Unless you've been inked, it can be hard to imagine the pains associated with getting a tattoo. It's not everyday multiple needles pierce your skin at an alarmingly fast pace. The unique experience drums up plenty of small talk and hype around pain tolerance. And while you don't want to overindulge in this information – because it might freak you out – it's important to understand to some extent what you can expect of your tattoo session.
Depends on who you ask
Most people will tell you, "it's mind over matter" and they're right. Mentality plays a large role in how you'll perceive the pain associated with getting inked. For many, it's all about getting over the initial hump and sticking it out for the first tattoo. Others will tell you that the pain doesn't get easier to manage with each tattoo. Opinions like these will undoubtedly sway your experience one way or the other. Perhaps a prime example of the barometer of opinions on tattoo pain is that of Natalie McCall's experience.
People told her that her very first tattoo "was going to hurt like hell," according to Al.com. She explained that other people, however, advised her to not really think about it. At the end of her hour and a half session at Tattoo Town in Mobile, Alabama, McCall learned that only a few points really hurt.
For her, getting inked over the spine was more sensitive than other areas, but overall, her experience was less painful than she'd anticipated, which puts into perspective how important it is to take personal opinions on pain with a grain of salt. You may be better off checking out a pain chart. Several websites and even tattoo shops have a poster with this particular information.
A pain chart from the experts
Skin Artists provided a list of areas and their expected pain levels. Here's what it said:
- Not bad: The thigh, arms, calf and buttocks are good for first-timers.
- Tolerable aches: Go for either the sides of your thighs and shoulders or the center of your back.
- Feel the burn: Because your elbows and knees are full of nerves, they're likely going to be sensitive to needles. Additionally, feet, neck, back of thighs, chest and head are also in this category.
- Holy Toledo: If you so choose to ink: hips, ribcage, stomach, armpit, lips and back of knees – you may just cry.
Find an artist with a gentle touch
Of course, there's something to be said for who does your work. If you meet with an artist and he or she tells you that they're known for having a gentle touch, they aren't just trying to comfort you- most of the times.
There is actually such a thing as earning a reputation for having a light hand. And no, you won't be laughed out of the building if you inquire about such artists at a shop. Many artists understand that tattoo pain is scary, and they're happy to point you in the right direction to make your experience more comfortable.
Aspects you can control
In addition to finding the right artist for you, it's up to you to take a few steps to reduce discomfort prior to heading in for an appointment. Here's what you'll need to do or know before your next appointment, courtesy of Skin Artists:
- Eat a meal and get plenty of fluids
- Get a good night's rest
- Buy aftercare products for cleaning
- Know your allergies
- Don't take any blood thinners.
Skipping any of the aforementioned steps can lead to a number of complications, including infection, allergic reaction, fainting, dizzy spells, excessive bleeding and irritability. Be sure that you're in tip-top shape before you head into the shop so that no exterior factors weigh in on your body ink experience.
Distractions from the pain
You know yourself better than anyone when it comes to pain tolerance. If you're deathly afraid of needles, at least make sure you don't look at the equipment when you're getting inked. You might find that reading a book or engaging in some other low-key activity may be a great way to get your mind off the procedure.
Bring along a buddy or relative so you'll have someone to talk to. It's not uncommon for nerves to make someone who's typically more reserved want to strike up a conversation. Just be sure you don't enlist a friend who's even more afraid of the procedure than you are.
Does it hurt after you're done?
When the procedure is over, the pain may continue. It's completely normal to see bruising on or around areas that are freshly inked. Valley Magazine summed it up by saying that a tattoo is an open wound. Remind yourself of that and be patient with the healing process.
Once you've gotten your first piece of body art, you'll have some idea what to expect out of future trips. However, it's important to note that each session may vary. Regardless of physical pain, people who've been inked often cite tattoo regret as a common issue. Don't let it plague you, consider laser tattoo removal.
Over 45 million US adults* are living with tattoos, but now permanent ink can be a thing of the past. PicoSure® is the world's latest breakthrough technology in laser tattoo removal providing faster results in fewer treatments. Visit www.picosurear.wpengine.com to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you. * Source: Harris Interactive, 2012