Unsurprisingly, tattoos hurt. While everyone has a different threshold for pain, there’s no denying that getting your skin scratched with a needle isn’t like getting a haircut. For this reason, it can be a nerve-wracking experience. But, for anyone particularly susceptible to pain, or for anyone that is gearing up to get inked for the first time, there are things you can do to make the experience less eye-watering. It all comes down to whereabouts.
Some areas of the body are more painful than others to get tattooed. Generally, the least painful places to get a tattoo are where the skin is thick, you have a good layer of fat and fewer nerve endings. On the flip side, areas where you have delicate, thin skin will be more noticeable.
Here are our tried-and-tested most and least painful places to get a tattoo…
MOST PAINFUL: Armpit
The armpit is up there with some of the most painful places to get a tattoo, given that it’s covered by such a soft thin layer of skin that is typically protected by our arms. A good way to work out how painful it is to get tattooed somewhere is to imagine pinching it... hard. As you can imagine, the armpit is not to be trifled with.
MOST PAINFUL: Rib Cage
Rib cages are particularly painful to get tattooed because of how typically close the skin is to the bone. The skin covering this area is also relatively thin and sensitive, and – because of how we breathe – it’s also constantly moving!
MOST PAINFUL: Groin
As you might expect, getting your groin tattooed is up there on the pain chart. Filled with nerve endings and covered in delicate, thin skin, this area is not only painful but also easy to irritate, so you’ll need to take extra care during the healing process.
MOST PAINFUL: Head
Anything above the shoulders is going to be a pretty painful tattoo experience—whether that’s behind your ears, your lips, your face or your scalp. Again, our faces are covered with nerve endings which can make the needle feel extra sharp and poignant.
MOST PAINFUL: Spine
On the whole, we don’t tend to carry much fat around our spine, which makes it a painful place to get tattooed.
MOST PAINFUL: Hands & Feet
As a general rule of thumb (excuse the pun), the closer an area is to the bone, the more pain you’re likely to feel when getting tattooed. As you might imagine, then, your hands and feet can be very sensitive.
MOST PAINFUL: Elbows & Kneecaps
Both these joints are very close to the bone, which means that the vibrations you experience when getting them tattooed can be very painful.
LEAST PAINFUL: Forearm
Not only are our forearms covered in a nice thick skin, but they also have a decent amount of muscle tissue before you reach the bone, making it one of the least painful places to get a tattoo.
LEAST PAINFUL: Outer Thigh
Our thighs are one of our most densely covered areas when it comes to fat and muscle, meaning you should have decent protection from pain.
LEAST PAINFUL: Calves
Another nice, muscly fatty area is the calves. We have fewer nerve endings in this part of the body, too, so you should only expect moderate amounts of pain when getting this area inked.
LEAST PAINFUL: Outer Bicep
Similar to the forearm, we have thick tough skin on our outer biceps and a layer of muscle and fat, making it a good choice for anyone with a low pain threshold.
LEAST PAINFUL: Back & Shoulders
Excluding your spine, your back and shoulder area is cushioned with a decent layer of fat, and also has fewer nerve endings than other areas of the body.
Of course, how much pain you can handle will depend on a whole host of factors, including your personal threshold, your gender, your body weight and much more. If you are nervous about pain but still want to get tattooed, the best thing you can do is communicate this with your chosen tattoo artist. At Tattoodo, we make it easy to have an open, honest dialogue with them. They will be able to advise on pain, give you tips on how to reduce it, and discuss where on the body your tattoo will work best.
Cover image: Raimundo Ramirez