Tattoos can be a form of self-expression, a tribute to something we hold dear, a way to commemorate a milestone, or just a really cool piece of body art. When planning your tattoo and its placement, many people think purely about aesthetic -- where will it look the best? Do you want to show it off or be able to easily hide it?

While making your placement complement the design is important, you might also want to consider how much pain certain areas of your body undergo during the tattooing process. If you don't handle pain well, you might want to stay away from the more painful areas -- you don't want to walk blindly into your first tattoo appointment and ask for a surprisingly painful back tat (speaking from experience).

Here are some of the most painful places to get tatted up:

Head And Face

You know those cute little tattoos tucked behind peoples' ear? They're a lot more painful than you'd think.

According to Inked Magazine, head tattoos are particularly rough not only because of the little protection your skull has from the needle but because of the constant vibrations from the tattoo machine. Fredrik Glimskär, founder, and CEO of online tattoo marketplace Inkbay, told Cosmopolitan that these vibrations can cause a psychological stress for head tattoos as well.

"Not only is it painful because of the lack of fat and abundance of nerves here, but apparently the noise and vibration is a little scary -- if can feel like they are drilling on your skull," Glimskär said.

hamsa @nourtini #jonboytattoo

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Included in skull tattoos are face tats, which are not for the faint of heart. Like head tattoos, getting your face tattooed is extremely painful because of the lack of protective fat and the plethora of nerve endings. It's not an ideal combination, especially on the face's T-zone across your brow and down your nose.

Back And Neck

Tattoos on your back and back of the neck are popular because they are so easy to conceal, but they are one of the most painful places to tattoo, according to Inked Magazine.

The spine has a lot to do with how painful this region is -- the closer to your spine, the more painful the tattoo becomes. This is because of your sensitive vertebrae that are bony and filled with nerves. Even if you stay away from your spine and tattoo the back of your shoulders, the needle will still send vibrating chills up and down your back that are very unpleasant.


When it comes to tattoo pain, anything between your neck and pelvis is dicey. According to POPSUGAR, there are four major areas of pain to take into account when planning a torso tat:

Collar Bone

Though tracing the clavicle makes for a gorgeous design placement, brace yourself. Your collar bones prominently stick out of your body and are only covered in a thin layer of skin, which makes them very sensitive areas to tattoo.


Similarly to the collarbone, the sternum is a large bone that is void of fat protection. Whether you get a large decorative design a la Lena Dunham or a smaller, subtler image, this placement is only for people who can handle a lot of pain.


The ribcage is perhaps the most notorious places of tattooing pain, but arguably one of the most popular locations for people to get inked. Your ribs are merely skin and bone, which means you really feel the scratching of the needle.

Tattoo by Terence @t.radz

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Lower Abdomen

This one might be a bit more of a surprise because your lower abdomen is much more fleshy than your upper torso. However, the skin in this area is very sensitive and, when tattooed, can often have a strong, painful burning sensation.

Though these are some of the places with the most intense pain, there are many other places on the body where tattoos tend to cause pain and irritability, including the inner thighs, armpits, kneecaps, hands and feet.

Though pain is different for everyone, if you don't have a high tolerance (think: Phoebe Buffay), areas such as the side of your shoulders, outer forearms, outer calves and outer thighs are all fleshy enough that you can avoid a large amount of pain, so plan accordingly.

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