Tricks for Dealing with Tattoo Pain
Let's face it: Tattoos hurt. Everyone has a different pain threshold, and pain is part of the whole experience, but if you can't handle pain, you may want to reconsider getting a tattoo. The best thing to do if you have never gotten one is to prepare yourself. And the best way to do that is educate yourself beforehand.
Do Some Tattoos Hurt More Than Others?
My daughter is a tattoo artist and having a few myself, I can tell you that there are certain body parts that hurt more than others and that means there are a few factors to take into consideration regarding pain.
A tattoo will probably hurt more if you're thin and have less muscle. A needle on skin and bone will hurt more than if there's some cushion there, which is why the calf will hurt less than the top of your foot, for example.
Before you get your tattoo, you'll need plenty of rest. Drink plenty of water, too. Keep yourself hydrated and do not drink alcohol or take any blood thinners like aspirin. It will make you bleed more that will make it harder for the artist to see what he or she is doing. Stay sober and straight. Many shops will not tattoo you if you've been drinking anyway. The better ones will be professional enough not to work on you in that condition.
Mind Over Matter
A trick I learned is to take deep breaths and exhale when the needle is on your skin. Don't hold your breath, even though you may be tempted. Keep breathing. It's like when you exercise—you lift or strain on the exhale. Keep breaths steady and try not to focus on the pain. Some people will look while it's being done while others prefer not to look. For some, looking makes it less painful and for others, it makes it hurt more. It depends on you. You can distract yourself by listening to music. Bring a device with you when you go in. Some shops will have televisions for distraction.
Aftercare Makes All the Difference
When it's all done, keep it clean. Pat it down with a clean, wet cloth and apply A+D (diaper rash ointment and skin protector) or to keep it disinfected. Do not buy the white A & D ointment, get the clear yellow kind. Whatever you do, do NOT use Vaseline on a new tattoo. Also, don't go to the pool or tan outside. It needs to stay covered for the first couple of days.
The tattoo will "shed" and every day a little more of the dark ink will wipe away. Keep wiping it gently with warm lukewarm water until it's healed, which should take a few days. Call the shop if it's taking longer to heal or if you notice it leaking. You know your body. Pay attention. It could be infected.
Consider your tatt a wound, an injury, because that's what it is to your skin. Take care of it as such.