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what it feels like when you gets tattoo

                     What it feels like

The way you experience pain and the placement of your tattoo can greatly affect how it feels to get inked.

Again, this hasn’t been proven scientifically, but certain types of pain are well-known in the tattoo community.

There are a few general sensations commonly felt when getting a tattoo. Being familiar with these sensations before getting tattooed can give you an idea of what you can expect to feel and how to tell when your pain isn’t normal.

Common types of tattoo pain include:

  Burning pain

Burning pain feels like having something very hot pressed against your skin for an extended period.

It’s most commonly felt in areas a tattoo artist has worked on for a long time, caused by a combination of your skin’s rawness and the repeated trauma resulting from a tattoo needle piercing your skin in the same place. It’s also common in areas with more fat beneath the skin.

Burning pain isn’t usually intense, but it can be very irritating. 

   Dull or background pain

Tattoo artists say this is the best kind of pain you could feel while getting tattooed.

When the needle revs up with its loud buzz and the needle’s sharp prick first hits your skin, your body’s reaction is to start producing stress hormones like adrenaline. These hormones actually work to numb the pain into feeling like a dull ache in the background.

During your tattoo session, you may feel this dull pain change or intensify at times. You’re more likely to stay in the dull pain phase if you’re distracted by another activity while being tattooed, such as talking to your artist, listening to music, or watching TV.

                                  Scratching pain

Scratching pain is the most common sensation experienced when you’re getting a tattoo. This kind of pain can feel like an intense scratch moving across the tattooed area, as if a cat were dragging its claws across your skin.

While this pain isn’t usually intense, it can hurt a lot if your tattoo artist works on the same area for a long time. It also tends to hurt more when multiple needles are used at the same time, rather than a single needle. This is the case when your artist adds shading to your tattoo. 


                     Sharp or stinging pain

Sharp or stinging pain can be described as many tiny bee stings. This kind of pain is usually quite intense, and it feels like the needle is poking deep into your skin. It’s sometimes enough to make you want to move away from the tattoo needle!

This kind of pain is most commonly felt when a tattoo artist is using fewer needles, or just one needle, to add very fine detail or make the outline of your tattoo. Body parts with thinner or tighter skin are more likely to feel sharp or stinging pain, like the wrists and biceps.

While experienced tattoo artists know what they’re doing, it’s possible for newbies to mess up a new tattoo. Sharp or stinging pain that’s very intense might actually mean your tattoo artist is pushing their needles too deeply into your skin.

This can cause a tattoo deformity called a tattoo blowout, which leads to a tattoo’s ink dispersing below just the very top layers of skin that should be tattooed. The end result is a very painful and blurry tattoo.

You can prevent tattoo blowout by using a highly experienced tattoo artist and avoiding tattooing on very thin skin.


                          Vibrating pain

You may experience vibrating pain when you’re getting tattooed in a very bony place, such as these areas:

  • outer wrist
  • elbows
  • ribs
  • ankles

When a tattoo needle pierces skin above bone, nerves in your bones may pick up the vibrating sensation, especially if the needle is moving at a very high speed. This causes vibrating pain.

Vibrating pain isn’t usually intense, but it doesn’t exactly tickle either. You’re more likely to experience vibrating pain if you’re thinner and have less skin and fat over your bones.

       How to minimize pain

Here are a few tips to minimize tattoo pain:

  • Ask your tattoo artist to take breaks when you’re having trouble dealing with the pain.
  • Choose a very experienced tattoo artist. Insist on seeing their certification and checking out their equipment beforehand. Your tattoo artist should always wear clean gloves and use sterilized equipment.
  • Don’t eat before you get your tattoo if you’re getting your stomach tattooed.
  • Follow tattoo aftercare instructions such as washing your tattoo, wearing loose clothing over your tattoo, and applying ointment and moisturizer to reduce pain and the risks of complications after your tattoo is finished.
  • Make sure you’ve gotten enough sleep before your tattoo. Having had sufficient sleep before a tattoo will make it easier for you to endure the pain.
  • Stay sober for your tattoo. Alcohol thins your blood and can cause bleeding and bruising. This can bring on a lot of pain and even ruin your tattoo.
  • Stay hydrated to keep your skin supple and tight to reduce the pain of a tattoo.
  • Try a numbing product on your skin before getting your tattoo to reduce the amount of pain you experience. Browse numbing products for tattoos online. 
  • Tattoos may take minutes to hours to add to your body, but they last a lifetime. Pain should be only one consideration of getting a tattoo. Removing a tattoo is a much more time-consuming and painful process, and has mixed results.

  •    Things to consider

    Tattoos may take minutes to hours to add to your body, but they last a lifetime. Pain should be only one consideration of getting a tattoo. Removing a tattoo is a much more time-consuming and painful process, and has mixed results.

    Before getting a tattoo, consider:

    • risks of infection, allergic reactions to dyes, scarring, and blood-borne diseases
    • whether you’ll regret the design of your tattoo
    • whether the appearance of your tattoo might change if you gain weight or become pregnant
    • the placement of your tattoo, and whether you want the option of hiding it under clothing

                          Written By   Judy Lee

                          Medically Reviewed By

                                                      Owen Kramer, MD

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