What Spots are the Most Painful to Tattoo?

Updated 05/04/19

It's important that you don't let the fear of a painful tattoo process keep you from expressing your individuality with gorgeous new body art. Once you set your mind to it and prepare for the tattooing process, you'll find your body has the ability to withstand the pain under most circumstances. However, if you're already anticipating the pain of the tattoo machine, you may want to think twice before opting for a tattoo design on one of the following areas. Yes, the placement may be cool, but you'll pay a little more by way of pain. Some find the pain from tattoos easy and cathartic, but many don't, and just consider a little suffering worth it for body art. Due to the lack of body fat in these spots where tattoos hurt the most, you may want to consider how much pain you're willing to go through yourself.

01 of 05

Ribs

Pole dancer in pink pole outfit with a ribcage tattoo, leaning on the pole
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The rib cage offers up a beautiful spread of canvas perfect for cherry blossom tattoos, birds, and other sprawling designs, but it comes at a price. The thin skin on top of the ribs can cause quite a bit of a challenge in pain resistance for those being tattooed. You may find that starting small with, and then gradually adding to, a side rib cage design is the best way to test the waters before jumping in feet-first.

02 of 05

Behind the Ear

Paper crane tattoo behind a young blonde woman's ear
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Thanks to the thin and delicate skin around the, ear this area is a more sensitive choice. However, don't let that stop you from inking down an easy-to-conceal design. Whether it be a single feather, an insect, or a moon, your tattoo artist can help numb the potential pain with a specialized cream. However, keep in mind that it won't numb everything.

03 of 05

Top of the Foot

Feet in cuffed jeans with geographic tattoo on top of the right one
Yael Ekdesman/EyeEm/Getty Images

Ignoring the fact that many tattoo artists will not even work on the top of the foot due to uneven and poor healing results, the pain of this placement should be noted. The foot has a small distribution of body fat, so, like any places listed here, you'll feel much more of the process. But that doesn't mean vintage-looking cameos and rosaries won't always look gorgeous, so have at it if you would like.

04 of 05

Chest

Natural haired brown woman in a tube top with a tattoo across her chest and a lotus flower tattoo on her shoulder
 Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images

Chest tattoos are a popular choice for both men and women. Depending on your pain tolerance, your tattoo artist's schedule, and your patience, they can take years to complete—or they can be artfully inked within a session. Either way, most chest piece tattoos are going to be painful unless you have lots of body fat or muscle. If you're skinny or of small frame, be prepared to endure a little more, even.

05 of 05

Ankle

Two people with matching paper airplane tattoos putting their ankles next to each other
  PatriciaEnciso/Getty Images

Be it a small and concealable anklet or a piece that travels all the way up the leg, ankle tattoos can be painful, since there's really nothing there but bone. Delicate as they may seem, ankles pull their weight as one of the hurtful spots to ink regardless of their size.

If it's your first tattoo, and pain is a primary concern for you, opt for the fattier and more padded spots of your body instead.

A skilled tattoo artist can help you choose the best spot based on your body's fat distribution and anatomy. Consider the back, shoulder blades, calves, or arms for a first tattoo and you'll have a little bit of fat to pad the impact of the needle. 

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