Why Does My Tattoo Sting?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: December 30, 2020

No one is immune to pain after getting a tattoo. Stinging is usually intense pain that happens while the artist is tattooing, as well as after the work is complete. Since tattoos are open wounds, your body will naturally react to the wound or injury with bouts of pain and discomfort.

Stinging, itching and irritation are normal symptoms as the skin becomes tender. After the procedure, you will experience mild swelling, slight redness, flaking and soreness, regardless of what you do. There are, however, one or two ways to tone down those painful stinging sensations and make the tattooing process more comfortable.


Stinging During The Tattoo

A tattoo is a painful procedure; there is no way around that. The procedure involves using a sharp needle to repeatedly pierce your skin’s top layer. The needle has to get in deep enough to avoid the ink being washed away. The artists will work close to the skin’s pain receptors, which is why it gets so painful.

Some body parts are more pain-sensitive and will sting more. Pain from tattoos is likely to worsen on the neck, back of your knees, ribs, ankles, wrists and biceps.  These areas have a high level of nerve endings and little fat deposits. You can determine which area of the body is sensitive to pain using a pinch test, where you pinch yourself with your fingernails to determine the level of pain.

What To Know Before Getting Tattooed

Before getting a tattoo, you need to know the design you want and where you want it placed. While knowing the design is important, where it is placed determines how you will feel during the procedure, and several days after. The amount a tattoo stings will vary depending on factors such as the size of the tattoo, placement, experience, age and weight.

Smaller tattoos done on fleshier parts of the body will hurt less than larger tattoos, or ones performed over bony areas containing less fat. Also, women often experience pain sensations more intensely than men, while age and weight can create different levels of pain. Furthermore, individuals with other tattoos may have a higher pain threshold. If you are worried about the pain, you may opt for a smaller tattoo for a less painful experience.

For people wanting a little extra assistance for dealing with the pain, a good tattoo numbing cream can really help to take the edge off.

One of the most effective tattoo numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions supplied with the cream and apply shortly before your tattoo appointment is due to begin so that you can look forward to a less painful and more comfortable tattooing experience. The amount of cream you get in a tube also ensures you have more than enough for a large tattoo.

Stinging After A Tattoo

While tattoo pain is almost guaranteed during the procedure, there are some steps you can take to reduce the pain you feel in the days following your appointment.

In most cases, a tattoo will continue to sting for a day or two regardless of what you try to do to prevent it. From then on, it will begin to get easier and more comfortable. The artist will give you detailed instructions on how to take care of the tattoo, including staying out of the sun, staying out of bodies of water, cleaning and moisturizing. These are all important steps to take if you want your tattoo to stop stinging as quickly as possible.

Drinking plenty of water following the procedure can hydrate the skin and therefore, speed up the healing process. Some people may take painkillers to reduce the pain, though this doesn’t work all day. Drinking alcohol is not recommended since it can actually heighten pain sensors in many instances, potentially making the stinging sensation even worse.

You should also get a tattoo when you are entirely healthy to reduce the healing time. If your body is compromised from an illness, it will not handle the tattoo healing process well, which means the pain could become worse than it normally would be.

There is no straightforward recommendation for dealing with a stinging tattoo. In most cases, you have to handle the pain for a few days before it goes away.

When Burning Becomes A Concern

Although uncommon, a tattoo can become infected during the healing process, especially if you don’t follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions, or if you were tattooed in an unsanitary environment.

If your tattoo begins to sting to the point where it becomes extremely uncomfortable, or if the stinging is accompanied by extreme swelling, worsening redness, prolonged oozing or flu-like symptoms, then it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, as you may have an infection.

Tattoo ink allergies can also cause stinging sensations around the affected skin. If you develop a skin rash or hives around the tattoo along with intense itching or irritation, then you may need to seek medical advice for a potential allergic reaction. These reactions are especially common when red tattoo ink has been used.

How Long Does a Tattoo Take to Heal?

Your tattoo will begin to complete its healing process after three-to-four weeks in a best-case scenario. In a perfect world, the tattoo pain will not last long; however, several factors come into play to determine how you will feel after getting the tattoo.

You should wash the wound twice daily with a gentle cleanser and pat it dry. After several days, the tattoo will start to dry out, tighten up and get a little itchy. You should not scratch the tattoo when it itches as this can remove the ink and interfere with the healing. Instead, continue washing the wound and add light layers of lotion to address the itch.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan 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.

It’s essential to stay clear of any strenuous activities that can cause excessive sweating to avoid fading, and stick to showers instead of baths. As the tattoo continues to heal, it will stop itching and the stinging sensation will begin to subside.