The Most (and Least) Painful Places to Get a Tattoo

Crying optional.
Crying optional. / zorandimzr/iStock via Getty Images

People get tattoos for any number of reasons: to mark a significant life event; to advertise their love of Star Wars; to celebrate their heritage. But there’s always one recurring thread in receiving ink—it hurts.

How much depends a lot on where on your body the tattoo is going. According to Healthline, choosing an area with a surplus of fatty tissue and nerve endings combined with thinner skin creates a perfect storm for a tattoo artist to deliver the pain.

Tattoos are applied by using a mechanized needle to deliver pigment to the dermis just under the skin’s top surface. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, the armpit might be the worst place to receive those injections. The next most tortuous area could be the rib cage, because in some people only a thin layer of skin covers the bone. (Breathing, which you’ll presumably be doing while healing, can also move the skin around and cause discomfort.)

Other areas where bone is close to the skin, like the shin, elbow, or ankle, will also require some resolve. Obviously, anywhere nerve endings are abundant, like breast tissue or the groin, may prompt second thoughts.

If you’re looking for ink with minimal discomfort, you can always try the upper thigh, which is normally well-padded with fat or muscle tissue. Forearms and shoulders have thicker skin with fewer nerve endings; the same is true for your calves.

Of course, the pain experienced by tattoo application can vary widely depending on a lot of factors, right down to your hydration levels. Some have compared it to a cat scratching you with its claws. If you’re new to tattoos, you might want to experiment with one of the less painful sites first before thinking of that rib cage mural.

While a tattoo artist can’t do a whole lot to minimize pain, they can try to spare you some regret. Many artists will refuse to tattoo a younger person’s face or neck because it can affect job prospects; others may caution that getting your partner’s name on your forearm might not age well, either.

[h/t Healthline]