If there’s one thing stopping you from getting a tattoo (besides money), it has to be pain. Tattoos are known to be rather painful. However, the pain is not the same for all tattoos. The degree of pain in your tattoo depends on the location of the tattoo, the style of the tattoo, which determines the type of needle used, or even the color of the tattoo.
For example, tattoos done with white hurt much more because the white parts have to be done two or three times. This means tattoo artists will go over the same spot two or three times for the pigment to work. As a result, you will feel additional pain.
Now, this all sounds scary, especially if it’s your first time getting a tattoo. But, have you ever wondered why so many people have tattoos, despite the pain. Well, when done by a professional tattoo artist, the pain of tattooing can be lessened and the overall experience can be quite pleasant. But, some amount of pain, or at least discomfort, just has to be present; after all, your skin is stabbed and pricked by tiny needles more than 3000 times in a minute.
However, there are ways, tips, and tricks you can use to minimize the overall pain, make it really bearable, and ensure your trip to the tattoo studio is as painless as possible. We’ll talk about all of this in the following paragraphs, so be sure to keep reading!
Tattoos and pain
Why do tattoos hurt (so) badly?
Before we get into the tips for a “painless” tattoo, we must first explain why they hurt. Well, the science behind tattooing shows why we feel so much pain when we get tattooed.
First of all; the needles and the dye against the skin – we need to discuss this to understand the very source of tattoo pain. At a speed of 80 to 150 times per second, a needle pokes into your skin to inject the dye. The needle, penetrating the skin, creates a vacuum zone which holds the dye in place.
Well, it all sounds pretty simple and not painful at all. But the problem actually lies in your skin; the tattoo colorant cannot just be placed anywhere in the skin; to stay in place, the needle must penetrate the dermis of the skin, a layer below the very surface of the skin called the epidermis. By placing the dye in the dermis, the dye stays in place for years.
But, unlike the epidermis, the dermis layer of the skin is filled with glands, hair follicles, lymph vessels, blood vessels and, of course, sensory cells. These sensory or receptor cells send pain signals to the brain whenever the skin is injured.
So imagine the panic your body experiences when a needle starts to prick, or rather micro-pricks it at a speed of 80 to 150 times per second. These panic signals are sent to the brain, sounding the alarm that something is wrong. As a result, you experience pain, of course, but also general discomfort, sweating and other unpleasant sensations (depending on the area on your body that is being tattooed).
Also read: What does a tattoo look like? First timer guide to a first tattoo session and feeling to expect
Some tattoos are nasty – others hurt like hell – why?
As we mentioned in the introduction, the pain you will feel during tattooing can range from general discomfort to mind-numbing pain. There are many reasons why pain varies. For instance;
- Chances are your tattoo will hurt more if done on areas of the body with thinner skin and lots of nerve endings
- Tattoos hurt more if done with color dye (especially white color)
- If you get tattooed by an amateur tattoo artist, you will feel more pain
- If the tattoo artist penetrates beyond the dermis of the skin, you will experience higher levels of pain – this can also lead to a tattoo blowout
The most common cause of pain is the location of the tattoo. Now, if you decide to get your tattoo in a sensitive place like areas with bones, thin skin, and nerve endings, chances are the pain will reach fainting levels.
These areas include ribs, armpits, head, back of knees, knees, shins, spine, feet, elbows, nipples, private parts, etc. (you understood). Less painful areas include the buttocks, side of the thigh, forearm, biceps area, and calves. Overall, to experience less pain, make sure to always go for areas with thicker skin, more muscles, and fewer nerve endings.
When it comes to other causes of tattoo pain, we have to mention the white ink used for colored tattoos. Now white ink requires repeating needle penetration in one place. The color of the ink is not the cause of pain itself, but rather the problem of pigmentation when placed in the skin. For the white ink to appear, the tattoo artist must go over the same area several times. Because of the previous skin damage, each new repetition hurts a lot more.
Some also claim that some tattoos hurt more because of the needle used by the tattoo artist. For example, it is rumored that the tattoo needle used to draw hurts a lot. Generally speaking, the outline of the tattoo is probably the most painful part of the whole process. Also, due to their thickness, some needles can damage and irritate the skin much more than other needles.
So how can I manage the pain?
There are a few tips and tricks you can use to reduce pain levels with even the most painful tattoos. Some of our recommendations include;
- Numbing sprays – consider a numbing or numbing spray to minimize pain during the tattooing process. Before use, you should consult with your tattoo artists on the proper application, or if it can be used for your particular tattoo. Topical anesthetics work by numbing the skin, ensuring you have a pleasant experience.
- Anesthetic gels – if numbing sprays aren’t much to your liking, we recommend checking out numbing gels. Again, you must consult your tattoo artist on the use of these gels. They work by penetrating through the skin, keeping the entire area resistant to irritation and pain. Numbing gels can last between one and two hours and should be applied one hour before the tattooing process begins.
- Morning meeting – the morning is when our adrenaline levels are at their peak. Adrenaline is a pain regulating hormone that ensures your pain tolerance increases during test situations and conditions. So, by setting up a date in the morning, chances are you’ll get through it with ease and with minimal pain or discomfort.
- get sober – in the tattoo community, coming to a tattoo appointment under the influence of drugs or alcohol is something that is really frowned upon. Almost all tattoo artists will refuse to tattoo you if you are under the influence, but if you do end up getting a tattoo, you will experience much higher levels of pain and heavy bleeding. So try not to drink or use opiates at least 24 hours before the tattoo. It is also important to avoid alcohol and opiates until the tattoo heals.
- Fill up on carbs – recharging your body with extra energy is advised before a tattoo appointment. Attending a tattoo appointment can be quite exhausting; with all the strain and calorie burning, your body can lose stamina and become more sensitive to pain. Thus, in “fuel”, you provide your body with the additional energy that it will use to make the experience pleasant and less painful, thus ensuring that you can withstand any inconvenience more easily.
- Hydration – water is essential for the proper functioning of your body. Staying well hydrated will ensure that your body is truly ready for the tattoo appointment. It is recommended to increase your water intake at least 12 hours before the tattoo appointment.
- bring company – in general, it is not recommended to bring all your friends on a tattoo appointment. As fun and exciting as getting a tattoo, tattoo artists find it rude that people bring their whole group of friends to the tattoo studio. However, a friend is acceptable; bring along your favorite person to keep you calm and distracted during the tattoo process.
- Request a break – once you’re in this tattoo chair, there’s no turning back. The tattoo artist is there to help you through the process and to make it as pleasant as possible. So don’t be afraid to ask for a break whenever you need it.
Short breaks will help you breathe deeply and prepare for more spicy stuff. Also bring a snack to the appointment and eat it during the break to have more energy. Of course, when we say “short break” we mean a few minutes, not half an hour. After all, the tattoo artist must follow his schedule.
Also Read: Tattoo Pain Management: How To Make Tattoos Less Painful
Getting a tattoo is never a completely pleasant process. There are always levels of pain and discomfort, even if you get a tattoo in the less painful area. But, by using some of our coping tips and tricks, you can go through the process with minimal pain and discomfort.
Always schedule your tattoo appointments with professionals and always talk to your tattoo artist about actions that minimize pain, such as the use of pain relievers or numbing sprays/gels. Consult with your tattoo artist about the process and specify that you will take short breaks to minimize pain and discomfort. And always remember that getting a tattoo is fun and exciting, so enjoy the process and watch your tattoo come to life. It is truly a unique experience!
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