How Bad Do Face Tattoos Hurt?

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Face tattoos have evolved from traditional tattoos of many ethnic groups to a fashion statement. Although face tattoos were considered taboo and socially unacceptable in most cultures, there seems to be a general acceptance amongst people due to the growth of tattoo enthusiasts. Before you get inked, it might be worth asking the question, How Bad Do Face Tattoo Hurt?

When you have a needle puncturing the skin 10 times per second, with multiple nerve endings on your face, you can be assured that there will be some piercing pain. The extent of that pain depends entirely on your pain threshold, the tattoo artist, and experience.

If you plan on getting a face tattoo, the chances are you are wondering about the pain. Let’s explore the different types of pain you may experience, what you can do to help reduce that pain and the time expectancy of the pain.

Will I Experience Any Pain When Getting A Face Tattoo?

With approximately 10-15 needle drops per second, tattooing can be quite a painful process. Everyone experiences pain; differently, the tattoo’s placement can be a huge contributing factor to the amount of pain that one experiences.

Like your neck, head, and ears, your face has an array of nerve endings that can be irritated during the tattoo process. The tattooing into these never endings can lead to severe pain. Considering that your face does not have a lot of fat to act as a cushion for the tattoo needle, the extent of the pain can be quite severe.


Different Types Of Pain Associated With A Face Tattoo

You will never truly understand the different pain levels until you get a face tattoo. It would have been much easier if getting a tattoo was just about laying back and watching the tattooist work on a live canvas.

The saying “No Pain, No Gain” is prevalent in this instance. Below are some of the different types of pain associated with a face tattoo;

Stinging Pain

The first sign of any pain will be when the tattoo artist starts the process. As soon as the needle touches your face, you will experience stingy pain. It is not as sharp as a knife but does sting. If you have a high pain threshold, this pain can convert to an uncomfortable feeling.

This pain could also mean that the needle is being penetrated too deeply into your skin; this is common when inexperienced tattoo artists. It would be best to ask your tattoo artist to slow down if the pain intensifies.

A Scratching Or Scraping Pain

For most, this can be the most painful. It feels like your skin has been scraped off. This pain is associated with the shading or coloring of the tattoo. Occurs because the tattoo artist tends to go over the same spot frequently.

The tattoo artist will then follow through by wiping the area clean, often with a paper towel. Some have described it as “Relentless Pain,” the kind that makes you want to kick your legs and scream.

A Sharp Burning Pain

Sharp burning pain is a mixed sensation of stinging and burning, almost like you have been stung by a bee, and a hot knife is being dragged through you simultaneously. It is a reminder of an antibiotic shot through an injection or a hot pan being placed on your skin for many.

Whatever the explanation is, the pain is the outcome of a face tattoo. This sensation is experienced when the outline is done. The pain is temporary as the tattoo artist makes the lines and moves on. The pain is more intense in the case of larger tattoos or more intricate designs.

Vibrating Pain

Vibration pain feels like you have a tooth extraction or filling. The pain feels like a jolt, and then the pain from your face radiates to your head. This vibration can become more prominent, especially if you tattoo over the bone in the nose and cheekbone area. The vibration of the needle transfers to the bone, causing pain.

Irritating Pain

After experiencing all of the above pain sensations, there will come a time when the pain is just irritating; this is because the body has adjusted to the pain. It feels like an annoying screeching sound in your ear. You might feel like you have had enough and want this process to be over with.

Dull Pain

Dull pain occurs when your tattoo is almost done, and your body seems to have adjusted to the pain. The pain remains, but it seems to be in the distance. The tattoo artist indicates that this is due to hormones producing adrenaline during this process. Adrenaline numbs the tattoo area making the pain seem like somewhere in the background.

Numbing Pain

If you are lucky enough, you might get to this phase, where your body has completely adjusted to the stimulus of the pain, and your body no longer feels it. Most tattoo enthusiasts would call this the addicting feeling of euphoria.

How Can You Minimize The Pain Of A Face Tattoo?

Pain is highly subjective. The pain can vary depending on the tolerance of the individual. Although the pain related to a face tattoo is not eliminated, you can ensure that you are as comfortable as possible to manage the pain effectively. Below are some of the ways that will hopefully help you minimize that pain;

 Be Positive

A face tattoo is a bold step and often requires careful consideration, much saving, and planning. Although a face tattoo may fade over time, the chances are the design will last for a lifetime. It is no wonder that many feel anxious and nervous about the decision and the process.

 When you are anxious, your body releases stress hormones that make you extra sensitive to pain. Even if you have a high pain threshold, the anxiety will overshadow this, and you will be more focused on the pain. Contact your medical practitioner to obtain some medication that will help keep you calm.

Once you have decided, there is no turning back; all that remains is for you to remain calm and relax and let the tattoo artist work his magic.

Find A Comfortable Position

Depending on your tattoo site, you can opt to lay down flat or be in a seated position. You can carry pillows or cushions to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible during the process.

Listen To Music Or Watch TV

Listening to music or watching TV will occupy your mind instead of focusing on the pain.

Be Well Rested

It is important to be well-rested before the appointment. Also, ensure that you have eaten and have enough liquids on hand. Being well-rested will help decrease your stress levels and ensure enough energy to face the tattoo process.

Ask The Tattoo Artist To Take Breaks

If the pain becomes intense, you can ask the tattoo artist to take frequent breaks. You can take a breather during the breaks until you are ready for the next step.

Select A Tattoo Artist That Is Experienced

Ensure that you find an experienced tattoo artist who has the necessary certification and sterilized equipment, reducing the risk of infection. Also, insist on having the tattoo artist open up the needle package in your presence.

Avoid Alcohol

Avoid alcohol and painkillers before the tattoo. Alcohol and pain killers can thin the blood and cause bruising during and after the tattoo.


If you know that your pain threshold is extremely low, you might want to consider taking an anesthetic as a last resort. However, an anesthetic will not be recommended by a tattoo artist. You can also use tattoo numbing gels or sprays. You can obtain these online on Amazon.

Proper Aftercare

It is also important to follow a good aftercare routine, which includes washing, moisturizing, and wearing the appropriate loose clothing.

Factors That May Contribute To Experiencing More Pain

A tattoo involves receiving many micro-wounds over a concentrated area on your body. However, face tattoos are generally more painful due to the nerve endings. Some factors will contribute to more pain.

The Size Of Tattoo

The larger the size of the tattoo and the more involved the design, the more intense the pain. A thin needle pierces the skin during the tattoo process, with so many nerve endings on the face; a large tattoo means that the tattoo artist will have to spend more time inking the tattoo, resulting in more pain.

It might be advisable to do the tattoo in stages or opt for a small tattoo first, to avoid the pain in one consultation.


Those with excessive weight might experience more pain due to the thinning of the skin. When an individual gains weight, the skin stretches and becomes more sensitive to tattoos. The same applies to skinnier people.

Age Of The Individual

Aging also harms the skin, resulting in sensitive, thin skin. Older skin is more prone to pain, bruising, and sensitivity.


Studies have proven that women experience more pain than men. Perhaps it is due to chemical and biological differences. A woman’s pain threshold compared to a man’s can be debatable.


If you have had a couple of tattoos inked, the chances are that you are more likely to have a higher endurance to pain compared to someone that is having their first tattoo inked. The body becomes accustomed to pain after a couple of tattoos.

Why Does A Face Tattoo Hurt So Much?

When you think of tattoos, you need to think of different pain sensations, like the difference between a bruise and a cut. A bruise is milder in comparison to a cut. In the case of a face tattoo, the pain is leaning more towards a cut. Now imagine cutting the skin on your face by constant pricking, considering this area has numerous nerve endings.

When you speak of a face tattoo, it can include anything from the tattooing of eyelids, under-eye area, cheeks, and eye. Tattooing on these areas is highly sensitive, and the pain can be more severe than the rest of the face. When it comes to the nose, forehead, and around the mouth, the pain is less severe in comparison. The face is a super-sensitive area with thin skin and many nerve endings.

If you decide to have a tattoo under the eye, the tattoo artist will stretch the skin and ensure that the needle penetrates deeply into the skin. This area is super sensitive and can lead to intense pain. Tattoo artists have rated the pain level for a face tattoo as 8 out of 10.

How Long Does The Pain Last?

The pain can last anything from a couple of hours to days. However, in the case of a face tattoo, the pain can last longer due to the sensitivity of the area. Suppose the pain persists and the face becomes swollen over a couple of days.

In that case, it is advisable to seek medical attention as the tattoo could be infected, or you could have developed an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink.

What Should I Consider Before Getting A Face Tattoo?

A face tattoo is a bold step; while a tattoo on other parts of your body can be camouflaged by clothing, it’s not that easy with your face. Although tattoos are known to fade over time, the chances are they will be with you even as you age.

Therefore, it is important to choose a design and color that you are confident that you will be happy with. You also want to ensure that a professional tattoo, certified tattoo artist inks you,


The decision to obtain a face tattoo is a bold step that requires much consideration. The pain of a face tattoo can vary from person to person. Even if you have a high pain threshold, I do not think that anything could amply prepare you for the pain associated with a face tattoo; you might also have to deal with the opinions of those that still think that face tattoos are taboo.

Some of my favorite 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.

Design 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):


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