This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Tattoos, famously, are permanent. Well, they are unless you buy a bunch of fake ones to see what it's like to live with Post Malone's face for a day, or practice stick 'n' poking your zodiac constellation on your ankle so poorly it falls out after two weeks.
The other thing about tattoos: they hurt. Not terribly, or else millions upon millions of people wouldn't have them. But a tattoo gun pierces your skin anywhere from between 50 and 3000 times a minute, and each square centimeter of skin contains over 150 nerve endings, and the needle has to puncture through to the dermis layer. So, yeah. It's not exactly a soft tissue massage.
But where is it most and least painful to get a tattoo? Splitting the body into four sections, I spoke to two tattoo artists to hear their thoughts.
Head and Neck
Based on what I know about falling over as a kid and landing on my head, it seems that getting a tattoo there would also be pretty painful. Poppy Segger, a 23-year-old tattoo artist who's appeared on BBC3's A Tattoo to Change Your Life, tells me more. “My throat and the back of my head were really painful; It was a sharp and hot pain,” she says. “The head, not so much—it was much less sensitive for me. But my tattoos are small and on my face, generally quite easy to cope with.”
However, Keely Rutherford, a 35-year-old tattoo artist from London, believes the top of the head is the worst. “I haven’t had much experience tattooing actual heads, but from seeing some friends have theirs done, the top seams pretty brutal but not so bad around the sides.”
Both agree on one thing: the lower neck, which was “pretty rough” for Rutherford and “horrendous” for Segger.
If your pain threshold isn't very high, it might be worth holding off with that huge Minas Tirith-inspired castle you want blasted across your chest. Both Segger and Rutherford think the chest area kills. “Mine sucked. I think most people would agree. When I was getting my sternum done, I felt like I was being sliced open,” Rutherford says. Lovely.
Similarly, Segger tells me that “generally speaking, anything on the torso, back, or front, is going to suck. Nearly my entire torso is covered, and I’d say inside the belly button is pretty gross and my back was all pretty painful.”
Segger points out that certain areas may be more painful for women, too. “I’ve had lots done on my chest, and for women, the breast area can be really quite painful. Generally speaking, I find men sit better with torsos when I tattoo them.”
The arms, it seems, are the most sensible place to dip your toe in. “Arms are pretty chilled apart from the inner bicep and elbow; the rest is fine,” Rutherford says. Segger agrees: “Arms are generally a good place to start when getting tattooed; it's a very common place for one to get their first tattoo.”
Armpits can be a killer though. “Close to and inside the armpit can get a little spicy,” Segger says, while Rutherford agrees that while “the actual armpit is fine, it’s the ring right around it that sucks!”
For Segger at least, the wrist was a nightmare. “I have to say personally my most painful tattoo I’ve ever had was my wrists, and I’ve had both arms fully covered! Not a very common complaint, but for me it was like someone cutting my hands off at the joint. Sickening!”
While men may have lucked out with chest area, Segger says that they're not so fortunate on the leg: “Most women have an easier time getting their shins tattooed than men—their leg shapes are different." There is one place, however, where all shall suffer.
“Butt cheeks are deceiving," Segger warns. "Many people think this won’t be so bad, I’ve got a fair amount of meat there! But this isn’t usually the case, it’s sensitive and sore, especially where the bum cheek meets the upper thigh."
Or, as Rutherford put it when I asked which spot was the most painful: “The butt! Fuck. You can’t stop tensing it!"
What it All Means
In conclusion, everywhere has the potential to be sore. Skin type and body type are among the variables that can have an effect on how well you hack it. “Every person is different when it comes to pain," Segger says, "Tolerances and thresholds vary from person to person. Even sometimes factors such as age and sex can contribute, in general terms.”
No matter how old or thin-skinned you are, though, you can bet that getting a half a rose garden buzzed into you with a needle is going to absolutely wreck your ass.
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