Questions About Your First Wrist Tattoo

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Wrist tattoos make an eye-catching statement. Where better to put your first tattoo? This placement provides you the daily opportunity to see your design in all sorts of situations, from shaking a hand to wearing a tank top in the summer's heat.

What is there to consider with a tattoo that will be on display for the world to see? We contacted professional tattoo artists Eva Karabudak and Nick the Tailor, to get the scoop on everything related to wrist tattoos. Keep reading to brush up on what to know before you schedule an appointment with an artist.

Meet the Expert

How Much Do Wrist Tattoos Hurt?

Tattoos never feel great, and the wrist won't be an exception. "As a general rule of thumb, areas that are closer to the bone or joints will be more painful," says Karabudak. The wrist is one of the most frequently used joints in the entire body; go ahead, try and see how long you can go before flexing it (we'll wait).

Nick agrees but emphasizes that it's not the worst place you could put your new ink. "In terms of pain, the chest and the ribs are the worst. If those are a 10 on the scale, I would say most places on the wrist will be a two, with the area near the palm being more like a four." Pain is anything but objective, though, so consider your typical threshold for discomfort when considering a wrist tattoo.

Minimize pain by eating a meal before your tattoo session. Low blood sugar increases pain sensitivity.

What are the Most Painful Wrist Tattoo Spots?

As we've mentioned, the closer to the actual wrist joint your tattoo is, the more sensitive the area will be. "The inner wrist near the palm is going to be the most sensitive," says Nick. Kabadurbak agrees, noting that this spot "can be one of the more painful ones on the body."

Conversely, the outer or inner sides of the wrist, or the top of the wrist, won't be as bad in comparison. If you're set on the inside wrist for placement, though, don't despair. "I generally recommend going [up the arm] 1.5 to 2 inches to avoid [this issue]," says Nick.

Tips For Getting A Wrist Tattoo

closeup of tattooed arms


Other factors you will want to consider when it comes to a wrist tattoo include the following:

  • Design intricacy: "[The inner wrist] can be problematic for detailed designs because of the wrinkles from bending your wrist," says Nick. A simple design may be more realistic for this area.
  • Length of an appointment: Depending on the detail you want, it might be necessary to break your tattoo up into two separate appointments. "Skin can be damaged if an artist works in a concentrated area for too long," says Karabudak. "Additionally, swelling can inhibit the skin's ability to retain ink."
  • Artist style: There are as many tattoo styles as artists, so make sure to do your research thoroughly before calling up to make an appointment. Karabudak says the collaboration with a client is part of the fun to create a one-of-a-kind design. "Part of the beauty of this industry is that everyone is still an artist at the end of the day. Many have their own style that they can incorporate into your design to collaborate and create a truly unique result."
  • Studio cleanliness: The shop of your choice should meet all health department requirements for sanitation. Needles and any other implements should be in sealed, sterile packages until they're opened to use on you while you're in the chair. Your artist should also wear sterile gloves while working.

"Don't wear a tight bracelet before a wrist tattoo," advises Nick. "It can make indentations in the skin, and the stencil won't lay flat."

How Much Does A Wrist Tattoo Cost?

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this question. Pricing will vary depending on the design of the tattoo, the artist, and geographic location. A newer artist in an area with a low cost-of-living might charge $80-$100 for small work, suggests Nick. Karabudak says her studio's minimum is $300 for a wrist piece. Expect to spend at least $100 for a quality piece of work (not including an artist's tip).

How to Care for a Wrist Tattoo

Each artist will have different suggestions for aftercare, but generally, the key practices remain the same, regardless of tattoo location: keep the tattoo clean using gentle soap; avoid itching or picking at the tattoo during the healing process; keep the skin moisturized and apply SPF liberally whenever the tattoo is exposed to the sun—which will be more often than not, with a wrist tattoo.

Additionally, wrist tattoos require a little extra monitoring because of the high-motion nature of the area. "We recommend keeping a close eye on how often the area is in contact with surfaces and doing your best to avoid unnecessary contact or flexing," recommends Karabudak. "High-motion areas are more prone to abrasion and infection due to consistent contact and flexing."

The Takeaway

Wrist tattoos are a personality stamp for everyone to see. If you're ready to take the plunge, do your research, prepare for your appointment, and take aftercare seriously to make sure your new ink stays beautiful on the inside or outside of your wrist.

Article Sources
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  1. Gibbons CH, Adler GK, Bonyhay I, Freeman R. Experimental hypoglycemia is a human model of stress-induced hyperalgesiaPain. 2012;153(11):2204-2209. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2012.06.030

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