Having a tattoo is exciting. If it’s your first body art experience, you want it to be as painless and pleasant as possible. But what if you’re on your period? Is it okay to have a tattoo while menstruating?
It is perfectly safe to have a tattoo while menstruating. The tattoo process does affect your period. Discuss it with your artist if you are sensitive to pain and need medication. Otherwise, there is no reason to be self-conscious or embarrassed as your artist should be professional and discreet.
Researching your first tattoo, you may see many artists advising you not to get inked while on your period or warning of pain and suffering. Women often feel awkward discussing the wholly natural and routine cycle of menstruation, so let’s break open that tattoo taboo: it’s time to explore tattoos, your period, and what you can really expect.
Getting Tattooed While Menstruating: The Myths
There are many myths surrounding being tattooed while on your period: horror stories suggest that you will feel terrible pain, that you can’t take pain killers, and that you won’t be allowed a sanitary break.
Tattoo studios often advise women not to make appointments during their period. What are the truths around getting tattooed while menstruating?
Myth Busted: A Tattoo Will Make Your Period Late
Let’s get the first and most notorious myth out of the way – having a tattoo cannot make your period late.
The tattooing process involves using a needle to insert ink through the top layer of skin or epidermis into the lower layer or dermis. Hormones and the reproductive system are not affected.
Your period may be late because of stress around having the tattoo, but the most likely reason is pregnancy. To put your mind at rest, I’d suggest doing a pregnancy test rather than blaming the tattoo.
Myth Busted: The Tattoo Will Be Agony
A second myth around menstruation and tattoos is that being on your period heightens your pain sensitivity, making the process much more painful than usual.
As with most myths, this one is based on anecdotal evidence and urban legends. There are few scientific studies on increased pain during menstruation, and the existing studies are ambiguous, conflicting, and subjective.
Unfortunately, this myth makes women anxious about getting inked when on their period – and studies show that stress, rather than hormonal changes, increases the pain.
That being said, each woman is different – we have varying pain tolerances. Most women don’t experience pain any differently while on their period and have no trouble being tattooed at any time of the month.
You know your body best. Here are some considerations:
- If you know you are more sensitive to pain during your period, don’t make an appointment at that time. A good rule of thumb is whether you’ve had waxing during your period – was it more painful than usual? If so, the tattoo will be more uncomfortable than normal as well.
- If you experience bloating or swelling around or during your period, you should avoid a tattoo at that time and definitely on the swollen area. Existing inflammation will make the process more unpleasant than usual.
Myth Busted: You Must Cancel Your Tattoo Appointment
So long as you feel comfortable being tattooed while on your period, go ahead with the appointment.
For most women, their period is an inconvenience that they’ve learned to live with, and we continue our daily lives, working, doing sports, socializing, and raising kids.
Unless your period is debilitatingly painful or heavy, carry on with the ink. And if you struggled to get an appointment with your chosen artist, don’t let your period make you lose your opportunity.
Myth Busted: You Can’t Take Painkillers
Many of us take painkillers to ease the monthly cramps. One myth says that you can’t take any painkillers before a tattoo – and it’s not true.
This myth comes from the fact that some painkillers for menstrual cramps, like Naproxen and Paracetamol, have blood-thinning properties – this is why many adults take aspirin daily as a heart-attack preventative. Taking blood thinners of any kind will mean a lot of bleeding during your tattoo, as your blood will struggle to clot.
The same is true of some herbal medications, including garlic, ginger, and ginkgo biloba supplements, which also reduce blood clotting.
If you suffer from cramps, chat to the artist ahead of time. Professional tattoo artists are sensitive to the challenges of menstruation and will happily allow you to take some Ibuprofen to make you comfortable.
See your doctor if you experience extreme discomfort while menstruating.
Myth Busted: You Can’t Take A Break During Tattooing
The myth that you can’t take a bathroom break during a tattoo is responsible for many women’s anxiety around being unable to change their sanitary products in time, resulting in the dreaded leaks and spots.
Ask for a break at any time, whether the tattoo is becoming too painful or you need to go to the bathroom. Bring all the necessary sanitary products to the appointment, and don’t hesitate to say you need the toilet. You don’t even have to give a reason.
Some women like to double up their sanitary wear during a body art appointment (such as combining a nighttime-flow tampon and pad) and wear an extra layer of underwear. Do whatever makes you feel confident and secure.
Getting Tattooed While Menstruating: What You Need To Know
With the myths out of the way, we can focus on what women need to know about getting a tattoo when menstruating.
Let’s look at the reality of tattoo-related pain and what you can expect of your tattoo artist.
The Truth About Tattoos: It Does Hurt
Being tattooed is an uncomfortable experience as your skin is repeatedly pierced with an ink-covered needle.
It is normal to feel burning and pain, like a beesting or sunburn, during the procedure and for a week afterward. The pain is replaced by itching, which signifies that the tattoo is healing.
How painful the tattoo process is, depends on several factors. Let’s look at determiners of pain during inking.
Personal Sensitivity Influences Pain
The first factor in how painful a tattoo will be is how sensitive or tolerant you are to pain:
- If you’ve already had a tattoo, you’ll have an excellent idea of what to expect and what level of pain you can handle. Subsequent tattoos are often seen as less painful because of the reduced anxiety
- If you have a high pain threshold, you’ll only feel an irritating scratch, dullness, and an ache in the week following.
- If you have particularly sensitive skin, you will probably be more uncomfortable during the process, feeling unpleasant and increasing burning and stinging. Speak to your artist about painkillers you can take before the procedure and specialist numbing sprays that they can apply to the site.
- If you know that you are sensitive to pain during your period, avoid doing the procedure while menstruating, as well as a few days before and after.
Discomfort after the tattoo is standard, and you will be able to take painkillers.
If any of the following develop, see a doctor immediately as you have an infection or an allergy to tattoo ink:
- Increasing pain
- A fever
- Pus or fluid oozing from the tattoo site
- A rash.
Stress And Anxiety Influence Pain
Scientific studies show that stress and anxiety lower the body’s ability to handle pain, so you experience the procedure as more painful than if you weren’t stressed.
Here are some ideas for handling tattoo-related stress:
- Research the artist and procedure beforehand to know you’re going to a reputable, licensed facility with qualified and experienced artists.
- Ask a friend to accompany you and distract you.
- Remember that you can ask the artist any questions you like before, during, and after the session. Tell the artist how anxious you are.
- Breathe deeply while being inked.
- Ask the artist for a break if you are getting stressed and uncomfortable.
- Bring enough sanitary wear to last the entire session. Don’t add to your stress by worrying you’ll be caught short.
Location Of The Tattoo Influences Pain
How painful a tattoo will be is influenced by the location on your body.
Here are some guidelines:
- Areas with many nerve endings will hurt. Think where you’re ticklish: the armpit, inside the elbow, behind the knees, or under your feet. These are the most sensitive locations for tattoos; some artists will advise against them because of the severe pain.
- It is always more painful to have a tattoo near a bony area with very little fat, like the rib cage. You may experience radiating pain as you breathe, moving the skin and bones continually. Ankles, shins, knees, and elbows are similarly painful as the needle vibrates on the bone.
- Other bony areas like the hands, feet, head, and face will hurt during a tattoo session. The hands and feet can sometimes spasm because of all the nerves, which is most unpleasant.
- Your nipples, breasts, and groin area will be highly sensitive, especially during your period. It is not a good idea to have a tattoo around your groin while on your period for your and the artist’s comfort.
- Tattoos on fleshy areas, like the thighs, upper shoulders, biceps, forearms, and calves, are less painful.
- If some parts of your body are more sensitive during your period, avoid having a tattoo there until afterward. For instance, some women have a swollen stomach or breasts, and the tattoo aggravates the inflammation.
Size And Type Of Tattoo Influences Pain
Apart from where you have the tattoo, the size and type of tattoo will also influence how much pain you experience.
Logically, a smaller tattoo will be less painful than a large tattoo in the exact location.
Another aspect is whether you only have outlines or whether the tattoo is colored in. People differ in which is more painful, the outlining or the repeated scratching of coloring in an area.
If you know you’re sensitive to pain during your period, choose to have a smaller tattoo or only a section of a tattoo on that day.
The Truth About Tattoos: The Artist Is A Professional
Going for a tattoo during your period is not something that should concern any tattoo artist, and you should not feel or be made to feel embarrassed.
Professional artists know that mature girls and women menstruate, so you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you need a painkiller for cramps, if your pad is showing slightly, if you leak, or if you need sanitary hygiene break.
Tattoo artists have seen many unusual sights in their lives and are there to do a job they love and want to focus on, not judge you.
A skilled, experienced, and well-trained artist can minimize your pain and take breaks regularly for you to recover.
A certified artist will also work hygienically, using fresh needles, gloves, sterilized equipment, and a clean studio. Good hygiene prevents later infection, so the artist will cover the tattoo with sterile ointment and tape.
The Truth About Tattoos: Self-care Is Essential
The tattoo procedure involves creating a wound on your skin. Your body will react, feeling pain and sometimes shock.
For the best tattoo experience and quickest healing, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid drinking alcohol before an appointment, as it will thin your blood and cause excess bleeding.
- Prepare your body by ensuring you get enough sleep the night before and the week after the tattoo.
- Eat at least two hours before the tattoo so your blood sugar remains high and your body can produce pain-reducing adrenaline. It is vital to eat regularly while on your period.
- Drink plenty of water during the procedure so that you stay hydrated.
- Don’t work out for a day or two after the tattoo so that it has a chance to heal without stretching and pulling.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes during and after the session to prevent the wound from sticking to your clothes or being compressed uncomfortably.
- Follow the artists’ advice regarding aftercare for the tattoo, keeping it covered, and then scrupulously clean.
Having your period is a normal part of life, so unless you have severe pain, sensitivity, and inflammation when menstruating, you can safely book a session. Open and honest communication with your artist will help you relax, feel confident, and enjoy the experience.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
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):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
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).
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):
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7767267[ML3] /