How To Deal With Tattoo Pain

by Rosie Narasaki

If you've ever considered getting ink, it's very likely that you've wondered about the pain involved with the process — perhaps more specifically, how can you deal with tattoo pain? It is, after all, an often painful, often painstaking undertaking that can take hours upon hours of minute work with a needle — and it can be even tougher for your first time (cue "Like a Virgin"), since you don't know exactly what to expect. Add that to the fact that some of the most popular tattoo sites tend to be on some of the more sensitive areas of the body, and you've got yourself something of a conundrum.

Still, there's hope yet — after all, there are lots of ways to cope with tattoo pain. Everything from doing a little research ahead of time to finding yourself a good numbing cream can go a long way towards making your tattoo experience as painless as possible. So if you're looking for tattoo pain management tips before your first ink, keep on reading — getting a tattoo doesn't have to be as scary as you might think. It's the little things like a chocolate break or a little bit of non-blood-thinning Acetaminophen that'll help you through the process.

1. Talk it Out

If you're really stressing about the pain, it might be best to do a little asking around to mentally prepare yourself — tattoos do hurt, but talking to tattooed friends and/or tattoo artists about the pain may be able to help keep you calm before your appointment. Talking to your tattoo artist in particular might really help.

2. Think About Tattoo Placement

LBR, some places just plain hurt more than others. If you're looking to ease up on the pain, do your best to avoid a few of the most painful tattoo placements, like the elbow, forearm, or head (yikes!).

3. Think About Tattoo Size

If it's your first time getting inked, you might not want to cannonball in with full-on tattoo sleeves — you might want to start with something on the more simple side.

4. Think About Tattoo Type

Likewise, a tattoo with tons of different colors or large solid areas often take longer (and are more painful) to complete. You may want to go with mono-colored line art, if you're nervous.

5. Mind Over Matter

Some people find things like breathing techniques, good music, or even meditation can help keep their mind off the pain. Heck, even talking with your tattoo artist can act as a good distraction (though you probably don't want to distract them too much).

6. Try a Numbing Cream

Aspercreme Odor Free Topical Analgesic Cream (Pack of 4), $24, Amazon

Look, numbing cream is something of a godsend — though be sure to consult with your artist on whether or not they recommend it for your particular tattoo/tattoo placement.

7. Take Some Painkillers

Kirkland Signature Extra-Strength Acetaminophen, $1, Amazon

Taking a Tylenol (AKA acetaminophen) or two before and/or during your session can actually help a lot — but be wary of other painkillers, like Ibuprofen or aspirin, since those can thin your blood and cause more bleeding than is necessary.

7. Don't Drink

Cindy Ord/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You might think heading to the tattoo parlor a few drinks in might help with your pain tolerance, but it's not the best idea. In addition to the logistical problems of drunken tattoo selection, alcohol actually thins your blood, which can lead to more bleeding than is necessary (and no one wants that).

8. Take Breaks if You Need Them

If it's getting to be too much, you're well within your right to request a short break.

9. Bring Snacks

Getting a tattoo can actually be a tiring experience, so a nice little treat like some hard candy or a chocolate bar can really make a world of difference.

10. Follow Your Artist's Aftercare Instructions

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant, $10, Amazon

Last, but not least, aftercare. Follow a good aftercare program to ensure quick healing, and most importantly, listen to your tattoo artist. They know what they're talking about.

Images: Pixabay, angello_pro, 10dimensional, tikh, venturing_sarah, dcanies/Unsplash; Courtesy Brands