Reader Question: Managing Tattoo Pain 

So I have another reader question to answer! 

Q: I want a tattoo so bad but I have a very low pain tolerance. Any advice? 

A: Do I ever have some advice for you. Like you I have a very low pain tolerance and always swore I would never get ink due to the pain factor. Look at me now four tattoos later and currently working with my two artists on two new tattoos (one for each of them to do). 

Before I go any further, let’s just cut the bullshit and establish this fact: tattoos hurt. Period, end of story, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are having a bunch of needles driven into your skin over and over again at a rapid rate. Of course it hurts. 

Anyway, there are a number of things you can do to manage the pain. Focus on the background music, have conversation with your artist or bring a friend to chat with. These things can help take your focus off of the pain and divert it elsewhere. When I’m getting tattooed I tend to zone out into a meditative state. 

After some time your endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) will kick in and you get quite a buzz. This also helps manage the pain. Some people claim the area being tattooed goes completely numb after awhile. This isn’t true in my experience but the first several minutes are always the worst it seems. 

Which brings me to my next suggestion. Though some macho tattoo people refer to it as “pussy juice” don’t dismiss the use of numbing gels, creams or sprays. You have a number of options available to you here. If you live in a place where EMLA is available OTC this is a popular choice. It does have epinephrine in it however, which can affect how your skin takes ink so be sure your tattoo artist is experienced using it. There are also Hush and Ink Eeze gels. To use these products smear on a thick layer (don’t rub it in) on the area to be tattooed, wrap with cling wrap or saran wrap and leave for an hour to 90 minutes before your tattoo. If this initial numbing wears off there are sprayable products from Hush, Ink Eeze and Vasocaine that will numb you in the middle of a session. These can be reapplied as many times as required to get you through the tattoo. 

One last thing to mention: placement is everything. Muscular and meaty areas tend to hurt less. Shoulders, outer arms, calves, butt, etc. hurt way less than wrists, ankles, tops of feet and the like. The pain on these muscular areas is more irritating than anything. Bony areas can really suck. 

In short, my advice to you is to use whatever means necessary to get you through it. If you want it bad enough you’ll find a way. Pain should not be a barrier to getting that tattoo you want. Rest assured you’ll want many more after this one though! It is addictive. 

Good luck and looking forward  to hearing about your tattoo experience! 

Do you have a tattoo related question? Leave a comment or send a private message through the contact form! 


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