It’s normal to be nervous before getting a tattoo. It’s also okay to want a tattoo but to be scared of the pain.
When it hurts, it’s hard to sit still and not flinch.
We had a reader ask, “How can I stay calm while getting a tattoo?” That’s why we’re here to give you a few tips to help you relax when you get inked.
How to prepare for getting a tattoo
If you’re prepared, it will be less stressful to get inked.
Talk to the artist beforehand about what to expect. If you’re worried about the pain, choose a less sensitive body part. Getting tattooed where there are more muscle and fat hurts a lot less.
Also, black and gray tattoos aren’t as painful as color tattoos; plus, they go faster.
Then, the night before, get plenty of sleep. On the day of the appointment, eat well and think positively.
If you plan to use a topical anesthetic to deaden the pain, please tell the artist as some products may affect the tattooing process.
How to reduce the pain of getting a tattoo
Let’s begin with how to stop the pain of getting inked. If it doesn’t hurt, it’ll be easier to stay calm.
They contain a topical anesthetic like lidocaine or benzocaine. Both prevent pain signals in the skin from reaching the brain (1).
Apply them before getting the tattoo, and they will deaden the needle’s sensation. The effects last anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours, depending on how they’re used.
Hush Anesthetic Tattoo Numbing Gel
Hush is one of the most popular numbing gels for tattoos because it works well, and it’s safe for sensitive skin. It’s not greasy, and the effects last up to two hours.
What’s more, this American-made product is free of epinephrine and won’t cause complications for the tattooing process.
Ebanel 5% Lidocaine Topical Numbing Cream
Ebanel’s numbing cream has the maximum amount of lidocaine that you can get over-the-counter. It’s fragrance-free and not oily.
It starts working a few minutes after you apply it and hits maximum strength after about twenty minutes. Then, it keeps working for about an hour longer.
Moreover, ingredients like allantoin, aloe, and vitamin E soften the skin and guard against irritation.
What else can I take before a tattoo to ease the pain?
Besides numbing the skin, you can also take a painkiller to make it easier to get a tattoo.
But be careful because some over-the-counter medications (like aspirin) thin the blood and make it easier to bleed. Try acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen, for example (2).
Another option is to drink a relaxing tea before your appointment. Seriously, kava kava is an herbal anesthetic for your mind and body.
Yogi Tea – Kava Stress Relief
This stress relief tea is tasty and naturally sweet, with organic stevia, licorice, cinnamon, and carob.
It contains kava root extract, a medicinal herb used in the Pacific islands for centuries. It will help you chill out within minutes.
Natural techniques to lower pain and stress
There are natural ways to reduce pain and stress while getting a tattoo. One of the simplest is to chew or squeeze something.
The act of tensing your muscles in one place can provide relief in another part of your body (3).
Practice meditative breathing. This is an excellent technique to learn that can help with other stressful moments in life.
Try essential oil balm with lavender, chamomile, or other relaxing fragrances. Apply it to the back of your neck or the temples of your head (as long as you’re not being tattooed there). Breathe deeply.
Another option is to bring your own music and entertainment. Download that series you’ve been planning to watch or a good book. Provide a distraction for your mind.
Speaking of distractions, if you can bring a friend, they might be helpful, too.
On the other hand, paying close attention to what the artist is doing may help as well. Let yourself be fascinated by the flow of the ink and mesmerized as the image appears. Being aware can help calm your amygdala so that you feel more comfortable and safe.
Finally, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for a break. If the pain gets to you, tap out for a moment to recover. Go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and breathe deeply. It’s going to be okay, and you’re going to make it.
The Friendly Swede Hand Grip Stress Ball
These colorful stress balls can help you relax and focus. They’re also handy for training your hands and forearms to be stronger.
They are made from grippy thermoplastic and egg-shaped.
Wild Thera Stress Relief Balm
Breathe in the scent of relaxation. This blend features organic lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, catnip, and other natural goodies.
Rub it into the skin and enjoy the soothing sensation.
How to deal with the pain of a new tattoo
It hurts getting a tattoo, and it’s usually sore for the first few days afterward. After all, it’s a wound. It’s normal for it to be red, swollen, and tender. As it heals, it will be less painful but itchier.
Happily, the best tattoo aftercare products alleviate inflammation and itching and help the skin recover quickly.
Dr Numb Topical Anesthetic Foaming Soap
Proper tattoo aftercare means keeping the skin clean and moisturized.
This painkilling soap is antibacterial to prevent infection. It provides immediate relief from stinging, itching, and soreness.
The magic ingredients are 4% lidocaine, a topical anesthetic, and benzethonium chloride, a potent antimicrobial agent.
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer
Do you remember seeing this fragrance-free lotion on tattoo reality shows? We wouldn’t be surprised as it’s frequently recommended by artists around the world.
It features grapeseed oil to enhance healing and reduce discomfort. The formula is natural and kind to sensitive skin, with no petroleum, parabens, animal ingredients, or gluten.
We hope these tips help you stay calm and enjoy getting your next tattoo.
Take heart, as the pain only lasts for a little while, but the art endures for a lifetime.
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2148990/ Clinical effectiveness of lidocaine and benzocaine for topical anesthesia, by A. L. Rosa, C. E. Sverzut, S. P. Xavier, and M. A. Lavrador, published in Anesthesia Progress, Summer 1999
2. https://www.healthline.com/health/do-tattoos-hurt Written by Kirsten Nunez on May 30, 2019, Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP, accessed January 20, 2021
3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/8-non-invasive-pain-relief-techniques-that-really-work 8 non-invasive pain relief techniques that really work, published October 2015, updated July 28, 2017, accessed January 20, 2021