If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo, chances are you’ve thought long and hard about all the details: what artist will do it, what size you’ll want it, how you’ll hide it from your parents when you’re on vacation and in a bathing suit. But something you may not have considered is whether or not you have the pain tolerance to handle it.
We won’t lie to you and say tattoos aren’t painful — after all, it is a needle penetrating your skin between 50 and 3,000 times per minute (via How Stuff Works); and tattoo professionals assert that there is no such thing as a painless tattoo (via Lucky Deville Tattoo). But the pain level can vary greatly depending on where you actually get your tattoo placed on your body. If you think you’ve got a pretty high pain tolerance, then feel free to get tattooed wherever best suits your aesthetic. But if you’re a bit worried about the pain but still want to get that tattoo fix, keep reading to find out where the least and most painful places to get a tattoo are.
The ribcage is one of the most painful spots to get tattooed
According to Healthline, “The rib cage is probably the second most painful place for most people to get tattooed. Pain here can be severe. The skin around your ribs is extremely thin, and there’s less fat here than on most other parts of your body.” The ribs are second only to the armpit due to its excessive nerve endings and even thinner skin; but the armpit isn’t a particularly common spot to get tattooed, as tattoo artists even advise against it (via NY Post).
Cosmopolitan sat down with Fredrik Glimskär, founder and CEO of online tattoo marketplace Inkbay, to learn more about the ins and outs of the tattoo world. Glimskär didn’t hesitate when asserting that the ribcage is an especially painful area of the body to get tattooed. “The ribs move every time you breathe, which makes the tattooing process more painful.” He even spoke about this own experience being tattooed on his ribs, adding, “the pain doesn’t let up … the level of pain is consistent throughout — for 6 hours in my case!”
But hey, that sure didn’t stop Ariana Grande.
Stick to fatty areas of the body to avoid severely painful tattoos
Following this logic, if an area on the body with thin skin and not much fat is painful, then the opposite kind of space would be less painful. “The least painful places to get a tattoo are areas of your body with fewer nerve endings. Think outer shoulder, calf, buttocks, and outer arm,” Best Health Magazine claims. Artists suggest that the arms are typically safe spots for a first tattoo, as the skin is thicker and there are fewer nerve endings.
Something else to consider when it comes to the level of pain of a tattoo is its proximity to bone; needless to say, a needle hitting bone will never feel good. “The skin is so, so close to the bone,” says Glimskär, “with very little fat to pad or cushion the needle strokes.” This is why if you’re nervous about the pain, it’s best to avoid areas like the feet or hands until you feel more prepared to handle it (via Wild Tattoo Art).
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