Are ear tattoos a bad idea? How does it hurt and is it professional?


Not many clients ask about an ear tattoo, the main reason for that can be that the area around the ear is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Tattooing this area can be an extremely painful experience. Another reason is that tattooing your ear can actually cause temporary jaw lock, headaches, and migraines, unlike other body parts. 

Most artists will tell you that ear tattoos are a bad idea because tattooing your ear can cause a temporary jaw lock, headaches, and sometimes migraines. A tattooed ear requires also a lot of caution when you are taking a shower, your ear tattoo should not have contact with shampoo.

But what else should you know before you will decide that you want to have a tattoo on or behind your ear? 

idea for women ear tattoo
Ear tattoo for women, idea from www.yeslip.com

What answers you will find in this article about a tattoo on the ear?

  • Do ear tattoo fade easily?
  • How long does it take for a behind the ear tattoo to heal?
  • Can you reduce the healing time of ear tattoos?
  • Are ear tattoos a bad idea?
  • How bad do ear tattoos hurt?
  • Do ear tattoo blowout?
  • Are behind the ear tattoos easy to hide?
  • Is a tattoo behind the ear unprofessional?
  • How do you shower with a tattoo behind your ear?
  • Can I wash my hair after getting a tattoo behind my ear?
  • How can I ease the pain of getting a tattoo behind the ear? 16 things you can do.
  • Can you get a tattoo if you just got a piercing?
  • What hurts worse – ear-piercing or tattoo?
  • Can you go in the sun after an ear tattoo?
  • How do you sleep with a newly tattooed ear?
  • A tattoo behind ear aftercare.

If you are looking for inspiration before your ear tattoo, check out my portfolio – you can find my works and projects here – on Instagram.

Inspirations for small ear tattoos

Small ear tattoo ideas
Small ear tattoo ideas, inspiration from www.kobieta.pl and www.styl.fm

This location is great for a small tattoo, for some ideas you can have a look at those two books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, both are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic version (links below):

Do ear tattoos fade easily?

Ear tattoo fading can be a problem when the tattoo was not done correctly or when during the healing process you are not cautious.

As a general rule, ear tattoos do not fade quicker than tattoos in other areas. Especially if you care for them correctly when they are fresh. That can be hard at the beginning, especially to keep your ears dry when washing your hair, but it is essential to make sure that the ear tattoo will not fade.

Also later, when a tattoo on your ear will be healed, make sure that you will use proper sunscreen when you will be going out in the heavy sun to make sure that it will last longer and not fade so fast. 

tattoo on the ear faded
Faded tattoo on the ear, inspiration from news.bme.com

How long does it take for a behind the ear tattoo to heal?

It will take 3-4 weeks for your tattoo on or behind your ear to completely heal. After-care is important to ensure the tattoo heals properly and your color doesn’t fade, so follow the instructions from your tattoo artists and make sure that you take proper care of your new tattoo. 

behind the ear for women tattoo
A tattoo behind the ear, inspiration from Pinterest, a profile of Conor Smylie

For proper aftercare, I usually recommend one of those two tattoo aftercare balms – INKorporated Tattoo Lotion or Mad Rabbit Tattoo Balm & Aftercare Cream (through those links you can find both of them on Amazon).

Can you reduce the healing time of ear tattoos?

speed up ear tattoo healing

Your ear tattoo will need those 3-4 weeks to heal, but you can make sure that it will not be longer, there are some small things that can speed up the healing process a bit.

Cover tattoo with hair if possible to block sunlight exposure

Fresh tattoos are especially sensitive to the sun, which can cause them to fade faster. If you can cover somehow your ear tattoo to keep it out of the sun, that would be perfect. Remember also not to apply sunscreen until the tattoo has fully healed.

Do not use a bandage or plastic wrap to cover the tattoo

Just after the tattooing session, your artist will cover the tattoo, usually with thin plastic wrap. When you will remove it after 3-4 days, it’s best not to cover it again. Wrapping the tattoo can result in extra moisture and reduced oxygen access, which can cause scabbing and slow healing.

Make sure to clean fresh tattoo daily

Remember to use warm, but not hot water. If the temperature will be too high, it might hurt your skin and open pores, which can result in ink drawing inwards. Water that you would be using should be also sterile, it is also important to clean your hands properly, preferably with an antibacterial soap.

When you are ready, splash water gently on the tattoo, apply a bit of fragrance-free soap and gently dry it with a clean paper towel.

Use proper ointment on your tattoo

Your tattoo needs air to heal, so usually, your artist will advise you not to use heavy products like Vaseline. For a few first days, you can use products with lanolin and vitamins A and D. After 4-5 days, you can switch to fragrance-free aftercare moisturizer or pure coconut oil.

Avoid scratching and picking your fresh tattoo

Scabbing is a normal part of the healing process, but picking or scratching at the scab will most likely delay the healing process. It might also cause scarring, as the integrity of your tattoo will be affected.

Avoid applying scented products on your tattoo

It is very important to keep scented lotions and soaps away from your tattoo. As ear tattoo is especially exposed during the shower and if you use hair care products, you might consider switching to unscented shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Different scented products can cause an allergic reaction when they come into contact with tattoo ink.

Keep your ear tattoo dry

A small amount of clean water which you will be using to wash the tattoo is fine, but avoid getting the tattoo wet bath, and definitely don’t swim for the first 3 weeks.

Are ear tattoos a bad idea?

Some of my clients have concerns about ear tattoos, related to the pain, and for others more important is that you cannot really hide a tattoo on your ear if you do not have long hair that you can use to cover it, so for some, it might seem unprofessional to show tattoo all the time like that. 

How bad do ear tattoos hurt?

Pain during an ear tattoo is quite severe because there’s not a lot of fat on your ears, so you don’t have much of a cushion for the tattoo needle there. As well as your face, your ears contain many nerve endings that can be irritated during a tattoo and may cause severe pain. 

You should know your pain threshold the best, but below you will find a tattoo pain chart that you can use to check where the tattoo could hurt less than on your ears. 

pain chart for men tattoo on ear
Tattoo pain chart for men according to healthline.com
pain chart for women tattoo on ear
Tattoo pain chart for women according to healthline.com

Do ear tattoos blowout?

There is no rule for that, a lot depends on the skill and luck of your tattooer, but generally, because ears have little fat and no muscle tissue, artists have to inject tattoo ink deeper down into the skin than they would in other locations.

That is the reason why the chance of tattoo “blowing out” on the ear is bigger, which means that there is a higher chance that ink lines will appear fuzzy and slightly blurred, rather than straight and clean.

blowout and fading on the ear tattoo
Blowout tattoo and fading on the ear, inspiration from Reddit, user u/meredith_brewington

Are behind the ear tattoos easy to hide?

Tattoos behind the ear are of different quality when compared to tattoos on your ears. While tattoos on the ears are hard to conceal, those behind the ear are a fantastic option for a tattoo first-timer. They are discreet and easy to hide, and if you have long hair it would make hiding such a tattoo even easier. 

easy to hide small tattoo behind the ear
Small, easy to hide tattoo behind the ear from forcreativejuice.com

Is a tattoo behind the ear unprofessional?

The question about an ear tattoo being unprofessional is hard because a lot depends on the size of the tattoo. If it is small and will not extend up to the hairline it can be really hard to spot, and no one could say that it is unprofessional. 

But if you would plan to make a bigger design behind your ear as the first tattoo for example you might find it difficult to find a tattoo artist that would not have hesitations to make such a piece for you, usually, they would advise something less visible for a first tattoo, like a forearm or calf. 

How do you shower with a tattoo behind your ear?

A lot will depend on the exact location of your tattoo, if it is not too close to the hairline it might be possible to take a shower without getting too many chemicals and water on it. 

 new ear tattoo how to shower with

Make sure that if your new tattoo behind the ear will get wet you will gently dry it, preferably with a fresh paper towel, and make sure that you will not cover it with any shampoos and conditioners. 

Can I wash my hair after getting a tattoo behind my ear?

Yes, you can wash your hair as you would normally do, just make sure that you would not let your tattoo get too much water while it’s still fresh, but a quick shower shouldn’t do any damage. Remember to gently pat dry the tattoo area when you get out of the shower.

How can I ease the pain of getting a tattoo behind the ear? 16 things you can do.

There are a few things you can do to reduce the pain of an ear tattoo, both before and during the session, here is a short list I have prepared for you:

  1. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the day before your tattoo.
  2. Find an experienced tattoo artist. Artists with more experience tend to finish an ear tattoo faster, meaning you’ll endure the pain for less time.
  3. Avoid painkillers, especially aspirin or ibuprofen. They should not be taken 24 hours before the tattoo, they thin the blood and the tattoo may take longer than normal.
  4. Make sure your body is well hydrated. When your skin is dry, the tattoo hurts more, both when tattooing and later when it heals.
  5. Make sure you come to the tattoo session after your meal. Low blood sugar makes you feel more painful, so eating before a tattoo is important. It will also help you avoid dizziness caused by nerves or from hunger.
  6. Avoid drinking alcohol. Make sure you don’t drink for at least 24 hours before getting a tattoo as alcohol increases pain sensitivity and thin the blood.
  7. Try to relax while tattooing. It will only hurt for a while, try to breathe deeply and relax, if you are sure you want a tattoo and you trust your tattoo artist you should be fine.
  8. Try to distract yourself somehow so you don’t just focus on the pain. Before the session, you can ask if there is a possibility to come with someone you know, you can talk to the tattoo artist, you can listen to music on the phone through headphones – find something that will distract you.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for a skin numbing cream. Your tattoo artist should have different types of creams and you can ask for it.
  10. Do not get a tattoo if you are sick, then your sensitivity to pain will be greater and the tattoo will take longer to heal as your immune system tries to stop the infection at the same time.
  11. Don’t drink coffee or energy drinks before or during a tattoo session. Just like alcohol, caffeine and energy drinks thin your blood. So, skip your morning cup of coffee on the day you get the tattoo.
  12. Try to schedule your morning session if possible. In the morning, the adrenaline level is at its highest. Adrenaline is a pain masking hormone that can help increase your pain tolerance.
  13. You can try taking a pain reliever other than aspirin. Half an hour before getting a tattoo should be enough, you can take painkillers that don’t contain blood thinners like acetaminophen (also called Tylenol or Paracetamol).
  14. Try not to move too much while the tattoo artist is working. Too much movement will distract tattooers from their work, thereby prolonging the session and increasing pain.
  15. Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks. If the pain becomes too unbearable, don’t hesitate to ask for a respite. Any professional tattoo artist will understand and will give you a few minutes of break.
  16. You can also try squeezing or chewing something to ease the pain. Squeezing something in your hand or biting something can actually reduce pain significantly. You can bring, for example, a stress ball, a wrist training device, or chewing gum.

Can you get a tattoo if you just got a piercing?

The question about can you get a tattoo and piercing on the same day is quite frequently asked, mostly because many tattoo studios do also piercing services and it could be tempting to make it all on the same day.  

not on the same day ear tattoo with piercing
Example of tattoo and piercing that is not advised on the same day, inspiration from deviantart.com/anubis-osijek

There are no definite contraindications, but most tattoo artists will advise to make them on separate days if they are supposed to be on the same ear, if you would tattoo a different ear then you want to have a piercing they might agree on that. But you should consider if it would not be too hard for you to take proper care of your new piercing and tattoo at the same time. 

What hurts worse – ear piercing or tattoo?

Many people say that piercings could hurt more than tattoos, but a lot will depend on where exactly you would have your piercing done. 

Have in mind also that some customers describe piercing pain as very short and intense, while tattoo pain can be drawn out and painful for a longer period of time. 

Can you go in the sun after an ear tattoo?

Every tattoo artist would give you the same advice – keep your ear tattoo out of direct sunlight if possible. If you want your tattoo to heal properly make all you can to not expose your new tattoo to direct sunlight for up to 1 month after getting it, and especially during that crucial 14-day period. 

How do you sleep with a newly tattooed ear?

If you have a new ear tattoo, a thinner travel pillow works great to keep pressure off the ear while you’re sleeping. 

The best option would be to sleep on the other side, but sometimes it might be hard, so if you do not have a travel pillow you can roll a clean cotton T-shirt or sheet up and place it around the ear so that when you lay on your side, there’s no direct pressure on your ear and your new tattoo.

A tattoo behind ear aftercare

After washing, gently pat the tattoo dry using a clean towel. Remember to never rub the tattoo to dry it. When your tattoo is dry, you can apply a thin layer of unscented lotion or tattoo aftercare balm to your tattoo. You should repeat the process of washing and applying lotion at least two times per day for the first 2-3 weeks. To my clients, I usually recommend one of those two tattoo aftercare balms – INKorporated Tattoo Lotion or Mad Rabbit Tattoo Balm & Aftercare Cream (through those links you can find both of them on Amazon).

Here are some ideas I have tested for the aftercare of your first tattoo behind the ear:

  • Fresh tattoos are covered with a thin foil for the first 3-4 days, then it is good for them to have air access to speed up healing.
  • During healing, which usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, you should avoid swimming, visiting a sauna, or bathing where the tattoo is completely submerged in water.
  • The skin at the tattoo site often dries out more, so ointments such as Bepanthen or Alantan can be used on it.
  • A new tattoo should not be exposed to the sun. Even after it has healed, make sure you protect it with adequate sunscreen at all times.

Some of my favourite designs, tattoo books and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Deasign and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my Clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my Clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):

Looking for more info about tattoos? I might have them covered!

I have written almost 100 articles about tattooing – with details about each body part, problems that you might have with your tattoo, designs, styles, aftercare, and much more.

Have a look at the search option and see if you can find what you need here.

other posts from  InkArtByKate
Some of my other articles, check them and see if you could find what you are looking for!

Recent Posts