Tattoo Removal

Most and Least Painful Places to Get Tattooed

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Published: 02.22.2024

Does it hurt to get tattooed? Absolutely! Tattooing involves injecting tiny, ink-filled needles thousands of times into the skin. So, even if you have a high pain tolerance, there is no way to avoid some discomfort while getting inked. Are you wondering what is the most and least painful place to get tattooed? Let’s review the most popular spots on the body to get inked and where they fall on the tattoo pain scale.

While everyone manages pain differently, there are body parts that are more painful to get tattooed than others. For example, spots with thin skin and lots of bone are definitely going to hurt more than fattier areas. So, If you are worried about handling the pain while getting tattooed or plan to go under the tattoo needle for the first time, pick a less painful place to get tattooed, like the arm or back.

Most Painful Places to Get Tattooed

You might be surprised to learn that some of the most popular spots to get tattooed, like hands, feet, and abdomen, are also the most painful spots to get inked. Factors like skin thickness, lack of fat, proximity to bones and tendons, and number of nerve endings all contribute to a higher level of pain while getting tattooed. 


The top of the foot is a popular place to get tattooed. It’s easy to show off your ink with sandals and even easier to conceal with an enclosed shoe. However, the foot poses many tattoo challenges, especially related to pain. The foot has tons of bones and tendons, and the skin is extremely thin. As a result, foot tattoos rate relatively high on the pain scale. In addition, the curves and indents on the foot make it difficult for tattoo artists to draw a clean line. Sensitive nerve endings can cause pain spasms, making it challenging for most people to sit still while getting inked.


The rib cage is arguably the worst place on the body to get your first tattoo. Many people with tattoos rate the ribs as the most painful area to get inked. There are several reasons for the intense pain.

The skin over the ribs is very thin and rests directly over the bone, offering no cushion between the needle and the rib cage. Moreover, the rib cage expands and contracts as you breathe, making it more difficult for the tattoo artist to keep line work steady and a more uncomfortable tattooing experience for you.


Fingers are made up of bones, tendons, and joints. There is minimal fat in the fingers and lots of nerve endings. This combination equates to a very painful spot to get tattooed. It is normal to experience uncontrollable shaking or spasming during a hand or finger tattoo, so many tattoo artists don’t recommend the hand for a first tattoo. 


Bundles of nerves wind throughout the groin area. So, while there is less bone and more fat in this area of the body compared to the feet, hands, and ribs, getting tattooed on the grain is still an intense experience. Nerve endings can send pain signals throughout the body, so getting inked in the groin or genital area might radiate discomfort everywhere. 


The skin over the head is thin and stretched tight against bone. An array of blood vessels and nerve endings are very sensitive to tattoo needle pricks. Unfortunately, there isn’t much fat to act as a barrier, so avoiding tattoo pain on the head is impossible.

When people think of head tattoos, images of teardrops by the eye or script on the temple might come to mind. But head tattoos also include permanent makeup like the eyebrows and lips. While this style of ink is marketed as cosmetic, it is incredibly painful and usually requires a local anesthetic to sit through getting tattooed. 


Many tattoo artists refuse to tattoo the armpits. Why? Pain and prolonged healing. A highly sensitive and critical nerve called the axillary nerve runs through the armpit and connects to the arm and shoulder. The axillary nerve gives sensation and movement to this entire part of the body, so pain while getting tattooed can radiate throughout the upper torso. In addition, the lymph nodes and glands in the armpit can add discomfort while getting tattooed and delay the healing process. 

Least Painful Places to Get Tattooed

Getting tattooed on the arm and upper back is only moderately painful compared to the head, armpit, and rib cage. While you should still expect to feel much discomfort, getting inked in these areas is tolerable for most people. As a result, the forearm, outer thigh, and upper back are highly recommended for your first tattoo.  


The forearm is one of the least sensitive places to get tattooed. There is fat, thick skin, and few nerve endings, giving it a low score on the tattoo pain chart. However, as you get close to the wrist or elbow, it becomes more uncomfortable to get tattooed. If you want the least painful tattoo possible, consider centering the artwork on the forearm and picking a design that can be completed in under an hour. 

Upper Back

The upper back is also rated as one of the least painful tattoo locations. The skin there is thick, and there is plenty of cushion between skin and bone. For the least painful tattooing experience, don’t pick a design with heavy detail on the spine and keep it under the neck. While the shoulder is bony, this spot is also relatively easy to get tattooed.

Outer Arm

If you are looking to avoid pain, getting tattooed on the outer bicep is an excellent choice. The upper arm has a good amount of fat and minimal blood vessels, making it an ideal spot for a tattoo. The longer you are under the needle, the more discomfort you will feel, so choosing a small and simple design makes getting a tattoo on the outer arm even more manageable.


Calves are packed with muscle, so you might expect this spot on the body to hurt, but getting tattooed on the calves rates low on the tattoo pain scale. Instead of being super sensitive, the muscles in the calves act like a barrier and help absorb the impact of the tattoo gun needle. 

Outer Thighs

Much like the calves, the thighs have a lot of muscle. In addition, the upper leg tends to harbor fat. As a result, there is a lot of cushion between the tattoo needle and nerves. If you have your eye on a large, heavily detailed tattoo design and want the option to conceal ink easily with clothing, the outer thigh is the perfect spot!

Factors that Affect Tattoo Pain

Tattoos feel differently to each person. There is no way to predict how you will react to getting tattooed, so the best course of action is to start small and on the least painful tattoo location, like the arm or back. However, it is universally agreed that spots like the ribs and head are excruciatingly painful. Why do some body parts hurt more than others to get tattooed? 

  • Fat – Areas with more fat are less painful to get tattooed. The fat acts like a cushion between the skin and nerves, numbing the sensation of the needle.
  • Skin Thickness – The head and top of the foot have very thin skin. That means there is little blocking the needle from nerves, blood vessels, or bones. As a result, body parts with thick skin are the least painful tattoo locations. 
  • Nerves – Nerves communicate sensations to the brain, including pain. The more concentrated the nerves, the more painful it will be to tattoo.
  • Scarring – Damaged skin is more sensitive than healthy skin. As a result, getting tattooed over stretch marks and scars is very painful.
  • Age – Older skin is more susceptible to bruising than young skin. It is also more sensitive to pain because the skin thins with age. 
  • Bone – If you want to avoid intense pain, don’t get tattooed directly over a bone. Instead, choose a spot that has layers of fat and muscle.

How Much Does Tattoo Removal Hurt In Comparison to Getting a Tattoo

Getting a tattoo is painful, so does tattoo removal hurt, too? The general rule is that laser tattoo removal hurts just as much as getting tattooed. The least painful tattoo locations are also the least painful tattoo removal locations. However, that means painful tattoo spots like the ribs and head are also very uncomfortable to remove.

But don’t let the risk of pain deter you from getting rid of unwanted ink! Laser tattoo removal clinics help clients manage pain through cooling therapy and ice. In addition, laser tattoo removal sessions are typically under 15 minutes. The pain is only temporary, and recovery time involves minimal discomfort. 

Find Out More About Tattoo Removal

Is the fear of pain holding you back from getting a tattoo removed? Don’t live with an unwanted tattoo because of a few minutes of discomfort. Laser tattoo removal clinics like Removery make getting rid of a lousy tattoo as painless as possible. 

Start your tattoo removal journey with a free consultation at a Removery clinic. Their experienced staff will design a custom treatment plan to help you meet your tattoo goals. Whether you want to say goodbye to ink for good or need to fade an old tattoo in preparation for a cover-up, Removery has a solution! 

Removery clinics have the best laser and cooling technology, producing award-winning results with minimal discomfort. Most laser tattoo removal sessions last 15-30 minutes with no downtime for recovery. So, no matter how busy your schedule is, there is always time for tattoo removal! Contact a Removery tattoo removal clinic near you to explore treatment options and payment plans.

Carmen VanderHeiden Brodie Carmen Brodie VP Clinical Operations

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