Tattoo needles puncture the skin 50 to 3000 times a minute, depositing ink 1mm to 2mm below the surface. To remain permanent it must go through the second layer of skin called the Dermis. This means It's going to hurt, but pain thresholds are different for everyone and there are ways to make your experience more comfortable.
The aim of this article is to cover different parts of the body and associated pain that comes with getting a tattoo in that area. Knowledge is power and if you know you're prone to lightheadedness or fainting it might be a good idea to choose a less sensitive place for your next tattoo, especially if it's your first one.
A good rule to go by is that the more flesh you have on a particular area the less painful it's going to be. This makes the buttocks, calves, outer/upper thighs, and upper arms popular places to get tattooed as the pain is very manageable.
On the other hand this means that the bonier the area, the more painful it's going to be. Let's get started.
One of the most popular places to get a tattoo, the ribs are also one of the most wince-worthy. There is hardly any padding in between the bones and the skin, therefore the vibration of the needles is felt more intensely. Smaller designs are more bearable, but definitely prepare for some wincing with larger pieces.
Like the ribs, this area is bony with little muscle/flesh to cushion the blows of the tattoo needles, with sensitivity ranging from manageable to downright unpleasant. Thinking of tattooing your nipples? They're one of the most painful spots thanks to the dense clusters of nerves they house so you might want to think twice before inking those bad boys.
Another common spot, the feet are at the top of the pain scale for a reason. All those little bones are covered with only a thin layer of skin which doesn't allow for much shock-absorption, and the feet are filled with nerves that make them uncomfortable areas to get done. Ankles are in the same territory as they tend to be fairly bony with little padding, but small designs are very manageable.
For those brave souls looking to get their kneecaps done, prepare yourself. The needles are going into thin skin that covers bone and nothing else, giving it an intense grinding sensation. Inking the back of your knees is nothing to sneeze at either; there is a large nerve that runs down the back of both legs called the sciatic nerve and it is most shallow behind the kneecap. Hitting it with sharp little needles is known to send shooting pain through the entire leg.
If you're thinking of getting your hands tattooed or if you're even thinking of inking your palm, get ready for some serious wincing. Your hands are loaded with sensitive nerves as they are our main source of connecting with the world around us, therefore tattooing them is going to hurt. The closer to the nail beds the worse it gets and some have said that getting their palm done was the most painful tattoo they've ever received. Definitely not for the weak-hearted!
The spine is one of the most sensitive areas of the body as it's loaded with nerves. Getting a tattoo down your vertebrae isn't going to be fun, therefore choosing a less painful area such as the shoulder blade might be a good idea if you know you have a low pain tolerance.
The delicate skin around the armpit is going to be super sensitive when it comes to those little tattoo needles, but the area where the hair grows is actually tougher than the skin around it. This makes the center of the pit less painful, but it's still going to sting.
The outer elbow is tough skin over bone with no padding in between. Getting tattooed here is a more intense, grinding sensation with the vibrations felt along the entire arm. On the other side, the ditch of the elbow where it bends on the inside is going to be very sensitive thanks to that soft skin.
Another popular spot to get inked, the forearm is one of the more manageable areas for pain. The muscles in your forearm work well to cushion the needles, but as you move closer to the wrist the more sensitive it will be; tattooing over that thin skin as well as the tendons in your wrist isn't going to be the most fun.
Contrary to popular belief, the stomach isn't that bad of a place to get tattooed. As it is a more fleshy area the discomfort is quite bearable, even for larger pieces. It's only when you get near to the ribcage or the hips that the level of pain is going to rise.
Regardless of where you're planning on getting your next tattoo, it's useful to know which areas of the body are more painful than others. This is especially true if you know you have a low pain tolerance or are prone to fainting. Read up on our Tattoo Preparedness blog for tips on how to make your next tattoo session the most comfortable it can be. This includes getting a good sleep, wearing comfortable clothes, and eating a good meal before your appointment.
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Unlisted. "How Fast Does A Tattoo Needle Go?" Newtrendsetterusa.com. Nov 15, 2017.
Hunter, Dan. "Least Painful Places To Get A Tattoo." Authoritytattoo.com. 2019.
Stalder, Erika. "These Are the Most & Least Painful Places to Get A Tattoo, According to the Pros." Refinery29.com. Nov 29, 2018.