Getting a tattoo, for the 1st or 10th time is always exciting. You are about to have a piece of art on your body that will last you forever. Tattoos are an amazing way to express oneself and show the world who you are.
However, getting a tattoo can be pretty painful. So, if you’re looking to get a tattoo, but with low pain risks, we recommend you check out our tattoo pain chart for each body part. We hope this will help you determine where your 1st or next tattoo shall rest. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Tattoo Pain FAQs: 5 Things You Need To Know
1. How Does Tattoo Pain Feel?
- Burning pain – pain as if you’ve pressed a hot pan onto your skin and kept it there for a long time. This pain type appears in cases of large tattoos which require a lot of work by the tattoo artists. The skin becomes irritated from the needle piercing, especially when it is done for a long time in one place. The pain is low to medium, and it goes away quickly. However, it is rather irritating, which can be a problem for those with sensitive skin.
- Scratching pain – this is the most common pain type when it comes to tattooing. It can feel very intense, and many describe it as if a ‘cat is dragging its claws across the skin’. The pain isn’t intense if the tattoo artist doesn’t focus on one area for a long time. But, in the majority of cases, the artist will focus on one area to make it perfect, so bear this in mind.
- Dull pain – this is the type of pain that appears somewhere in the background and appears as a reaction to the actual excitement of getting a tattoo. Many tattoo artists describe this type of pain as ‘good’ since it helps you feel less pain due to the hormones producing adrenaline. Now, adrenaline numbs the tattooed area, making the pain appear dull or as appearing somewhere in the background. This type of pain can be easily ignored, so make sure to distract yourself while getting tattooed.
- Vibrating pain – this type of pain appears when you’re being tattooed in a bony area, like the elbow, outer wrist, or ankles. The vibration from the needle transfers to the bone, causing a vibrating pain. This isn’t usually intense or severe pain, but for those with low pain tolerance, it can certainly feel rather intense.
- Stinging pain – this is very intense pain. It resembles bee stinging, only repetitive, and felt a bit deeper in the skin. This type of pain appears during the detailing part of tattooing, as the artist needs to use one or fewer needles. The pain is most intense in body parts where the skin is thin or has a lot of nerve endings. However, you should bear in mind that stinging pain can also be a sign that the tattoo artist isn’t doing a good job, and they’re pushing the needle too deep into the skin.
2. What Factors Determine Pain Intensity?
- Sex – studies suggest that pain is more intense for women than for men. This is usually explained by the biological and chemical differences between the sexes. However, no study or research provides actual indications that women experience higher pain levels, and some studies even indicate things to be completely contrary. Many suggest women can endure higher pain levels, compared to men. So, it is yet to be proven how exactly sex affects the pain levels one experiences during tattooing.
- Weight – those with excess weight might experience higher pain levels due to damage and thinning of the skin. As one gains weight, the skin stretches and becomes thinner and more sensitive to tattoos. The same goes for skinny individuals; their skin is also very thin, which contributes to higher pain levels.
- Age – as the skin ages, so does it become more sensitive and thin. Older skin is more prone to bruising, sensitivity, and pain during tattooing than younger skin.
- Experience – now, if you’re someone who has already gone through a few tattoos, you’re more likely to have a higher endurance and pain tolerance compared to someone who has never had a tattoo. So, experience does play a big role when it comes to pain intensity.
3. How Long Does The Tattoo Appointment Last?
If you’re wondering for how long you’ll need to endure pain, we can say that on average the tattooing sessions tend to last between an hour and three hours. Some tattoo artists even take frequent breaks, especially if the tattooed area is highly sensitive and painful.
However, no tattoo artist will allow the session to go over three hours, since no one wants their clients in agony and traumatized. If the tattoo is larger and requires more work, the artists will divide the session into two or more sessions to avoid long periods of pain.
4. How Long Does The Pain Last, Post-Tattoo?
Post-tattoo pain can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the area that has been tattooed. If the area is highly sensitive and has a lot of nerve endings, chances are the pain will last longer.
However, if the pain prolongs for days and the area becomes red and swollen, you should seek medical attention immediately. Chances are there has been an infection of an allergic reaction in the tattooed area, which needs to be managed.
5. How Can I Manage The Pain During The Session?
Tattoo Pain Levels For Each Body Part
Lowest to Medium Pain Levels
- Forearm/Lower Arm – 3 out of 10
Let’s start with one of the least painful areas to get a tattoo; the forearm or the lower arm. Not only is this the area where you’ll feel the least pain and discomfort, but also it is a great canvas for tattoo placement. The area is smooth and doesn’t have as many nerve endings, or the radial nerve, like the inner arm for example. The tattoo on the forearm will also be super visible, so it is a great place to get one, especially if it’s your first tattoo.
- Shoulder/Outer Arm – 4 out of 10
Getting a tattoo on the shoulder or outer arm area is relatively painless. The reason for this lies in the fat and muscles in the area, which has very few nerve endings. This makes it possible to get a tattoo (especially if it’s the first one) without feeling too much pain. The pain levels are bearable and often described as low to moderate. So, if it’s your first time getting a tattoo, we recommend you try the outer shoulder area. Not only will you feel low pain or discomfort, but the tattoo will also be super visible, which is always a plus.
- Outer Bicep – 4 out of 10
Just like the outer arm, the outer bicep area also has a lot of fat and muscles, and very few nerve endings. This makes it a great tattoo placement for those who don’t like the pain but want a cool location for a tattoo. If you’re getting your first of 20th tattoo, the outer bicep is always an interesting location get inked without going to agonizing pain and endurance. The pain in this area is often described as low to moderate.
- The Buttocks – 2 out of 10
This is the least painful area to get a tattoo. The buttocks are some of the largest muscles in the body, and they also store a lot of fat. Not to mention that the surface is smooth and large, so it is the perfect place to get a tattoo if that is what you want. Bear in mind that, even though pain-free, getting a tattoo on the buttocks means you won’t be able to show it off.
- Thighs/Hips – 4-7 out of 10
Now, when it comes to the thighs, we have to say that the pain levels vary depending on the thigh area. For example, the upper thigh area or the top of the thighs is often the least painful when it comes to this part of the body. The pain can be described as moderate, or a 4 on a scale of 10. However, the inner or the back of the thigh has a lot of nerve endings, which means that the pain levels can increase to a 7 on a scale of 10. So, if you have low pain tolerance, we recommend you focus on the higher or top thigh area. When it comes to the hips, however, this depends from one individual to the other; the majority of people do describe the pain of getting a tattoo on the hips as a 5 or 6, depending on the bone structure of the area, or how bony your hips are.
- Calves/Shins – 5/6 out of 10
When it comes to calves, the pain levels are low since there is a significant amount of muscle and fat. There are also very few nerve endings, which makes the calves an excellent tattoo placement location. However, if you decide to get a tattoo on the shins, you can expect the pain levels to significantly increase. Because of the shin bone and the passing nerve, the shin area is very tender, so you can expect some pain. If you have low pain tolerance, we recommend you go with the calves.
- Upper/Middle/Lower Back – 5/8 out of 10
Well, here’s the deal with getting a tattoo on the back; the spine and all the nerve endings can make this endeavor rather painful. So, it is important to avoid getting a tattoo directly where the spine is centered, as well as the shoulder blades (as they’re very bony). Getting a tattoo in these areas can be described as highly painful, or as an 8 on a scale of 10. However, any other place on the back should be tolerable and have lower pain levels. The upper and lower back should be the least painful when it comes to the whole back, as far as the tattoo is located far from the spinal cord and the bones. If you want a tattoo on your back, look for a place that has thicker skin and more fat accumulation to feel the least amounts of pain.
- The Chest – 6/7 out of 10
Now, if you’re a man, getting a chest tattoo might be rather painful. Unlike women, men don’t have a padding or cushioning area in the chest, and there are the nerve endings and the collarbone. So, getting a chest piece can be rather uncomfortable and not at all a pleasant experience. The pain levels could be described as moderate to high, depending on pain tolerance. However, for women, getting a chest piece is less painful since they have a lot of cushioning area, which lowers the pain levels significantly.
Highest Pain Levels
- The Knees/Knee Ditch – 10 out of 10
Let’s just start with the most painful tattoo area – the knees. Getting a tattoo on the knees can cause you to faint. The reason for this lies in the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of the legs, through the knee ditch. Not to mention that the skin here is incredibly thin, so the nerve isn’t protected enough for you to get away with a tattoo in the knee ditch. Moreover, the area takes a long time to heal and the process is very difficult and unpleasant. The knee itself also has a lot of nerve endings, bones, and thin skin, which can also cause incredible levels of pain during the tattooing process.
- The Head – 9 out of 10
If you want to experience incredibly high pain levels, and you think you can somehow tolerate it, then try getting a tattoo on your head. We don’t recommend this, since the sensation of getting tattooed on the head is described as ‘having something drill into your skull’. The reason for this lies in all the nerve endings in the head, as well as the bone structure of the skull. This is certainly not for those with low or even medium pain tolerance, and surely not for those faint of heart. Not to mention that head tattoos are the most visible, most exposed, and the least socially acceptable.
- Armpits – 9 out of 10
Now, alongside the head, the armpits are probably the most painful areas you can get tattooed. The pain levels one can experience are rather severe and can be faint-causing. Most tattoo artists will advise you against getting an armpit tattoo, or they’ll simply refuse to do it. The tattoo in the armpit are is simply not worth it; the area is rather moist so it can cause some skin troubles, and the tattoo won’t even be visible unless you keep your arms up all the time.
- The Face – 8 out of 10
Not every tattoo on the face will be painful to get. But, what we refer to when we think of painful areas on the face to get a tattoo, we think of the cheeks, under-eye area, eyelids, and eyes, of course. The rest of the face, like the forehead, the nose, and the area around the mouth is relatively painless. However, the aforementioned painful areas feature a lot of nerve endings and thin skin, so everything is super sensitive. To get a tattoo, let’s say, under the eyes, the tattoo artist will stretch the skin to get the needle deep and proper into the skin. This area is already super thin, so you can see where we’re going with this. If you want a tattoo under the eyes or on the eyelids, prepare to cry, a lot.
- The Front Of The Neck – 8 out of 10
If you think of getting a tattoo at the front of the neck, maybe you should rethink the idea. Getting a tattoo at the front of the neck is very painful. The reason for this lies in the lack of muscle at the front, and the skin is also much thinner than the side of the neck, for example. There are also bones and cartilage with a lot of nerve endings, which can cause a lot of pain and healing issues for those with low pain tolerance. However, if you do want to get a neck tattoo, try the sides of the neck as the skin is a bit thicker and tougher than the rest of the neck, so the pain won’t be as severe.
- Elbow Ditch/Outer Elbow – 8 out of 10
Before you decide to get a tattoo on the outer elbow area or the elbow ditch, remember that two of three nerves in your arm run through the elbow ditch. This means that the area is extremely painful, and tattooing can cause numbness in the whole arm. When it comes to the outer elbow, there aren’t as many nerve problems, but this area is bony which can still create a lot of pain issues.
- Hands/Fingers/Feet/Toes – 8 out of 10
Each of the areas regarding hands and feet, fingers and toes, contains a lot of nerve ending which, when hit by a tattoo needle, can cause incredible amounts of pain. Not to mention that these areas have a really thin skin layer, which can further contribute to the pain. Tattooing the hands and feet can cause nerve disturbance, which can result in painful spasms. This makes the tattooing process uncomfortable, for both you and the tattoo artist. We also have to mention that tattoos on hands and feet take the longest time to heal, and they also heal the hardest. They are also susceptible to skin infection, especially tattoos on hands and fingers. You can’t do much or touch anything until the tattoos are healed. And, if you’re still not convinced, remember that tattoos in these areas fade quickly and require multiple painful touch-ups.
- The Ribcage – 9 out of 10
Alongside the head and the armpits, the ribcage area is most certainly one of the most painful areas for tattooing. In this area, the skin is very thin and has almost no fat and muscle to protect the nerve endings from the tattoo needle. Not to mention that the bones are right there under the skin, so there is no protection for them either. Because of the nerve ending, one can feel an even enhanced sense of pain which lingers longer than in other areas, even days after the tattooing process.
- The Nipples/Breasts – 9 out of 10
Just thinking about nipple tattooing can make you feel weird and in pain. The nipples are some of the most sensitives body parts, which means, getting a tattoo here will cause serious pain. This is not for the faint of heart and surely not for those with low pain tolerance. Moreover, for women who plan to have a baby and breastfeed, ink in the nipple can cause some issues and possibly prevent them from being able to breastfeed. When it comes to the breasts the same applies to the breasts and under-breast area. There’s a lot of nerve endings that can cause incredible amounts of pain.
- The Groin Area – 9 out of 10
The groin area is filled with nerve endings, so it is very sensitive and can be extremely painful in case of tattooing. The reason for this is that both the genitals and the groin area surrounding them are located near the lymph nodes, which makes tattooing incredibly painful and hard to heal.
Not to mention that the healing process is rather unpleasant and can take a long time. After enduring the pain of getting a tattoo in that area, you need to endure the aftermath of the pain, avoid wearing underwear, or wear loose, soft, cotton underwear. Any rubbing and touching of the are can result in skin irritation and, of course, pain.