Tattoo Pain Chart: Scale of Pain Explained (Female + Male)

tattoo pain chart male and female

Tattoos are among the most preferred body decorations globally. But that triggers a common question, “Does getting a tattoo hurt?” Often people take a backfoot from getting tattooed courtesy of the pain involved. But did you know that the pain varies according to a person’s health, tolerance levels, and even the body part they wish to get inked. The regions which trigger the most pain usually have little fat, more nerve endings, more bony spots, and thinner skin. If you are pondering over getting a tattoo and are concerned about the pain, then it’s advisable to primarily research the tattoo artist. Today we have compiled a list of the most and least painful spaces to get tattooed so that you can take an informed call.

Considering this might also be good if you are regretting a painful tattoo or considering getting one removed. Tattoos are among the most preferred body decorations globally, but it’s essential to know that a tattoo removal is a possible option for those who want to get rid of their tattoos. However, apart from pain, there are other factors to consider for tattoo removal like how many sessions to remove a tattoo.  Regardless, don’t let the fear of pain hold you back from expressing yourself – you can always remove it later.

tattoo pain chart

Most painful spots to get tattooed

Usually, these spots have the least fat, the most nerve endings, damaged tissue, ticklish spots, multiple bony spots that vibrate, and the thinnest skin.

1. Armpit

Be prepared for severe pain if you decide to get an armpit tattoo which takes a long healing time. The axillary nerve which runs to the armpit through the main arm is the main reason behind the pain. The skin around the armpit is very thin and the area is ticklish which can cause you to flinch while the artist is getting the job done. Armpits have a large number of lymph nodes that can become enlarged and irritated to enhance your body’s response to the pain. This is why expert artists advise against getting a tattoo whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned player. If you are persistent on getting an armpit tattoo, then refrain from using deodorant and wearing tight clothing after the procedure.

2. Rib Cage

The skin surrounding the ribs is very thin and directly above several bones which can cause stabbing pain when you get the region tattooed. You can opt for getting your rib cage inked only if you have a substantially high pain tolerance. Low levels of fat and various nerve endings in the area can make it difficult to breathe during the session.

3. Shin & Ankles 

There is very little fat around the ankle and shin which triggers intense pain on getting a tattoo. The nerve endings are more sensitive in this area to strong needle vibrations. As a result, your bones will rattle as your shinbones and ankles experience repetitive needle movements. If you still wish to get a tattoo in this area, then opt for a small and simple design as large artwork will simply add to the pain level.

4. Breasts and Nipples 

It can be severely painful to get a tattoo on your nipples and breasts since these are extremely sensitive spots. Though the pain is less than in bony regions like the shin or rib cage, it is enough to cause soreness by irritating your nerve endings. The loose breast skin comes packed with fatty tissue and causes greater pain among ladies compared to men who have pectoral muscles for supporting their skin.

5. Groin

The groin is packed with nerve endings and is constantly subjected to friction making it a highly painful area to get tattooed. It is home to various lymph nodes making it highly sensitive. Your skin will be extremely irritated after the inking and it also becomes difficult to keep the area clean and dry. You can go commando for a few days to relieve the pressure. It is also advisable to avoid irritating lotions and scrubs until the area is completely healed.

6. Kneecap 

Loose, stretchy and unpadded skin in the kneecap causes severe pain if you decide to get the area tattooed. The healing process is also more uncomfortable compared to other areas as the kneecap gets in a state of flexion as you move. As the needle gets very close to the bone, it results in a strong rattling sensation. You will also experience shooting pain from the patellar tendon running down to the shin if you remove your tattoo just below the kneecap.

7. Neck & Spine

Both the neck and spine are highly sensitive areas making them one of the most painful tattoo spots. However, a spine tattoo will hurt more as the skin is extremely thin and full of nerve endings. Places around the lower back and spine will hurt less as they are cushioned by muscle and fat. The Adam’s apple can be hard to work around making neck tattoos especially painful for men. For an easier experience, it is advisable to keep the design placement to the back or side of the neck.

8. Behind the Knee

The skin behind the knee is thin and full of nerve endings close to the surface. Then there is also the sensitive sciatic nerve running directly down the back of the leg. As a result, you will feel every single poke and vibration of the needle and need to be prepared for a painful rubbing every time you sit down.

9. Hip

Though getting a hip tattoo triggers severe pain, it ultimately depends on your tattoo placement. The area above the hip is close to the bone without adequate fat to cushion the needle making it an extremely painful spot to get inked. The skin in this region is very thin and full of nerve endings. Getting a tattoo closer to the butt on the side of the hip won’t cause as much pain due to the padding of your leg muscles and glute.

10. Ears, Head & Face

These are considered extremely painful spots for both genders as they have little muscle or fat. As a result, you can feel every poke and vibration. It is advisable to book multiple sessions if you wish to have a sprawling head tattoo so that the pain feels bearable. Getting a face tattoo is less painful than head. However, it can be excruciatingly painful to get a tattoo either on or near the cheekbones, eyes, and mouth. Though the ears hurt comparatively less, the back of the ear and the lobes will result in extreme pain.

11. Lips

The lips are hands down one of the most painful spots to get tattooed. Since you will be required to hold your lips open throughout the session, it causes dryness and cracking. Staying perfectly still during the process can reduce bruising, bleeding, and swelling.

12. Fingers and hands

Despite being a popular tattoo spot, this can cause extreme pain. The skin around the hands is close to the bones which is why it is advisable not to get a tattoo done here. This sensitive area comes packed with nerve endings and will make you feel a constant needle-stabbing sensation.

13. Feet & Toes

These are extremely sensitive spots that are bound to make you flinch at the needle vibrations as the artist gets the work done. The toe arch is particularly sensitive and filled with nerve endings. Since the skin is thin and lacks adequate fat or muscle, it can add to the pain factor.

14. Stomach

You can expect a high level of pain while getting a stomach tattoo. The discomfort will be higher for people having more body fat and loose stomach skin which will be disturbed by the needle’s movement. Skinny people will also experience intense pain as the stomach skin gets stretched.

15. Inner bicep

The natural muscle mass of the inner bicep makes getting a tattoo in this area slightly more tolerable than other placements. However, the skin on the underside of the arm is loose, thin, and full of nerve endings which causes moderate to severe pain.

16. Inner thigh

The high concentration of nerve endings running to the top of the leg makes the inner thigh an extremely painful place to get tattooed. Since the skin is extremely soft and thin, you are going to feel every single needle movement. During the healing process, avoid clothing that causes friction by rubbing it against the area.

17. Underboob

There is almost no muscle or fat in this area making it difficult to get a tattoo here. Your entire experience is going to be an uncomfortable one since the underboobs is above the breastbone and ribs. You might experience swelling and bruising as your ink starts healing.

18. Chest

The spot is right by the collarbone, sternum, and nipples which are full of nerve endings and highly sensitive. Though the skin on the upper chest is thicker, the lack of fat and proximity to the bone means you won’t have any cushioning to work with. Females feel less pain as they get support from the breast tissue.

Least painful spots to get a tattoo

These areas are comparatively less sensitive as they have thicker flesh that can absorb the needle:

1. Forearm

This area has thick skin with a high level of fatty tissue and muscle making it one of the least painful spots to get a tattoo. The outer forearm will hurt comparatively less than the inner arm courtesy of the radial nerve running through the area.

2. Shoulder

There is thick muscle and flesh in the shoulder area which cushions the needle thus causing moderate pain. The fewer nerve endings in the shoulder make it ideal for trying large designs. Though the front and back of the shoulder are painful, the outer shoulder is the perfect spot for newbies who haven’t developed proper pain tolerance yet. Men have more muscle mass in their shoulders and thus experience less pain while getting inked whereas women can expect moderate soreness.

3. Bicep

The thick muscle tissue and fewer nerve endings in the bicep makes it a great place to get a tattoo. The underside and the inner section of the bicep are more painful as the skin is thinner whereas the outer bicep remains well-cushioned from the tattoo needle vibrations.

4. Calf

The thick calf muscle is surrounded by fat which acts as a strong buffer against the needle. You can try out large artwork and vibrant designs on your calf. Since the area is away from bones, the needlework won’t cause as much unpleasant rattling as the other spots mentioned in this list.

5. Upper & lower back

Getting an upper and a lower back tattoo can be painful though the ultimate level of pain will vary according to the size of your preferred artwork. Fewer nerves and adequate muscle mass causes low to moderate pain while cushioning against the needle.

6. Upper outer thigh

Muscle padding your nerves and bones causes low levels of pain in an upper outer thigh tattoo. Adequate support is offered by the extremely thick thigh skin which comes covered with a layer of fat. You can opt for a cool design as a thigh tattoo won’t hurt much.

Factors that affect tattoo pain

  • Women experience more pain compared to men as the testosterone hormone in men helps them deal with injuries more effectively.
  • Younger people have more resilient skin which helps them handle tattoo pain better. Our skin keeps getting thin with increasing age and this offers less cushioning against the needle. Younger skin being tighter doesn’t require as many pokes to attain a similar result.
  • The pain inflicted by a tattoo is also determined by your weight. You are going to feel more pain if you are at either end of the scale compared to a person with normal body weight. While underweight people have very less fat to buffer the needle, overweight people have loose skin which hurts more.
  • You are less likely to feel intense pain if you have had more tattoos. Your tolerance will grow with time and you will get used to the sensation of the needle vibrating near your bones. The tattoo artist won’t have to stop as many times as you will be less likely to squirm or flinch.
  • The skills and experience of the tattoo artist are other determining factors for how much pain you will feel. While some are gentle and meticulous with their needles, others are heavy-handed. You can expect less pain from a session with a slower artist compared to faster ones though the discomfort session will last longer in this case.

Types of pain caused by tattooing

Pain felt from getting tattooed varies from person to person. While some people might not blink, others will bawl their eyes out. Thus, it becomes necessary to determine your pain threshold and inform your tattoo artist about the same. You can expect the following types of sensations while getting a tattoo:

  • Burning pain feels as if something hot has been pressed against your skin. Though it isn’t very intense, it is a noticeable sensation and arises when the tattoo artist works in the same area over a prolonged stretch of time.
  • Dull or muted pain doesn’t cause much discomfort and you can distract yourself easily from the same. This type of pain doesn’t last long and you may feel it just once or twice during the entire session.
  • Scratching pain feels as if you have got a paper cut or been scratched by a cat. Though it isn’t intense, it can hurt for quite some time.
  • Sharp or stinging pain is caused by the tattoo needle drawing fine designs and going deeper than normal. You might even pass out from this pain if it gets too intense. It is commonly felt in places right above a bone or with thin skin where there isn’t enough muscle.
  • A vibrating pain moves along with the needle vibrations that you feel in the bone. It is usually caused by the needle piercing in close proximity to the bone as the surrounding nerves pick up the vibrations leading to a vibrating sensation.

Tips to reduce tattoo pain

  • Opt for a quality tattoo artist after getting reviews from previous customers, and checking their past work and certifications. Getting your tattoo done by an experienced artist reduces complications like inflammation and infections.
  • If you are struggling with pain, then ask the tattoo artist for a break. Usually, larger tattoos are broken up into multiple sessions but you can request more if you need a break.
  • Alcohol thins your blood and can heighten the pain during the session other than causing bruising and bleeding. This is why it is advisable to stay sober before and during the session.
  • Minimizing stress by getting adequate sleep can help ease the pain on your big day.
  • You can speak with your tattoo artist beforehand for getting numbing sprays or creams that can help you deal with the experience while tattooing the sensitive spots.

When it’s time for the main event, your tattoo artist will start by cleaning the area using vegetable and oil-based soap diluted with distilled water. They will remove any hair either on or directly surrounding the area before placing a stencil on your skin to offer a preview of what the final thing will look like. The sternum, pubic area, stomach, underboobs, elbow, shin, face, knee cap, and foot hurt the most among females whereas the least painful spots are the shoulder, back, forearm, and outer thigh having more fat, thicker skin, and lesser nerve endings. For males, the most painful spots are the elbow, shin, sternum, knee cap, neck, groin, rib cage, butt, head, and foot while getting an outer thigh, chest, arm, back and shoulder tattoo won’t hurt much.

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Jessika Perkins

A creative writer who enjoys romantic novels, a huge fan of Marilyn Monroe, and a believer in karma. Loves to explore life and enjoys it to the fullest. Addicted to diamonds and bling jewelry. When not writing, busy stalking celebrity fashion, or reading food blogs. A part of to enlighten her readers with fab ideas and style tips.

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