The placement of your tattoo is just as important as the design. When determining where on the body you want to get inked, you need to consider several things, including the size of your piece and the pain that will be involved with getting it tattooed. Some areas of the body are more painful than others because of the thin skin, proximity to bone, and high concentration of nerve endings. The most painful locations include the rib cage, armpit, face, and neck. Then there are locations like the outer thigh or shoulder, which have thick skin and muscle and fat to provide cushioning. Pain threshold is highly subjective, and what may be excruciating for someone could just be mildly uncomfortable for others. There are also other factors to consider, including weight, age, and sex.
How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt?
It is difficult to describe the pain associated with tattoos, but it feels like a combination of a scratching and burning sensation. On some areas of the body and designs with a lot of detail, you can also experience sharp pain. Tattoos range from mild discomfort to excruciating pain, depending on the piece’s placement, design, and size. Every person’s pain threshold is different, and age, sex, and body type can also influence how much pain you will experience. Some areas on the body are considered low on the pain scale because of the thick skin and muscle and fat, which provide cushioning. In contrast, areas with close proximity to bone, a high concentration of nerve endings, and thin skin will experience much greater discomfort.
Tattoo Pain Chart Female
Biological males and females react differently to pain, and it is believed, according to studies, that women respond to pain more intensely. We can not definitively say that tattoos are more painful for women than men, and each person’s pain threshold is different. It has also been reported that biological females will experience a lower pain tolerance. When comparing pain charts of biological females to males, there are some differences, including that females experience less pain with head tattoos, butt tattoos, and back of the leg tattoos.
Tattoo Pain Chart Males
While there is no way to state that biological males can handle the pain of tattoos better than biological females, some studies seem to suggest this. The pain chart for biological males shows that they will experience more pain with foot tattoos, head tattoos, butt tattoos, and back of the leg tattoos. In contrast, males appear to have less pain in their back, chest areas, and fingers.
Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo
There appears to be a difference in locations for pain for biological males and females, with some areas more sensitive to one sex than the other. However, some placements are considered painful for tattoos for everyone; these include the ankle and shin, the elbow and knees, and the spine and neck. It is challenging to put a rating on each area of the body because pain is subjective, and everyone’s pain threshold is different. However, this list can give you a better understanding of the locations you may wish to avoid or be prepared for their pain.
Knee/Knee Cap Tattoo Pain – Level 10
The front and the back of the knee are painful locations for tattoos. The front is the knee cap which is bone and is extremely sensitive, while the back features thin, stretchy skin with a high concentration of nerve endings; the sciatic nerve runs through the legs. This is one of the worst areas for tattoos.
Armpit Tattoo Pain – Level 10
The armpit is among the most painful places for body art. For some people, it is considered the most painful location. This is because the skin is very thin and above lymph nodes. There is a high concentration of nerve endings. In addition, it is a challenging area to ink and is not advisable if it is your first tattoo; you need to better understand your pain tolerance before even attempting this location.
Ribcage Tattoo Pain – Level 10
The ribcage is considered the second most painful location to get inked, and pain here can be severe. This is because of the thin skin and proximity to bone. The skin around the rib cage is very tight, and there is little fat or muscle to provide padding.
Nipples Tattoo Pain – Level 10
Getting a nipple tattoo should not be done without serious consideration. Tattoos here will be incredibly painful because the area is very sensitive, resulting in severe pain.
Ankles and Shins Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The ankles and shins are considered among those placements that are highest on the pain scale. This is because of the thin skin, lack of muscle, and proximity to the bone; the tibia lies close to the surface, making this an extremely sensitive location. Both the ankles and the shins are not cushioned with fat like other parts of the body, like the thigh or upper arm, making them more painful. The pro to designs here is that they are often small, so that the pain will be short-lived.
Breast Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Body art that inks over or just under the breast will be incredibly painful because of the area’s high concentration of nerve endings. This is a sensitive location, and getting inked here can be very uncomfortable. Women also have more loose skin in the area, making it more painful. For men, breast tattoos are also painful, but it is considered slightly less painful than they would be for women.
Groin Tattoo Pain – Level 9
The groin is not the best location for body art because tattoos here will fade faster. It is also an incredibly painful location to get inked because of the high concentration of nerve endings and the lymph nodes under the skin. It is believed that the groin area is slightly more painful for men to get inked than women.
Feet Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Feet tattoos are also considered among the highest on the pain scale. The reason feet tattoos are so painful is the thin skin, lack of muscle and fat, and proximity to bone. There is also a high concentration of nerve endings in the foot, increasing discomfort. Where you get inked on your foot will also influence the pain, and the underside and arch are extremely sensitive.
Neck Tattoo Pain – Level 9
There is a definite appeal to neck tattoos because they are edgy and cool. They look rebellious, and they can be a symbol of strength and show how tough you are. This is because they hurt, rating 9 out of 10 on the pain chart. The neck is sensitive with thin skin and is particularly painful on the front. The sides and back are less painful and could be around eight out of ten.
Spine Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Spine tattoos are incredibly painful because of several factors; thin skin, proximity to bone, and high concentration of nerve endings. There are also complications that can arise from getting inked on the spine. If you need spinal surgery or pain medication like an epidural, a spinal tattoo can complicate this process; there is a small risk of the ink getting into the bloodstream.
Lips Tattoo Pain – Level 9
A lip tattoo has its appeal because it can make a statement when shown off, but the downside is the intense pain during the tattooing process. The high concentration of nerve endings in the mouth can trigger pain. The lip is a sensitive area, and getting tattooed here will likely result in bruising. Another thing to consider is that you will have to keep your lip turned out for the duration of the tattoo, which can add to the overall discomfort.
Head Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Head tattoos can be incredibly painful, and according to pain scale charts, this is especially true for men. They are controversial because of their visibility, making them challenging to cover up and restrictive, depending on your work industry. The head tattoo has proximity to bone, and there is thin skin and little muscle or fat. They symbolize strength and rebellion, making it an appealing location for someone who values these qualities.
Elbow Tattoo Pain – Level 9
Getting a tattoo on the elbow can result in a lot of pain. This is because of the thin skin and proximity to bone. The inner elbow has very thin skin and a high concentration of nerve endings, making this placement very painful as well. This location may appeal to someone who wants an edgy and cool design but be prepared for ink here to hurt.
Face Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Getting inked on your face may be a daring option for those who are not afraid to take risks, but you also need to be aware of the pain. The nerve endings and thin skin on the face make it an incredibly painful location to get inked. There is also proximity to bone. For some, this is the appeal of the face tattoo location as it shows that you are someone who can withstand pain. The vibration from the electric tattoo machine can also add another element of discomfort to your body art.
Fingers Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Finger tattoos are high on the pain scale because of the thin skin, lack of muscle and fat, and proximity to bone. Fingers also have a high concentration of nerve endings, and when the needle hits them, it can cause intense pain, making this area incredibly sensitive to getting tattooed. The positive is that designs here are often small and simple so that the pain will be short-lived.
Chest Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Chest tattoos are considered high on the pain scale. They are popular locations for meaningful body art because you can keep it close to your heart, but the pain can be intense, depending on where on the chest you get inked. For example, the sternum and the collarbone will be painful because of the thin skin and proximity to bone. At the same time, the breast area, although not the actual breast muscle itself, can be less painful because of the thicker skin and fat, which provides cushioning.
Underboob Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Underboob tattoos can be incredibly sexy and are a popular location for women to get tattooed. The lack of muscle and fat in the area and the proximity to bone increase the level of pain you will experience. There can also be challenges during the healing process as you cannot wear tight clothes or a bra that covers the area as this can cause friction and result in pain and irritation.
Hips Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Any tattoos that are inked around bone are going to be painful. Hip bone tattoos are high on the pain scale because of the thin skin and proximity to bone. It is more painful for those with slim builds as there is less fat for cushioning.
Inner Thigh Tattoo Pain – Level 8
The inner thigh is a sensitive area, and any tattoos here for men or women will be incredibly painful. There is also thin skin and a high concentration of nerve endings, which is why the inner thigh is rated so highly on the pain scale. The appeal is that it can be a sexy area only for your eyes or can be shown to those you want.
Hands Tattoo Pain – Level 8
Hand tattoos are controversial and rebellious; they also hurt. Hands are considered one of the most painful locations to get tattooed because of the high concentration of nerve endings. The proximity to bone, coupled with the thin skin and lack of muscle and fat, make the hand high on pain level; it is considered to be around eight to ten out of ten as pain is highly subjective.
Stomach Tattoo Pain – Level 7
Stomach tattoos can be painful because of the area’s sensitivity, and the pain appears to be worse for women than men; pain could be around six out of ten for men but eight for women. However, your pain threshold is individual. The level of discomfort you experience will also depend on your build, and those with less fat will experience more pain as there is less cushioning. The pro to a stomach tattoo is that it is not close to bones or cartilage.
Inner Bicep Tattoo Pain – Level 7
The skin of the inner bicep is loose and soft, making this a sensitive area to get inked. It is great for designs that you want to easily conceal or show off. The muscle can provide some cushioning, but it is still a painful location for body art; a better choice may be on the outer bicep, which is considered low on the pain scale.
Wrist Tattoo Pain – Level 7
The wrist is an appealing location for body art because of its versatility, but tattoos here can also be painful because of the proximity to bone. There is also thin skin and a lack of muscle and fat. The pain is worse on the side of the wrist because of the bone. The pro to wrist tattoos is that designs here are usually small and simple so that the tattoo process will be quick and the pain short-lived.
Least Painful Places to Get a Tattoo
Some locations on the body are considered low to moderate on the pain scale, making the tattooing process more bearable. The outer thigh is a fantastic placement because of its versatility, and the thick skin, muscle, and fat provide cushioning. Similarly, the calf is an excellent location for body art because it also has padding. However, it is important to remember that pain is subjective, and what one person may not find painful, another will. This makes it challenging to rate pain, but this will be a good starting point to help direct you.
Outer Thigh Tattoo Pain – Level 2
The outer thigh is one of the most appealing locations for body art because it is low on the pain scale. The thick skin, muscle, and fat located in the area provide cushioning. There are also few nerve endings, thus reducing the area’s sensitivity. The placement is also incredibly versatile and can complement large and detailed designs or work well with small and simple ones.
Forearm Tattoo Pain – Level 3
Forearm tattoos are one of the most appealing locations for body art because they are versatile and low to moderate on the pain scale. This is the ideal spot for a design that you want to show off or cover up, and the thick skin, muscle, and fat will provide cushioning. The closer you ink toward the wrist or the elbow, the more discomfort you will experience as these locations are extremely sensitive. It is also worth mentioning that some people find forearm tattoos on the outer part of the arm much more painful because of the radial nerve.
Outer Bicep Tattoo Pain – Level 5
The inner bicep can cause discomfort during the tattooing process but getting inked on the outer bicep tends to be less painful. The area is considered moderate on the pain scale as there is muscle and thick skin to provide cushioning.
Shoulder Tattoo Pain – Level 5
Shoulder tattoos are an appealing location because designs here look cool. They can be a symbol of strength and can highlight your muscle definition. But the biggest pro is that getting inked here does not rate high on the pain scale. There are few nerve endings and thick skin and muscle in the area, reducing the sensitivity.
Calf Tattoo Pain – Level 5
The calf has thick skin, muscle, and fat, which provides cushioning for your tattoo. You can expect a low to moderate amount of pain, with the calves rated around five out of ten on the pain scale. There is also not a high concentration of nerve endings in the area. If your tattoo is on the front side, the closer you ink to the shin, the more discomfort you will experience. This is because the skin covering the shin is very thin.
Upper and Lower Back Tattoo Pain – Level 6
Back tattoos provide an excellent location for body art. It is a large area, working well with big or small designs, and the upper and lower back are not particularly painful locations. This is because the thick skin, muscle, and fat provide cushioning and reduce the sensitivity. Tattoos on the spine or toward the hip bones will cause more discomfort as both of these locations are high on the pain scale.
Butt Tattoo Pain – Level 6
The butt can be an appealing location for body art because it can be easily hidden and is moderate on the pain scale. The muscle and fat in the area provide cushioning for your tattoo. There is also not a high concentration of nerve endings. However, the bottom of the buttocks can be incredibly painful, so it is best to focus your design on the top half. It is also a challenging area to get inked, increasing the discomfort.
Factors That Affect The Pain When Getting A Tattoo Done
There are several factors that can directly impact the pain you experience when getting tattooed. This includes your biological sex, age, weight, the experience of getting tattoos yourself, and knowledge of your chosen artist. The biggest factor is your own pain threshold, and tattoo pain varies greatly from individual to individual. The pain should last during the tattooing process, and the area can feel sensitive and painful during the healing period, with some locations appearing bruised, red, and swollen.
Sex: There has been evidence to suggest that biological males and females feel pain differently. Women are believed to feel pain from tattoos more intensely than men. There are also different locations on the body that hurt more for men than women and vice versa.
Age: It is believed that pain from tattooing can be worse for older people. As we age, our skin naturally thins, and we are more likely to bleed and bruise. Interestingly, it has also been reported that the sensitivity to pain decreases with age, meaning older people may feel less discomfort.
Weight: People with loose skin will also find their body art will hurt more. Those who are very slim with low body weight will also experience more pain as there is less fat on their body to provide cushioning.
Experience of Tattoo Artist: Experience impacts the pain of your tattoo. This is both the experience of yourself and your chosen tattoo artist. Research has suggested that those who have had previous tattoos will have a higher pain tolerance for them. In addition, a skilled artist will not make mistakes. It is also worth noting that if you anticipate high levels of pain and feel stressed, this could increase the amount of pain.
Endorphins: Endorphins, released from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, can help reduce the pain of the tattooing process. The body releases the hormone endorphin to act as a natural painkiller in response to the pain. This can help you feel more relaxed and relieve some of the pain.
What Does Tattoo Pain Feel Like?
How much pain you will feel for your tattoo is dependent on several factors, including placement, size, and individual pain tolerance. You can also feel different sensations while getting inked; this includes a burning sensation, sharp stinging pain, dull pain, and scratching sensation. The design style can also influence the pain, with shading and outlines producing different feelings of pain. Some people like the pain from tattoos, which can contribute to why they get multiple, while others do not.
Burning Pain: One of the sensations that you can feel during the tattoo process is burning pain. It can feel as though your skin is hot and red, and this usually happens when the skin becomes raw if the tattoo artist has been working in a specific section for a long time.
Dull Pain: You may think that getting a tattoo is extremely painful throughout the process, but this is not true. There are different feelings you can experience, including dull pain. You can take several steps to reduce the pain, including distracting yourself so that your mind is not focused on the pain, which can make it feel less intense.
Scratching Pain: One of the most common sensations described when getting a tattoo is scratching pain. It feels as though a cat is scratching you. It can happen when the tattoo artist is adding shading to your design.
Sharp/Stinging Pain: You may also experience a stinging feeling when the needle pokes your skin. The best comparison would be a slight pressure and the feeling similar to a bee sting. This can be felt when the artist is focusing on the outline of the design.
Vibrating: You may also experience a vibrating feeling when getting inked over areas with many bones, like the hand or wrist. The nerves in the bone pick up on the vibration of the needle. It is not particularly painful, but it can be uncomfortable and annoying.
How To Reduce The Pain When Getting Tattooed
- It is important to eat a well-balanced meal around two hours before getting inked; unless you are getting tattooed on the stomach.
- You want to bring a snack to eat during a long tattoo session; this will help keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Drinking enough water beforehand will help hydrate the skin.
- Do not take painkillers before a tattoo.
- Get the tattoo earlier in the day when you are not tired; lack of sleep or tiredness can make the pain feel more intense.
- Get a good night’s rest before getting the tattoo; not doing so can affect the immune system.
- Do not drink alcohol at least 24 hours before a tattoo, as it thins the blood.
- Be honest about your pain tolerance and work with your tattoo artist to find the best placement for your chosen design.
Communicate and tell them how you feel. You may need regular breaks; you may feel dizzy or light-headed; these are things you need to say to them.
- Choose a tattoo artist who is experienced and skilled.
- Distract yourself by bringing in headphones or watching a video on your phone.
Tattoo aftercare is important to prevent irritation, infection, and other complications that can arise. After the completion of your tattoo, the artist will wrap it with a bandage or plastic wrap to act as a barrier between your skin and clothing. It is also done to prevent bacteria from getting into the skin. Once it is safe to remove the bandage, usually around two to three hours, you can wash the area with hypoallergenic or unscented antibacterial soap. Pat it dry with a paper town and add an unscented moisturizer to hydrate the skin. You will repeat this process for the days and weeks to come. You want to allow the tattoo to breathe and avoid sun exposure or submerging the body art in water. Remember that everyone heals at different rates and how fast you heal will depend on your tattoo’s placement, the detailing, and size.
How painful is a tattoo out of 10?
During your tattoo process, the pain you experience depends on several factors, the most important being your own pain threshold. Other factors that determine the pain include the placement, size, detail of the design, age, biological sex, and weight. Some locations, like the knee, rib cage, and armpit, are rated ten out of ten on the pain scale. Others, like the outer thigh, forearm, and outer biceps, are considered low to moderate on the pain scale.
What tattoo is the most painful?
The tattoo that is considered the most painful is the armpit and the ribcage. Most of these areas are incredibly sensitive and have thin skin. The rib cage has proximity to bone, making it very painful, while the armpit is just above lymph nodes. There is a high concentration of nerve endings.
How can you compare the pain of a tattoo?
It is difficult to compare the pain of a tattoo, but understanding which locations are considered higher on the scale can help you determine which placement is best for you. There are also several sensations that you can experience during the tattooing process. This includes a burning sensation, sharp stinging pain, dull pain, and scratching sensation. There are also places on the body that can experience discomfort due to the vibration of the electric tattoo machine, for example, the rib cage or hand. This is because these areas are very bony.
When Will The Tattoo Stop Hurting?
The tattoo should not hurt after the process is finished. There will, of course, be some pain in the days after, but the sensation should not be as intense. Depending on the size and placement of your design, you can expect to see bruising, swelling, and redness and experience discomfort for around three to seven days after. It is important to care for your tattoo by following an aftercare routine to avoid infection and irritation.
Is Shading As Painful As Outlining Tattoo?
The interesting thing about the tattoo process is that it is so individual. For one person, the calves are not painful at all, while another may find them excruciating. The same applies to the pain felt during shading and outlining; some people find shading much more painful, and others feel the outlining is the worst of it. In general, it is believed that shading hurts less than outlines.
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