20 great tips on what you can do before and during a tattoo to ease the pain


Tattoos in some places hurt more than in others, but how to predict, prepare and minimize pain? 

how to ease the pain from tattoo

What can you do before a tattoo to ease the pain? Here is my list of 20 suggestions how to make tattoos hurt less:

  1. Pick a body part that is less sensitive, not close to the bones. Below you will find also my list of body parts that are more and less sensitive. You can always ask your tattooer for suggestions. 
  2. Make sure that day before the tattoo you will have enough sleep. Body will be in better shape and will handle pain much better after a good rest. 
  3. Find an experienced tattooer. Artists with more experience usually finish tattooing faster, which means you will have to endure the pain for a shorter period of time. 
  4. Avoid pain killers, especially aspirin or ibuprofen. You should not take them for 24 hours before your tattoo, they will thin your blood and tattooing may take longer than normally. 
  5. Make sure that you will be well hydrated. When your skin is dry tattoo hurts more, as well during tattooing and later, when it is healing. 
  6. Make sure to not have a tattoo when you are hungry. Low blood sugar makes you more sensitive to pain, that is why eating before a tattoo is important. It will also help you to avoid dizziness from nerves or hunger.
  7. Avoid drinking alcohol. Make sure that you will not drink for at least 24 hours before your tattoo, as alcohol will heighten your pain sensitivity and thin your blood.
  8. Wear proper clothing. It is important because clothes that are tight and snug will irritate the tattoo area and make it hurt more after it is finished. It is important also because they should be easily removable or movable to avoid stains from the ink. 
  9. Stay relaxed during the tattoo. Many people have tattoos and this will hurt only for a while, try to breathe deeply and relax, if you are sure that you want the design and will trust your tattooer all should be fine. 
  10. Try to distract yourself somehow not to focus only on the pain. You can ask before the session if it is possible to come with a friend, you can chat with a tattooer, you can listen to music on your phone with headphones – find something to distract yourself. 
  11. Do not be afraid to ask for a skin-numbing cream. Your tattooer should have different types for your use and it is fully ok to ask for it.
  12. Do not get a tattoo if you are not healthy. When you are sick your pain sensitivity will be higher, it will also take longer for the tattoo to heal when your immune system is trying to stop infection. 
  13. Do not drink coffee or energy drinks before or during a tattoo session. Just like alcohol they caffeine and energy drinks thin out your blood. So, skip that morning cup of coffee the day you get your tattoo.
  14. Try to schedule for a morning session if possible. Mornings are when our adrenalin level is at its peak. Adrenalin is a pain-masking hormone that can help increase your pain tolerance level.
  15. You may try to take a non-aspirin pain reliever. Half an hour before tattooing should be enough, you can take painkillers that don’t contain blood thinners like acetaminophen (also called Tylenol or paracetamol). 
  16. Try not to move too much while the tattooer is working. Too much movement will distract tattoo artist from work, thus lengthening the session, and increasing the pain.
  17. Do not be afraid to ask for breaks. If the pain becomes too unbearable, do not hesitate to ask for a respite. Any professional tattooer will understand and give you a few minutes break. 
  18. You might also try to squeeze or chew something to relieve pain. Squeezing something in your hand or biting down on something can actually reduce pain significantly. You can bring for example a stress ball, grip exerciser or chewing gum.
  19. This one is tricky – make a tattoo to feel less pain! 🙂 You can sometimes hear that having a tattoo can be addictive. It’s because it is common for your body to release endorphins in response to tattoo pain. If there will be a lot of endorphins released the pain will become less noticeable. Endorphins can make getting a tattoo a pleasant experience actually. 
  20. And finally – follow the aftercare instructions from your tattooer. Avoid water and the sun and keep your new tat clean and aired. Listen when your tattoo artist gives you aftercare instructions, they are really important and will help you to make pain as small as possible after the tattoo. 

Does it always hurt to get a tattoo? 

Yes, but remember that although it always hurts to get a tattoo, different people have different thresholds of pain, so it won’t feel the same for everyone. Many of my customers did not feel too much pain even in places like ribs, neck ect, where bones are closer to the skin, which usually makes pain more intensive. 

tattoo on ribs hurts more
Tattoo on ribs usually hurts more

The level of pain also depends on:

  • placement of the tattoo on your body,
  • style and the size of the tattoo,
  • the tattooers technique,
  • your health condition,
  • how you prepare yourself to ease the pain. 

Where tattoos hurt the most? How to make pain less bearable by choosing where to have a tattoo? 

Before you will decide to have a tattoo it is good to learn where tattoos hurt the most. A lot of pain is affected by the location of the tattoo, generally closer to the bones and more innervated area of the body – bigger the pain. 

tattoo on spine is it painful
Tattoo on back close to a spine also hurts more

So if you cannot handle a lot of pain and you want to get a tattoo, you may want to decide to have it on one of the less-painful areas. 

It is true that everyone’s body is different, but in general:

  1. Areas that tend to hurt the least are the ones with lots of muscle:
  • arms, 
  • legs, 
  • upper pectorals

and areas with lots of fatty padding:

  • glutes, 
  • hips. 
  1. Areas that tend to hurt the most are the ones that are most sensitive:
  • breasts, 
  • underarms, 
  • face, 
  • groin

and “hard” areas close to bones 

  • scalp, 
  • face, 
  • collarbone, 
  • ribs, 
  • hands 
  • and feet.

What not to do before getting a tattoo? Why should you not drink alcohol?

For some it might be tempting to drink alcohol to numb the pain of getting a tattoo, but be aware that a good tattooer will turn away anybody who looks even a bit drunk.

As mentioned before the main reason for this is that alcohol thins the blood, causing excessive bleeding that interferes with the artist’s work. 

The thinner your blood, the more times an artist will have to go over the same area to get good color coverage, which will make you feel the pain for longer. 

How long will it hurt, how long does the pain after tattoo last?

It is not only during the session that you will feel pain, your new tattoo will be a bit painful after your appointment as well. 

What you should expect: 

  • days 1 to 5 – fresh tattoo will be sore and swollen, it also might like a severe bruise or sunburn pain level, 
  • days 6 to 12 – now it should be already more itchy than painfull, it might feel like it’s burning, which is irritating but normal.
  • days 13 to 25 – at that time your tattoo should be already much less painful and itchy. If you will still feel pain contact your tattooer to check this. 

Typically, the outer layer of your skin will heal in two to three weeks. The deeper layers can take up to six months, it is worth to remember that the total healing time will depend on the size and placement of your tattoo.

Here are some examples of tattoo locations:

tattoo on ankle does it hurt
tattoo on arm does it hurt
tattoo on biceps does it hurt
tattoo on calf does it hurt
tattoo on chest does it hurt
tattoo on forearm does it hurt
tattoo on ribs big does it hurt
tattoo on shoulder does it hurt
tattoo on thigh does it hurt
thight large tattoo does it hurt

Or maybe something less durable than a tattoo – a t-shirt or a mug ?

For some time now, you can also buy my drawings printed on T-shirts and many other articles in my Spreadshirt shop and soon on some other shops that will be mentioned below – if you like my designs, please feel free. 

Here you can check out my designs on Spreadshirt:

InkByKate shop tshirts and bags
handmade drawing from InkByKate shop tshirts and bags
InkByKate shop tshirts
InkByKate shop pillows and tshirts

Here you can check out my designs on Redbubble:

Redbubble account of InkByKate

I can also design something especially for you and create an individual t-shirt for you – send me a message to contact@inkbykate.com if you are interested.

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