Do Tattoos Increase or Decrease Skin Sensitivity?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 02, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Tattoos have become a popular form of self-expression, with more and more people opting to get inked every year. But with every tattoo, there’s also the question of how it might affect the skin. Whether it’s increased or decreased sensitivity, it’s important to understand the science behind tattoos and skin before making a permanent decision.

In this article, we’ll dive into tattoos and skin sensitivity, exploring the different factors that can impact the skin and how tattoos can either increase or decrease sensitivity.

Tattoos and Skin Sensitivity

Tattoos can have both positive and negative effects on skin sensitivity, depending on various factors such as the individual’s skin type, the type of ink used, and the technique used by the tattoo artist. While tattoos can lead to increased skin sensitivity due to factors such as inflammation and irritation caused by the tattooing process or an allergic reaction to the ink, they can also lead to decreased sensitivity due to desensitization of the skin or a reduction in nerve endings.

The Science Behind Tattoos and Skin Sensitivity

Beyond the artistic aspect of tattoos, there’s a scientific side to consider. One crucial factor to think about is how tattoos can impact skin sensitivity. Here’s a closer look at the science behind tattoos and skin sensitivity.

How Tattoos Work

A tattoo is created by inserting pigment into the dermis layer of the skin. This layer is located beneath the outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis. The pigment is placed in the skin using a tattoo machine, which makes thousands of tiny punctures per minute. The needle penetrates the skin, depositing the ink into the dermis, forming a permanent design.

The Nervous System and Skin Sensitivity

The nervous system plays a critical role in skin sensitivity. Nerves in the skin detect various stimuli, such as pressure, temperature, and pain. When the skin is injured, such as during the tattooing process, these nerves send signals to the brain, which responds by causing the skin to become sensitive.

Studies and Research on the Effect of Tattoos on Skin Sensitivity

Several studies and research projects have examined the impact of tattoos on skin sensitivity. These studies have investigated various factors, including the type of ink used, the individual’s skin type, and the location of the tattoo. The results of these studies are mixed and often inconclusive, as the impact of tattoos on skin sensitivity can vary significantly from person to person.

Tattoos and Increased Skin Sensitivity

The process of getting a tattoo can sometimes come with some unintended side effects, including increased skin sensitivity. Whether you are considering getting a tattoo for the first time or a seasoned ink aficionado, it’s essential to understand how tattoos can impact your skin.

Inflammation and Irritation Caused by the Tattooing Process

The process of getting a tattoo involves puncturing the skin thousands of times per minute, which can cause inflammation and irritation. The skin becomes red, swollen, and sore after the tattooing process, and these symptoms can last for several days or even a few weeks. The inflammation and irritation can be further exacerbated by improper aftercare, such as picking at the scabs or exposing the tattoo to bacteria.

Inflammation and irritation can also cause an increase in skin sensitivity, leading to discomfort and even pain when the skin is touched. This increased sensitivity can make it difficult to wear clothing or perform everyday activities, as even the slightest touch can be painful.

Allergic Reactions to the Ink or Other Tattoo-Related Products

Another way tattoos can increase skin sensitivity is through allergic reactions to the ink or other tattoo-related products. Some people are allergic to certain ingredients in tattoo inks, which can cause redness, itching, and even blistering at the tattoo site. In severe cases, an allergic reaction can lead to an infection, further increasing skin sensitivity and prolonging the healing process.

It’s important to choose a reputable tattoo artist who uses high-quality inks that are known to be safe and non-toxic. Additionally, be sure to inform your tattoo artist of any allergies or sensitivities you may have, so they can take the necessary precautions to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.

Compromised Skin Barrier Due to the Tattooing Process

Finally, the tattooing process can compromise the skin’s natural barrier, leading to increased skin sensitivity. The skin’s barrier helps to protect against bacteria and other harmful substances, and when this barrier is damaged, the skin becomes more susceptible to infection and other skin conditions.

Tattoos and Decreased Skin Sensitivity

While tattoos can cause increased skin sensitivity in some people, they can decrease skin sensitivity in others.

Desensitization of the Skin Due to Repeated Stimulation

Tattoos work by puncturing the skin with a needle and inserting pigment into the deeper layers of the skin. This repetitive process of stimulation can lead to a desensitization of the skin in the tattooed area. Over time, the skin becomes less sensitive to touch and pressure due to the repeated stimulation from the tattoo needle. This desensitization can be seen as a positive side effect for those with overly sensitive skin or those who have been previously tattooed and are looking to add to their existing tattoos.

Potential for Reduced Nerve Endings in the Tattooed Area

In rare cases, tattoos can lead to a reduction in nerve endings in the tattooed area. This effect on nerve endings can lead to a decreased sensitivity to touch and pressure.

This reduction in nerve endings is because the tattoo needle punctures the skin and affects the underlying nerve endings.

Minimizing the Risk of Tattoos Affecting Skin Sensitivity

Getting a tattoo is a significant investment in time, money, and skin, and it’s essential to minimize the risk of tattoos affecting skin sensitivity. Here are some practical tips to consider:

Choose a Reputable Tattoo Artist

The first step in minimizing the risk of tattoos affecting skin sensitivity is to choose a reputable tattoo artist with experience and training in using sterile equipment and following proper aftercare protocols. Look for an artist with a good reputation and a portfolio that showcases their work. It’s also a good idea to ask for referrals from friends or family who have had positive experiences with their tattoos.

Research the Ink

The quality of the ink used can have a significant impact on skin sensitivity. Choose a reputable brand of ink that is specifically designed for tattoos and has been tested for quality and safety. Ensure that the artist uses fresh ink for each session, and that it is stored and used properly to minimize the risk of contamination.

Patch Test the Ink

If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies, consider patch testing the ink before getting the tattoo. This involves applying a small amount of ink to a hidden area of skin to observe if any adverse reactions occur. This can help identify any potential allergies or sensitivities to the ink before undergoing the full tattoo process.

Proper Aftercare

During the healing process, it’s essential to keep the tattooed area clean and moisturized. This helps to reduce the risk of infection, scarring, and other complications that can affect skin sensitivity. Follow the aftercare instructions provided by the tattoo artist and avoid using products that may cause irritation or dryness.

Protect from Sun Exposure

Excessive sun exposure can increase skin sensitivity and cause the tattoo to fade over time. It’s important to protect the tattooed area from the sun by wearing clothing that covers the area, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and seeking shade when possible.

Be Mindful of Physical Activities

Physical activities such as sports or heavy lifting can cause friction or pressure on the tattooed area, which can affect skin sensitivity. It’s important to be mindful of the type and frequency of physical activities during the healing process and to avoid activities that may cause excessive stress on the tattooed area.

Seek Medical Attention

If you experience any unusual symptoms or reactions to the tattoo, such as severe itching, redness, blistering, or infection, it’s important to seek medical attention promptly. Early treatment can help minimize the risk of long-term damage and promote the healing process.

By following these tips, you can minimize the risk of tattoos affecting skin sensitivity and enjoy your tattoo for years to come.


Tattoos and skin sensitivity are intertwined, and it’s essential to understand the ways in which tattoos can affect the skin. Whether it’s increased or decreased sensitivity, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and consult with a professional tattoo artist who can guide you in making an informed decision. With tattoos being a permanent form of self-expression, it’s important to consider the long-term effects on the skin and ensure that you’re making a decision that’s right for you.

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