If you’re worried about the pain involved with a getting new tattoo, don’t be! Truthfully, it’s uncomfortable, but far from extreme. When I got my first tattoo I naturally picked one of the most painful places I could think of at the time: The rib cage.
Of course, I hated needles with a passion and I can’t say I had a fetish for pain either.
Before I hopped in the chair I had all sorts of expectations about what it be like. I knew it would hurt, but I was really surprised by what it actually felt it. Years later, I would come to love getting tattooed.
I had hyped myself up only to discover the process wasn’t near as painful as I thought it would be. It wasn’t even close! Instead of being ultra painful, it was only rather ultra irritating. When someone’s poking you over and over again, the only thing on your mind is one thing: Annoyed. The physical pain really isn’t all there on most body parts, but mentally it challenges you a bit when you’ve been sitting in the chair for hours on end.
Truthfully, it isn’t about your “pain tolerance”, instead it’s more focused on your “annoyance tolerance”. If you really want a tattoo, pain should be the LAST thing on your mind. It doesn’t matter! I will say that again, it does not matter! I don’t care if someone poking you with a finger hurts, you cry baby. You will be fine!
Like any thing in life you wish to accomplish, you must ask yourself, “Is this going to kill me?” In this case, the answer is flat out no. Perhaps you will find some comfort in that. Remember, pain is only temporary, a tattoo is forever! The process only requires endurance. View it as a battle scar of victory if you are so terrified. It will serve as a reminder of what happens when you overcome your fears: False expectations appearing real.
What does a tattoo feel like:
If I had to describe it: Hot sandpaper rubbing on your skin, while getting jabbed by a tiny prick over and over again. As the needle drags across your skin, you’ll feel a bit of a burning sensation. The moment you run over a bone, say the rib cage for example, you start to feel that metal needle pricking the hell out of you. It knocks into the bone and starts to vibrate against it. It’s like someone’s carving into stone, only it’s happening inside your body. Needless to say, it doesn’t feel wonderful. It’s certainly not a perfect day at the park.
Other people claim it feels like a cat scratch, or like being scratched by a dog with really long nails. When it comes to the burning or overall sensation, just think back to your last bad sunburn.
However, I want to be crystal clear here: It’s honestly not that bad! You don’t need to be macho man with the pain tolerance of a Navy Seal to handle it. Remember, millions upon millions of people get them every year. Most are simply average folks. They aren’t battle hardened warriors who can take various forms of torture like a champ. In other words, it often sounds scarier or even more painful than it actually really is.
Understand that skinny eighteen year old girls get tattoos. If you can’t handle it, I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t tell me that men and woman have different pain tolerances, because that’s just an excuse and that doesn’t even matter to begin with!
If you are worried about the pain, don’t be! The moment you sit in the chair and get inked, you’re going to look back and say, “Why did I make this into such a big deal? It’s truly nothing!” The only thing you’re going to feel is a mild level of discomfort. That’s it. The pain is certainly not going to kill you. At the end you’ll get up out of the chair, walk to the door and drive home. What’s the big deal? This isn’t surgery we are talking about here. If the pain was so bad, they’d have to knock you and everyone else out for it. The reality is, they don’t nor do they even have to!
Why does it feel that way?
Well remember, you’ve got a needle that’s going up and down a little over a thousand times per minute. While the needle is small, you’re going to feel the friction heat things up a bit. Of course, you’ll also feel it poking into your flesh as it dips in and out. Not to mention, as the machine vibrates that motion ultimately transfers to the bone when you go over it. For most of the body spots, running that needle over flesh is a relativity painless process assuming you avoid major nerves. When it comes to the bones, you’ll still feel the jabbing prick, even though the needle to begin with, is extremely short. In other words, it’s the feeling of pressure that’s the most painful. Of course, if you get an artist with a “heavy hand” as they like to say, the difference is day and night.
However, understand that the needle isn’t going to be in the same spot for the entire process. As it moves around the flesh to cover another area, you will get some pleasant relief. It’s a mixed of feeling comfortable in this spot and discomfort in this spot, and it continues over and over until you’re finished.
Should you use a numbing cream?
If you’re overly sensitive to pain, you can. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I don’t care if your friends or even artist suggest it’s for babies. Ultimately, it’s your choice. Who gives a damn what other people think? After you leave the tattoo shop I can guarantee that no one is going to ask, “Did you use numbing cream?” Nobody does that! People don’t stare at a cool tattoo and wonder, “Did that guy use numbing cream?”. It just doesn’t happen.
Do numbing creams really work to get rid of the pain?
If you’ve ever put benzocaine on a sore tooth, the sensation is similar. It simply numbs the skin and gets the nerves to chill out. You can still feel pressure but the sting goes away. For fleshy parts of the body, numbing cream can work absolute wonders. However, for boney areas of the body you’re still going to feel that pressure as the needle prods around the bone.
Personally, I decided to give numbing cream a shot towards the very end of my rib cage piece to see what the difference was. I was curious much like you probably are. Once applied, the burning sensation completely went away. I could no longer feel the prickly sensation of the needle going into the skin. It was not longer “sharp” instead it was more a “dull” poke into my flesh. Of course, it was still irritating nonetheless.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of using a numbing cream is the cooling sensation it has to offer. If the hot, sandpaper like burn against your skin is too uncomfortable, numbing cream will take care of it. It’s rather refreshing after you’ve sat in the chair for a handful of hours. Just remember, while numbing cream does work like magic, it does not eliminate all the pain. At the end of the day you can’t eliminate pressure or vibration. Most notably, when getting ink laid over the bone, the point above will prove itself pretty clear.
With that said, don’t rely on numbing creams from the start. Consider them to be only a backup plan. If this is your first tattoo, don’t insist on using a numbing cream before you’ve even experience what it feels like. Rarely will you even need them. Allow your artist to tattoo your body and just see what it’s like. Hold off asking for any numbing cream until you’re at the brink of insanity and can no longer handle it. I say this because nine out of ten times you’ll get through the process without even thinking about needing to resort to them.
The body part you ink ultimately makes a difference.
The sensation you feel will vary based upon where you ink the body. For instance, the arm isn’t going to be as bad the rib cage. However, ink over areas like the sternum and elbows and you’re in for a real treat!
To get a better idea just see this guide: Tattoo Pain Chart 101 – How Bad Do Tattoos Hurt? You’ll find a handy chart that covers the major nerves in the body along with some of my personal comments.
What does a new tattoo feel like afterwards?
After oozing out all that plasma and tugging against the flesh for a few hours you’re going to be sore. A tiny bit lightheaded too. It’s like scraping your leg real bad after falling off your bicycle. It doesn’t feel great, but you’re able to still function like a normal human. Combine that with the discomfort of a bad sunburn and there you have it.
You’re not going to be bed locked. You’ll probably find yourself relaxing on the couch and taking it easy for a day or two. Remember, you really want to give your body plenty of time to heal. If you need to be at work during the same day, you’ll be fine. Understand, that it’s not like you have just broken your leg here. You’re just dealing with a scrape on the skin that’s either large or small in size depending on how big your piece is.
Consider the fact that “flesh wound” will be isolated to one part of the body. If you get a tattoo on your wrist, your legs, arms and head are all going to work just fine. The feeling afterwards doesn’t transfer to the rest of your body. You’re not going to feel like you’re sick with the flu with all over body pain.
If anything, you might feel a bit lightheaded from leaking out all the plasma. Though, by eating a good meal beforehand, you can pretty much eliminate that feeling.
To get a better idea of the healing process and the aftercare involved just go over this guide: Tattoo Aftercare – Definitive Guide To The Healing Process
Remember to eat before getting tattooed!
You can reduce the level of pain by doing one simple thing beforehand: Eating a large meal. Just think about how irritated you get when you’re on an empty stomach. Now, combine that will someone poking you over and over.
Some people drink before getting a tattoo, however, it’s not necessary and I advice you not to. Most, if not all tattoo shops have policies against it. There’s no reason at all to get loaded before getting a new tattoo. It’s downright foolish. If anything you’ll end up annoying your artist. Let’s face it, the last thing you want to do is to piss off someone who’s putting something permanent on your body.
Of course, when your artist asks you about the placement, do you really want to make a decision when you’re not sober? You can’t take back a mistake of “Yeah, that looks right” after it’s done!
If you have a fear of needles more so than pain, don’t worry:
For some people, it’s really easy to get intimidated at the mere sight of those long needles doctors use to give patients’ shots. Certain folks instantly associate them with pain. I’m sure some sit back and think, “Getting poked a thousand times by one of those, no way in hell!” However, the tattoo machine and process itself is dramatically different.
First of all, towards the tip you’ll only see these super short, (ultra tiny would be a better way to say it) needles sticking out. They literally become invisible as the process begins. Understand, that you’ll get focused on other things, like how bizarre it is to see your skin bursting with color or simply just how unique the sensation feels.
Not to mention, as your artist holds the tattoo gun with his or her hand, they often conceal what’s really going on. Depending on where you’re getting tattooed, you might not be able to see anything up close. For someone who has a strong dislike of getting shots at the doctor, I’m happy to tell you that I’d gladly get a tattoo any day of the week.
There is a major difference, and in a great way. Don’t hold off because you have a dislike for needles, or pain for that matter. Experience it firsthand and you’ll exactly what I’m talking about!