If you’ve ever experienced the excruciating pain of getting a bikini wax while on your period, you might guess that getting a tattoo during that time of the month might also prove to be pretty high on the pain scale—and you’d be right. Word to the wise: factor in your menstrual cycle when booking an appointment for your new body ink to avoid making an already painful experience even less enjoyable. Read on to find out what you should know before getting tattooed during or before your period.
Is Getting a Tattoo While on Your Period OK?
On a basic level, being on your menstrual period will not affect your tattoo, and a tattoo will not affect your period. As an adult, you’ve learned to persevere through the inconvenience of menstruating and hardly let your cycle hold you back from living your life. So if it was a struggle to secure time on your tattoo artist’s books, don’t let your period be the reason why you cancel your appointment. However, if you can avoid scheduling a tattoo session during that fateful week, do so for two main reasons: potentially heightened sensitivity during your period and conflict with pain medications taken for menstrual cramps or otherwise.
Pain Tolerance When on Your Period
According to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, during your period, your hormone levels are shifted and you generally have more swelling throughout your body, which can cause a heightened sensation threshold and result in more pain during something like a tattoo. If you're already cramping and uncomfortable, the last thing you want is to add the discomfort of getting a tattoo on top of that. Also, think about the part of your body you’re wanting to tattoo. If it’s an especially sensitive area, you likely won’t want the added pain of inflammation to make things worse. If you’ve had a tattoo before, consider how much pain you felt during the previous session and whether you could handle a little more sting or not.
Meet the Expert
Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of NYC-based Entière Dermatology.
How Medications and Herbal Supplements Affect Tattoos
While your period might not directly affect your tattoo, supplements or medications you could be taking to suppress the discomfort of period cramps very well could. Over-the-counter pain medications commonly used for menstrual cramps, such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen, can thin your blood and inhibit its ability to clot, which could lead to more bleeding. In general, be aware of any blood-thinning medications you currently take, and consult your doctor prior to your tattoo appointment for guidance on how far in advance to cease taking certain medications.
If you take herbal supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, ginger, and garlic, be aware that these also can reduce clotting and should be avoided when getting a tattoo. Additionally, alcohol has the ability to thin blood, so add that to your list of things to refrain from using right before or after you get a tattoo.
Harvard Health Publishing. Bad mix: blood thinners and NSAIDs. Updated December 16, 2019.
Abebe W. Review of herbal medications with the potential to cause bleeding: dental implications, and risk prediction and prevention avenues. EPMA J. 2019;10(1):51-64. doi:10.1007/s13167-018-0158-2