Let's state the obvious: Wrist tattoos hurt, just like any other tattoo. Needles are puncturing your skin and injecting it with ink. How can that not cause pain? But certain parts of the body can tolerate tattoo pain better than others and your own personal threshold has to be considered in that equation. Whether or not your wrists are one of the most or least painful places to ink is still up for debate.
The jury is decidedly split on the level of pain that goes along with inking this body part. I can speak from my own experience with getting a wrist tattoo, but I also polled some tattoo artists. They know what hurts most, since they are the ones causing the pain on hundreds of clients.
I have an inner wrist tattoo that is about two inches high. It's done in the traditional style, with thick lines and bold colors. It's a heart being sliced by a razor blade, which was meant to mimic a cassette tape, with a "Made to Be Broken" banner wrapping around it. Yes, I got it after a particularly nasty breakup, but, really, it can signify any of the relationships gone sour that I dealt with in the '00s.
So let's talk pain. The area is definitely tender, with skin that is thin and fleshy. Still, it didn't hurt as much as my inner bicep/armpit area, nor was it as painful as the ink at the small of my back, which required shading and covering repeat ground. That last one left me a sobbing, drooling mess — and made the wrist tat seem like a piece of cake. But that's just me.
I remember my wrist tattoo being quick, easy, and relatively painless, delivered by my friend and tattooist Mike Ski. But I will also never, ever, like, ever forget that there was a teeny tiny region of the wrist that made me feel like I was being electrocuted when I got it.
Right under the bottom banner, which reads "Broken," there's a little bit of blue shading.
I remember my eyes watering and biting my lip so hard it drew blood at that little part. I have no idea why that pinched and ached more than any other part of my wrist tattoo, but I will never forget that pain.
It was like getting suckerpunched in the face for two seconds. The rest? Easy peasy.
A personal anecdote is fine, but since the pain of any tattoo can vary from person to person, I needed more opinions. A panel of experts also weighed in, proving that the pain level of pain can come from a variety of factors and elements. The science behind the pain? Well, it's not exactly... exact. Take a look.
1. Your Wrist Is Full Of Nerves
Jeremy Nieves of Milk and Honey Tattoo in Staten Island got technical about anatomy, saying, "The inner parts of the arm tend to hurt more than the outer parts due to the fact that more nerves run down the inside of the arm rather than the outside. On the inside, you have both the median and ulnar nerves, whereas the top of the arm has only the radial nerve. The combination of the nerves and the thinness of the skin on the wrist make it a relatively sucky spot to get tattooed." That explains why it got worse when the needle hit the thinnest skin right at my wrist.
2. Most Agree That The Wrist Isn't The Worst
Dana Forrester, owner of Lucky Monkey Tattoo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, notes that people respond to pain differently. Still, she generally agrees that there isn't as much of a suck factor with wrist ink, saying, "My wrist tattoo hurt a lot less than my foot tattoo... the pain is relatively minimal compared to other body parts. But in terms of one to 10 pain scale for tattoos, I would put [the wrist] on a 4 or 5, with the ribs being a 10."
3. Go For Something Simple
Amanda Rodriguez of Evil and Love in Brooklyn, N.Y. was somewhere in the middle about the pain, for specific reasons, stating, "Wrist tattoos do hurt, especially around the sides. Not excruciating pain, but not painless by any means. Small, simple tattoos on the wrist are more tolerable but if you're capping a sleeve and putting solid color, that can be pretty brutal."
4. Your Artist's Heavy Hand Matters
Sol Amstutz, a tattooer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, pointed out that the tattooist's technique is a factor, saying, "All tattoos hurt, but the level of pain is relative to the individual customer. There's really no black or white way to say, 'Yes, wrist tattoos hurt a lot, or, no, they don't hurt at all.' It's also relative to the individual artist, as some of us are more heavy-handed than others."
So, the consensus seems to be that wrist tattoo pain is about personal tolerance and threshold. I felt no pain except for that one little area I mentioned, while others said that it does hurt, but not agonizingly so. I have one friend who said it hurt more than his ribs and neck, and another who said it was an "ouch" moment, but she didn't need to stop her artist from moving forward.
There you have it. Tattoos hurt. Wrist tattoo pain intensity varies according to several factors. So plan accordingly, my loves.