making it a great place for a sleeve tattoo.
Male: Although the pain is considered mild, it’s still present and can be annoying.