Photo credit by Aupoman's Tattoo
Everyone has a different threshold for pain, and getting a tattoo is no different. Most people who get tattoos describe it as an intense scratching on the skin, or a slight burning feeling. Getting tattoos on less fleshy areas, such as the ankles and wrists, will be more painful than getting a tattoo on your upper arms or legs. Also, the outline uses more ink and needle pricks than filling in the shading, so the outline is more painful. Some people experience no bad feelings at all when getting the shading.
You can take several steps towards minimizing tattoo pains, and some of these steps can be taken before you even enter the tattoo parlor. The first thing is to ensure that you are completely hydrated in the 36 hours prior to going into the appointment. Average sized adults should drink eight to ten, eight-oz glasses of water a day. People who live in drier states or who weigh more will need to drink more water to stay hydrated. When you are dehydrated, you are more likely to feel the pain of getting a tattoo and/or feel faint.
Also, if you get enough rest in the 48 hours before you get the tattoo, you will feel less pain. When our bodies are tired, we notice pain easier. Although you should ideally get two good nights of sleep, it is more important that you get a better night's sleep two nights before you get your tattoo than one night before you get your tattoo. This also holds true for people running races, as the body benefits more from a good night's sleep two days before. Being well rested will minimize the amount of pain that you feel when you get a tattoo.
For some reason, many people like to get tattoos on vacation. If you are one of those people, make sure that you are not out in the sun a lot before getting your tattoo. Sunburn is painful enough without feeling the pain of a needle poking through your skin. Also, after you get the tattoo, you should avoid the sun as well. Keeping suntan lotion on your tattoo will help protect it, minimize the pain, and ultimately the colors will last longer.
Many people find that taking Motrin or Ibuprofen before getting a tattoo will help reduce the pain. Do not take aspirin, since it thins the blood and will lead in increased pain, cause potential problems in the blood clotting, and may cause excessive bruising. Ibuprofen, however, will reduce the pain and swelling during and after you get the tattoo.
One of the things that people forget is to be careful not to move when you are getting a tattoo. Not only will moving possibly mess up the tattoo artist's design, it could cause the needle to puncture your skin. You should stay still, and if you need to move, ask the tattoo artist. Communication with the artist throughout the procedure is essential. If you feel lightheaded, faint, nauseous, or just need a break, tell your artist.
Some people think that consuming alcohol or drugs before getting a tattoo will minimize the pain. Most tattoo parlors, however, will not let you get a tattoo if you appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Try to avoid alcohol, drugs, and caffeine the week before you get a tattoo. Also, you should eat a big meal before you go to the tattoo parlor.
All of these tips are important to minimize pain, but the key is to stay relaxed when you are in the tattoo parlor. Take in even, deep breaths, and focus on music or the television. You can even bring in a ball to squeeze to take your mind off of the needle. Arrive early so that you are not stressed when you get there, just relax, and remember the reason that you are there--you really want the body art.