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Pain of Tattoos-Do They Really Hurt?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Tattoos have become a very popular way of self-expression, a way for people to show and tell who they are and what they’ve experienced. Everyone who have tattoos also went through the process of getting tattooed, pain included.

There are lots of stories of pain during the process, and how different areas hurt more than others, but there are also stories of people who don’t even feel it and even fall asleep!

The truth is, getting a tattoo is different for everyone and not all pain is the same, rather a unique experience with many different circumstances that can affect your own session.

Does it really hurt to get a tattoo?

Yes. It does hurt to get a tattoo. 🙁

Your skin has three layers-the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis. The epidermis, the outermost layer of your skin, is constantly renewing and replacing itself, so the tattoo needle needs to penetrate through the epidermis into the dermis in order for the ink to hold. The needle punctures the skin at about 10-15 times per second, depositing ink into the dermis layer, going in about 1/16ths of an inch.

How painful are tattoos?

The amount of pain you will feel depends on a lot of different factors, from certain areas of the body, down to how much sleep you’ve had the night before.

Although everyone is different and can endure different amounts of pain, there are certain areas of the body that are generally known to be more sensitive, such as the armpit, or body areas of the body.

As you can see in the chart above, the areas least known to be painful are in yellow, as the more painful it gets, the darker it is, with the worst spots shown in indigo.

The most painful areas contain a larger number of nerve endings or have the least amount of fat or muscle protecting the bone. Other areas with a bad reputation are:

  1. Sternum

  2. Stomach

  3. Lips

  4. Nipples

  5. Feet

  6. Hands

  7. Spine

What can I do to minimize pain?

There are a few measures you can take to ensure you have a smoother session and minimize pain.


  1. Get a full night’s sleep the night before. Being tired/exhausted before your long tattoo session will make your body much more sensitive to pain.

  2. Drink lots of water before and during your tattoo to keep hydrated .

  3. Make sure you eat well at least an hour prior.

  4. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that easily exposes the area to be tattooed.

  5. If it’s a long session, listen to music or watch a show to distract yourself from the pain. Pain is a state of mind, so if you can get yourself to focus on something else, it will be easier.

  6. Tell your artist if you are uncomfortable while sitting. They will be able to help you get into a more comfortable situation so that parts of your body are not falling asleep. You’ve already got enough needles!

Do not:

  1. Drink alcohol or take drugs/painkillers before your tattoo session as they will thin the blood and disturb your body’s natural ability to heal.

  2. Eat garlic at least three days prior as they also thin the blood.

  3. Come in hungry before your tattoo. Your body will be going through a lot of stress during the process and a weak, hungry body is the last thing you want.

  4. Get a tattoo if you’re sick. You can infect others and it will be more difficult for your body to heal itself.

If you follow at least some of the steps listed above, you are sure to have a smoother, more relaxed tattoo session with the least amount of psychological trauma.

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