TATTOOS: Do Tattoos Hurt?

It’s the age old question, a question that still to this day is not completely answered. It’s deeply personal and every person you meet will have a different answer.

Do tattoos hurt?

In short, in my opinion, yes.

But there’s so much more to it. Yes they are painful. You have to remember you have a needle, or in the case of shading,  several needles repeatedly penetrating your skin through to the dermis. That process hardly screams pain-free.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds. Yes needles are going into your skin, but so do the ones in acupuncture and you don’t feel those at all.

The first 10 minutes are pretty tough as your body adjusts to the pain and your adrenaline kicks in. But once you settle and a relax (tensing up makes the entire thing worse) it is easier to take the pain.

Of course I am talking about tattoos that a going to take longer than an hour. The most I’ve sat in one session is five and a half hours of actual tattooing time. It wasn’t easy. It is physically draining. And different parts of the body are different in terms of pain.

Those fun infographics on Pinterest of the pain for different parts of the body aren’t completely wrong – although every one will have a different opinion. I think foot tattoos are hard work and incredibly painful and uncomfortable,  where as a girl I lived next door to in halls at university was the complete opposite and had no problems with her foot.

It is also the cleaning process that causes some pain. Wiping that fresh wound repeated is intensely sore and irritating – though it is required. 

General consensus is that it is more annoying and uncomfortable than actual pain. It’s a scratchy feeling that gets annoying, plus coupled with an unusual sitting/laying position (you’re usually contorted in some way for a long sitting) and hours of being in a similar position, the whole process drains you.

My tips for dealing with the pain:

  • Distraction – watch a film on a tablet or read – keeping your mind occupied will keep you from focusing on the pain and discomfort
  • Relax – try focused steady breathing to get through the tougher parts
  • Talk – also works in the same way as a film, keeping your mind on other things
  • Use Bactine – now this stuff is amazing. One of my tattooists uses this on her clients as she tends to do a lot of whole day sessions and this makes the whole thing easier. Spray on a open wound – i.e. after one layer of shading and it completely numbs the area – but you can only use it on areas already tattooed so you’ll have to sit the linework old school.

Don’t worry – they aren’t as bad as this Youtube Video!

All in all, it’s not going to be like being licked by a puppy, but it isn’t so bad that you’ll be traumatised for life either. 

How do you feel about the pain of tattoos?
And how do you deal with the pain?

*image from Pinterest



  1. - Karen
    August 15, 2014 / 4:58 pm

    I really enjoyed reading through this as I've always wondered just how painful tattoos are :)Style Sunrise ☀:)x

    • Rachel Bradford
      August 20, 2014 / 5:37 pm

      Thank you – I hope I shed some light for you! Rach xx

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