Why Do Tattoos Hurt?

CMan with TattooCredit: Ohmega1982hances are if you are reading this article you are considering a tattoo in the future. You are asking yourself: Do tattoos hurt? Whether you're attracted to the bad ass arm bands or girlie butterflies - all tattoos are going to hurt. No matter how you describe getting a tattoo one has to remember that a needle is piercing the skin at 50-30,000 times per minute (according to Discovery Health) and depositing ink under the epidermis into the dermis. Don't make the mistake of thinking a tattoo is like a piercing because the needle is moving so fast that the receiver of the tattoo only feels a sharp pinch, scratching, or burning sensation and not individual piercings of the skin. Even if you try you cannot focus or isolate the individual piercing of the skin. When getting a tattoo you must consider the placement because that will affect the pain level of receiving it. Nerves, amount of body fat, and bones all can affect the amount of pain you will experience while getting a tattoo and how it heals. The fleshier parts of the body will hurt less than those that have more bones. Read on to find out what tattoos hurt worst.

How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt?

I'm sure you would like to hear from someone who has had them. I'm twenty two and have had two tattoos in considerably painful places; the top of my foot near the toe bone and my right wrist. My foot tattoo was my very first tattoo and I was nervous. I was surprised that it only felt slightly uncomfortable. The closest I can get to describing the feeling would be a bee sting. Getting a tattoo is a sensation all on its own. Prepare for some parts of the tattoo to hurt worst than others and different needles can give you different experiences.

My second tattoo was on my wrist. This tattoo hurt worse than the top of my foot because it was near a lot of nerve endings. At times it felt as if there were bees stinging my wrist and other times it felt like a burning sensation. To clarify, this discomfort isn't unbearable. I don't consider myself to be someone of great pain tolerance and I went through it without shedding a tear or fussing-just a few facial cringes. It also helps that when receiving a tattoo your body produces a lot of endorphins which can result in a high-like state. Many people love getting tattoos because this feeling and get addicted. It's not uncommon to hear tattoo lovers talk about how they "need one' or simply want to feel the needle.

Tattoo Placement Determines Pain 

Which places are the best to get tattoos then? Don’t determine your tattoo placement strictly by pain level. There are some places that will hurt more than others but the difference isn’t enough to choose one body placement over the other. If you’ve dreamed of getting a tattoo on your wrist don’t allow the pain to deter you and get the same design on your back. Not only will the tattoo experience be frustrating; you won’t be happy with the end result. When choosing a placement make sure to consider the size and color choice. Colored tattoos can take longer than black and grey and larger tattoos can be more uncomfortable than smaller ones. These are no-brainer facts but it’s important to think through them before going under the needle.

Tattoos That Hurt in No Particular OrderMan with Tattoo(78022)Credit: Louisa Stokes

Chest and Rib Cage These tattoos can hurt the worst because there isn't a lot of cushioning for the needing and it tends to hit against the bones.

Genitals These are the most sensitive places on the body. There are a lot of nerve endings in this area and the skin is thin. Getting a tattoo here will hurt. 

Inside of Hand

Inside of Wrist


Hip Bone

Top of Foot



In conclusion, tattoos hurt but are worth the discomfort. Part of the journey of receiving a tattoo is the pain. If there is something that you want tattooed enough you can withstand the pain to enjoy the tattoo for the rest of your life. I am very happy with my tattoos and plan on joining the thousands of tattoo-addicts even though tattoos do hurt.