Do Tattoos Really Hurt? What to Expect for Your First Tattoo
Nothing will prepare you for the sensation of getting your first tattoo. You just have to push through the panic to obtain your beautiful body art! However, people try to compare the feeling of getting one with the following:
- Slowly getting scratched by a cat
- A sunburn getting irritated by someone poking at it
- Having a tack being firmly dragged across your skin
- A hot knife cutting into you
- Someone poking you with a sharp fingernail
- The sensation when you're scratching a mosquito bite too hard
- The feeling of poking at a gross zit
Help! I'm Getting My First Tattoo, and I'm Scared!
Let's start out by saying this: people who say that they felt no anxiety before their first tattoo are liars. There is not a single person on this planet who wasn't apprehensive, anxious and/or panicky during the days leading up to it.
You're not alone! A quick Google sweep will show you just how many are wondering if they hurt, how they feel, and if anyone else was scared the first time . . . and these are just the people asking online!
Lots of people feel embarrassed asking about the pain because they don't want to seem like wimps. Just remember: everyone is nervous the first time!
My First Tattoo Experience
I had always been a huge fan of tattoos since I was really young, but never got around to actually having one of my own because I was just too scared. Seriously!
I wasn't afraid of the pain, either—I was anxious about the situation itself. I didn't know what to expect at all, and nothing was helping me. Articles I read on the Internet preached "know what you want because it'll be on your body forever," blah blah blah, "don't pick at it afterwards," more blah blah blah.
I knew exactly what I wanted, where I wanted it, and all that. I was only slightly anxious about the pain factor, but I was more concerned with what to wear, if my artist was going to be mean or rude, if I would jump or twitch when the needle first hit my skin, and if I would faint. So many things were running through my head and they kept me up at night all week.
You can read about my own personal experience below. For yours, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
What to Expect for Your First Tattoo
- If you've even got a bit of fuzz, you'll have to either shave it yourself or get it shaved. It's not a big deal, and nobody even thinks about it!
- Your artist may be a bit geeky or awkward, but should never be mean or snobby. If you feel uncomfortable with him/her in any way, don't feel like you need to go through with the process.
- You won't jump when the needle first hits your skin. It may make you feel uncomfortable or annoyed, but it's not a pain that will cause you to embarrass yourself by jumping ten feet high. When the needle first touches your skin it's a slow pain, not a sudden one.
- People don't pass out from pain. They pass out from not eating and resting properly before getting ink done! Having a celebratory feast and nap beforehand will let you handle trauma on your body like a champ!
- Tattoo artists and other people in the shops couldn't care less about what you're doing unless it affects their work (or others'). You're not the first person to be nervous, and you're not the last.
- Your skin gets oiled up so the needle glides over it smoothly! That way it doesn't feel like a jackhammer trying to get to the center of the earth.
- You can talk to your artist about how you're feeling if it makes you feel better. Unless s/he's a total jerk (see above), s/he understands and will try to make you feel comfortable.
- You may not be able to "think about something else" while the needles are going into your skin. However, it helps to keep your eyes moving. Count tiles, look at floor stains, your artist's shoes, whatever keeps you engaged.
- An artist's hand shouldn't be heavy. The needles are only going in your skin 1/16th of an inch! You've gotten paper cuts much deeper than that and they didn't look cool for the rest of your life.
- Some parts are more painful than others. It's okay that it hurts! But, the needle won't be there forever. The artist will eventually move on to another place.
- Because the pain transfers, it's new everywhere it goes. This is actually quite refreshing! When you think you can't stand it anymore, it's over.
- Time passes more quickly than you'd think. You always hear horror stories about eight-hour tattoos and, unless you're getting a huge piece yourself, yours won't be the same.
The day I awaited with dread and excitement had arrived. I almost backed out but decided not to because the ink was a birthday gift. Nothing anyone said could calm me down inside. Hearing things like, "it's worth it in the end!" didn't make a single dent in my anxiety.
I was on high alert when I stepped inside the parlor. It was clean inside and everyone was really nice, but my heart was still beating out of my chest. I just wanted to get it over with, but I had to wait twenty minutes or so before getting called back.
When I was walking to the back of the parlor, I felt like I was walking to my execution. I looked around, wishing I could be the tattoo artist, or the guy at the counter, or the guy in the waiting room. Anyone who wasn't me!
I got the temporary purple tattoo and decided the placement was even. Now, it was time for the real thing.
I lie face-down on the bed (since I was getting mine on my back). I told my artist that it was my first one and I was nervous. He told me it wouldn't be "that bad," which of course went in one ear and out the other. I waited anxiously as he prepared his tools.
When I heard the buzz of the tattoo gun, I knew there was no turning back. I held onto one of the legs of the bed beneath me so tightly that I think my fingers turned purple. My breath caught as I felt the needle descend upon my back . . . and I let out a sigh.
"Really?" I asked no one in particular. I quietly cursed myself. I realized at that moment the panic and anxiety before the tattoo was the scariest part! During the process, my endorphins never kicked in like everyone swore they would. They kicked in afterwards. When I was all finished, I was giggly and jumping around like a madwoman. I survived! And I loved it! That was truly unexpected.
Your First Tattoo
Your experience may be exactly like mine. You may be wracking your own nerves, making yourself ill with worst-case scenarios, or you might just get nervous when you're on the chair waiting. You might think the needle feels like someone giving you a luxurious, rough back scratch . . . or you could fall asleep from boredom.
You could cry and faint, or you might think the pain feels wonderful. You won't know until you experience it for yourself.
Where do you think would be the most painful spot to get a tattoo?
The anticipation is probably the worst part of the whole process. Nightmare scenarios are pretty powerful, especially when you have no frame of reference.
Don't ever let fear and anxiety rob you of the opportunity to get something that you really want. After you've gotten your first one, you'll feel liberated and exhilarated!