Can You Take Ibuprofen Or Painkillers Before Getting A Tattoo?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 10, 2016
    Last Updated: May 17, 2023

Although it would seem appropriate to take Ibuprofen or another type of painkiller before getting a tattoo to help dull the sting of the needles, they may, in some instances, actually cause further issues that can negatively affect the outcome of your tattoo.

While every tattoo will bleed at least a little bit during a sitting, taking painkillers can increase the chances of even more bleeding. This especially goes for other common painkilling drugs, such as Ibuprofen.

When being tattooed, the extremely sharp needles will be poking in and out of your skin that contains the tiny blood vessels grouped just below the skin’s surface. Normally, this isn’t too much of a problem as your body is naturally great at restricting any blood loss by clotting quickly.

However, when taking painkillers or Ibuprofen, your blood can become much thinner than usual. This thinning causes the normal clotting process to become less effective at blocking the blood flow, meaning a greater chance for the blood to leak out of the small gaps caused by the needles.

tattoo needles fear

While this will not likely be too much of an issue with smaller tattoos due to less damage being caused by the needles – a much larger tattoo can cause higher amounts of blood loss should the painkillers heavily affect the thinness of the blood. This heavier blood loss can lead to health complications.

Not only this, but some painkillers and aspirins can also affect the natural clotting process, meaning that while your blood will also be thinner, your body will have a doubly hard time at stopping the bleeding – and this can be dangerous if large amounts of blood are lost.

It is this heavier bleeding that can lead to problems occurring during the tattooing procedure. These problems include:

Impaired Vision

When your artist tattoos you, it’s imperative that they can see a clear outline of the stencil that they are tracing in order to place your tattoo exactly where it’s required.

However, if Ibuprofen or painkillers cause larger amounts of bleeding, this blood can leak and pool on top of the skin more than usual, preventing the artist from clearly seeing exactly where they should be tattooing.

Higher Prices

The more your skin bleeds around the tattoo, the more time your artist will need to constantly wipe away the excess blood. The more stopping and starting required, the longer the session will be overall.

Your artist will also likely need to work slower and more carefully in order to lessen the chances of a mistake being made if they need to tattoo through extra layers of blood pooling on the skin – and this will add on even more time.

If you’re paying for your tattoo by the hour, expect to pay roughly one hour more for a long session if you’re a heavy bleeder.

Possible Rejections

If your artist deems that there may be potential health risks involved due to the medication that you’ve been recently taking, it is well within their right to refuse to tattoo you.

Experienced artists can also be very good at telling if the heavy bleeding is caused by any underlying medical conditions or the taking of blood-thinning medication/drugs, so it’s always best to just be upfront about your current situation before beginning a tattooing session.

Increased Healing Times

Taking painkillers or Ibuprofen after getting a tattoo can also cause problems. After your tattooing session is complete, the inked area of skin can continue to bleed for up to two days.

However, if you continue to take any blood-thinning medication (or start drinking alcohol straight after your session), you can continue to bleed for longer periods of time, delaying healing times in the process.

Bloody Tattoo Wrap
A bit of blood under the wrap is completely normal

Painkillers Before Tattoos – What You Should Know

All medications are different, and various painkillers will have dithering effects on the body, and thus the amount that they affect the thinning of the blood will vary greatly also. For example, Tylenol will have much less of an impact on bleeding during a tattoo than other painkillers.

It is for this reason that you should always seek medical advice from a doctor before getting a tattoo if you are on any form of medication, to ensure the procedure will have no negative impact on your health.

It is also very advisable to speak to your tattoo artist beforehand and be upfront about all types of medication that you may currently be taking, including antibiotics. This is to ensure that the artist can prepare for any unusual side effects from your medication during the procedure.

Your artist may even refuse to tattoo you if they believe your medication may adversely affect either the outcome of the tattoo or your own general health. However, in these circumstances, it is always better to be safe than sorry.


While some painkillers may not cause blood thinning, you should always be aware of the side-effects that your medication may cause.

Many painkillers and Ibuprofen capsules can definitely increase the risk of heavier bleeding, and as discussed, this can have negative implications when it comes to getting a tattoo.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​

Be careful, be cautious, and hopefully you can go on to get the tattoo that you’ve always wanted.

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