Tattoo Pain Management: How to Make Tattoos Less Painful

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It’s a common agreement that tattoos hurt. While the pain sensation is different for everyone else, and some people may feel less pain than others, everyone experiences it in one way or another. The inking process itself is extremely painful. But, if you’re getting a tattoo at a sensitive spot, the process of healing may turn out to be even more painful and persistent than the tattooing process itself.

If you’re looking to get your first tattoo, or you didn’t like the pain you felt when getting one, this article is for you. We will educate you about the different routines and habits you can get when getting your body inked, and overcome the healing period like a champ.

Before we start, it’s of utmost importance to understand the different pain zones that exist in both men and women. You can learn more about the pain zones in this tattoo pain chart. If you’re already somewhat familiar with the pain, then we’re ready to start focusing on what you can do to make the process of getting a tattoo done more bearable.

Tattoo pain chart on men
Image Source: Saved Tattoo

It’s worth noting that what you feel when getting tattooed, as well as during the healing process, depends on your regular daily habits and your pain tolerance in particular. Nevertheless, regardless of higher or lower pain tolerance, the tattoo pain chart we left for you to read above won’t differ significantly.

The pain you’ll feel also depends on your stress level, how tired or rested you are, sleeping habits, diet, and most importantly your tattoo artist. It needs to be someone you know or someone that came as a recommendation.

Never do tattoos in an unregulated facility or at wild artists that have no one to vouch for their expertise and experience.

Now that we pinpointed these key things to understand, let’s take a look at how to manage tattoo pain in three stages.

  • Preparation for a tattooing session
  • Pain management during the tattooing process
  • Pain management after the session and during the healing process.

Read on!

Preparing For The Tattoo Pain

Preparing For The Tattoo Pain
Instagram: @joaogalrao_official

As mentioned above, every permanent tattoo will hurt, regardless of your pain tolerance. That’s because the inking needle pierces through the top layers of skin and takes time to heal. It’s impossible to get a tattoo without this process, but it’s possible to prepare to get the tattoo done with a bit less pain than you’d normally experience.

Here’s how.

Get Enough Of Sleep

Do you have that sensation of feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep? If you do, that’s because your body and mind are rested enough to take on challenging tasks that the day carries. One study observed the link between sleep and pain, finding that sleep is one of the best pain killers.

When we’re asleep, one of the key neurotransmitters in our body – dopamine is released. It’s responsible for pain relief and pleasure, which means that it’s able to help us handle pain during the day. Analogically, lack of sleep disrupts our brain’s mechanisms for perceiving pain, meaning that we’ll have difficulties handling it.

Another study found that lack of sleep makes it difficult for us to deal with pain. Additionally, it’ll slow down the healing process of certain injuries we have.

Additional tips:

Go to sleep early – it’s expected to be excited about getting a tattoo, but getting enough sleep is super-important and effective if you lay at 9-11 pm, and always before midnight.

Make an early appointment – Schedule the tattooing session as early in the morning as possible so that your body is more effective with taking pain thanks to the dopamine reserves.

Make Sure to Eat

Healthy nutrition is important for our health, not only because it improves our physical and brain functions, but also helps us with handling the pain. A lot of people make a mistake and skip breakfast when getting a tattoo done, for one reason or another. That’s just wrong.

Of course, you’re not supposed to eat your pain away, eating too much can make you sicker. Additionally, it’s no secret that some people pass out from the pain, you don’t want that happening to you because of hunger. That stays more true if the tattoo you’re getting is large and you’re likely to spend more time at the tattoo table.

Additional tips:

Try practicing a greener diet and avoid taking too many carbohydrates before the session.

Stay Hydrated

Water is one of the most important regulators in the body. It helps fix so many things, like help with sugars, prevent dehydration, neutralize acid, soothe pain, and much more. Interestingly, it also shows that keeping the skin hydrated as a result of proper water intake can result in less tattoo pain, with this statement even being backed by studies.

One study observed link between water therapy and fibromyalgia. It is said that skin hydration through water can also lessen the pain in other instances, tattooing could anecdotally be one of them

Nevertheless, take just as much water as you need. Similarly, with your appetite, you could get unlucky enough to have to use a restroom while getting inked, which not only disrupts your tattoo artist but makes you a whole lot more difficult to work with it.

Additional tips:

Make sure to avoid carbonated drinks like soda and sparkling water, as the odds of you going to urinate are higher.

Avoid drinking alcohol at least 24 hours before getting your tattoo done. A study showed that there’s an increased pain sensitivity in alcohol withdrawal.

Wear Loose Clothing

One of the most important things to consider is clothing, especially in the tattoo area. Let this be both preparation and the measurement to take after finishing with your tattoo session. When coming back, your clothes will loosely or tightly interact with your wound. That’s why it’s important to wear loose, breathable, and comfy clothes that won’t cause pain, itching, burning, or anything of the sort.

Additional tips:

Wear clothes that are made out of linen, viscose, or cotton. Avoid using hot, synthetic materials, although viscose is mostly fine.

Reschedule if You Feel Sick

Regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, that is affecting millions of people around the world at the moment of writing this article, you should reschedule if you feel sick in any way – cold, hay fever, headache, or even an injury. These increase your irritability so it’s highly likely to experience more pain when getting inked.

Also Read: 

Everything You Need to Know Before Getting a Tattoo – A 101 Guide

What Should You Not Do Before Getting A Tattoo?

Can You Drink Before or After Getting a New Tattoo?

Pain Management During The Tattooing Session

Pain Management During The Tattooing Session
Credit: @rapidnumb_uk

If you are prepared for the tattoo appointment and you’re getting ready to get a beautiful tattoo on your body, let’s check what you can do to reduce the pain during the session itself.

Take Some Pain Reliever

A lot of tattoo experts and doctors have split opinions on what kind of medicine, and if any you should take if you want to get your body inked. Some doctors will say that you should avoid them as it may cause even more pain, while some others advise that certain medicines should be okay.

Most doctors say that taking Tylenol, or Paracetamol is the safest way to go right when you take on your new tattoo. However, it’d be wise to take it at least 30 minutes before you head to your tattoo session.

Additional tips:

What all doctors agree on is that you should never take a pain reliever that has aspirin inside of it, as aspirin is responsible for thinning of your blood vessels.

Aside from aspirin itself, you’re also advised not to take a medicine like Ibuprofen before attending your tattoo session.

Breathe Deeply

We know that this may look like pointless advice, but it could be taken as a great help. A lot of tattoo artists advise their clients to relax and distract themselves while they are working on a tattoo that they want. It’s not a great help, but if you focus on your breathing routine, you’ll help both yourself and your tattoo artist.

Additional tips:

Practicing Yoga and meditation has helped a lot of people handle the tattooing process, especially if it was lengthy and painful enough to make you lose your patience.

Ask Your Tattoo Artist To Take Breaks

Similar to dentists while working on painful procedures, your tattoo artist can also take breaks to make you rest from the pain caused by the tattoo needle. They can take pauses every few minutes, or every 10 to 15 minutes, but they’ll also help you focus on your breathing and relax while dealing with extensive pain.

Additional tips:

Don’t force yourself to get a larger tattoo in one go. A tattoo artist will give you a couple of minutes to rest now and then. However, if it’s about a larger design, it’s better to schedule multiple sessions and allow yourself to rest.

Make sure to always ask for breaks, as an excess movement when you get exhausted could irritate your tattoo artist.

Bring Headphones

Whenever something hurts you, whenever you’re overly excited about something, your hormones are raging and making you more irritable about certain things. While bringing headphones and listening to music won’t necessarily make the pain disappear. It will certainly help distract yourself with relaxing music and allow the tattoo artist to work without you hindering with their methods of work.

Additional Tips:

Still, try getting a headphone that has good noise isolation as sometimes, even the noise of a tattoo machine is enough to scare someone of the pain. Try to close yourself out as much as you can.

Ask For Recommendation On Skin Numbing Creams

When getting a tattoo, the pain can be unimaginable. That’s because of the needle that penetrates the body as we said before. However, not everything is lost. Certain tattoo creams work in a way that numbs the skin and allows the tattoo artist to work on a tattoo without causing too much pain.

You can ask your tattoo artist to recommend skin numbing ointments, but you can also check the 3 options we listed in the additional tips section.

Additional Tips:

Ink Scribd Numbing Cream: This one doesn’t need a prescription and is made of 5% Lidocaine which is enough to numb your skin for the tattoo session. It absorbs pretty fast, so you can put it 15 to 20 minutes before your tattoo session starts. The effects can last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. It’s also rich in vitamin E, which is good for the skin.

Ebanel Topic Cream: With its amazing soothing, numbing, and hydrating features, Ebanel cream is one of the best on the market. It takes only 15 to 20 minutes to work and will protect your skin for over one hour. Just like other tattoo creams, it has 5% Lidocaine as well as other vitamins that are important for skin hydration.

Dr. Numb Tattoo Cream: Although it resembles a toothpaste Dr. Numb tattoo cream has 5% of Lidocaine and hypoallergenic formula that is guaranteed to work 15 to 20 minutes from application.

Know More Details: 5 Best Tattoo Numbing Creams: Experience Tattoos, Pain-Free! (Guide + Best Brands)

Tattoo Aftercare Pain Management

Tattoo Aftercare Pain Management
Credit: @fii.alii

Your tattoo will take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks to heal. Until the healing effects show, you need to take precautions and extra care of your wound. The good part is that some advice from the first sections of this article applies to this section too like:

  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Sleeping enough
  • Eating promptly
  • Staying hydrated and more.

But, what can you do to improve your health situation?

After First 24h Keep Your Tattoo Exposed

For the first 24 hours, it’s important to keep your tattoo protected with an ointment and a bandage that will keep it protected from moist and potential bacteria entering your wound. However, after 1 to 2 days, it’s safe to remove the bandage and let the tattoo wound dry and slowly recover.

Additional tips:

If your tattoo artist says that you need to keep the tattoo covered longer, don’t hesitate, safety and health are the first things to consider.

Use Topical Anesthetic Spray

There are a lot of topical anesthetic sprays that you can use to reduce the pain. It’s known that a tattoo should remain dry, even when you’re taking a shower, it’s advisable to do a sponging shower to take care of your tattoo and ensure it won’t get soaked. That’s why using sprays is a good idea.

Additional tips:

HUSH Anesthetic spray is what we found that helped a lot of people who are battling their first days of the tattoo. The company advises consumers to spray it after the tattoo is outlined, before shading, but it also works great for aftercare.

Use Ointments That Will Rid You Of Pain & Itching And Speed Up The Healing

Because of aspirin in pain relievers, a lot of tattoo artists advise their clients to try using ointments and gels that will lower the pain and sensitivity. Some of these gels are also effective for itching skin and help the tattoo wound heal.

You can talk to your tattoo artist about the ointments that you can use, but below we presented some of the most recommended and effective ones.

Additional tips:

Bactine – Serves as a soothing liquid gel that will help lessen the inflammation of the wound and prevent unwanted infections. It has a soothing sensation and doesn’t sting like alcohol-containing ointments.

Hustle Butter Deluxe – If you’re looking for an ointment that works as all in one, search no further. Hustle Butter Deluxe is made of safe and vegan products that keep the skin fresh, moist and speed up the healing.

Tattoo Goo Original Mini Balm – These smaller creams are ideal for smaller tattoos that need pain relief and soothing moisturizing. It contains 98% natural healing ingredients like olive oil, lavender, cocoa butter, and others. It makes the tattoo feel soft and helps with the healing process, when it’s lengthy and painful. It’ll also prevent the unnecessary scabbing.

Know More Details: 

Tattoo Aftercare Instructions: How To Take Care Of A Tattoo?

8 Best Tattoo Aftercare Products Based On Experience (2021)

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