Go in sober.
Though drinking or being under the influence of any drugs may seem like an easy way to lessen the pain, it will actually make your tattoo a lot more painful. Alcohol is a blood thinner, which means you will bleed more and the ink won’t take as easily. This, along with constant drunken movements, will most likely cause the tattoo process to take longer as well as agitate the skin and may even cause the piece to not come out as cleanly or well-saturated as it could. Also note that over the counter pain killers and caffeine will also lead to thinning your blood, so try to avoid Tylenol, Advil, coffee and energy drinks before your tattoo session, too. (Tattoo by Steven Compton)
Drink lots of water.
While we greatly advise against drinking alcohol, we highly recommend drinking a lot of water. Starting the night before your tattoo session, stay as well hydrated as possible. This will actually allow the skin to accept the ink more easily due to the hydration and allow the tattoo process to happen faster without thinning your blood.
Eat a full breakfast.
Make sure to go into your tattoo session on a full stomach, as it will help increase your stamina while sitting through such a painful experience.The day of your tattoo session is cheat day: the more glucose, the better. So if you want that extra bowl of Frosted Flakes to go with your bacon and eggs, go right for it! Getting tattooed actually burns a lot of calories depending on how long the session goes, so make sure to fill up so you have energy to burn. (Tattoo by Guen Douglas)
Get a good night sleep.
You need a lot of energy to sit through a tattoo. The more rest you get the night before, the longer you can hold through the pain while getting a tattoo. If you come in exhausted, chances are you won’t be able to handle a full multi-hour session. You want those endorphins and adrenaline to kick in to help block some pain, so make sure you fuel up on sleep to allow that to naturally happen.
Take breaks, but take them sparingly.
Getting a large tattoo on a sensitive area like the hands, feet, ribs, or chest can really take it out of you. Make sure to take breaks throughout the session to refuel. Take these brief periods of time to eat something and collect yourself before going back under the needle. We recommend a small snack like orange juice and a chocolate power bar. However, make sure you aren’t taking too many breaks or breaks for too long. The piece will begin to swell a lot more during your breaks and constant starting and stopping will interrupt a lot of the tattoo process and adrenaline build up.
Zone into Zen.
One of the best ways to ignore the pain is to zone into something that will distract you. Try zoning into the song being played on the stereo, the conversations in the waiting area, or just make a list of crazy things you want to do within the next year. We suggest trying yoga before going in for a long tattoo session. Clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing is a great way to calm yourself and ignore the pain during a tattoo session. Make sure to keep it Zen!
Have a conversation.
Casually chatting with someone can make time go by faster and the pain fade. Some tattoo artists are incredibly talkative and will really get to know their clients during the tattooing process. For those artists who are a bit more introverted, bring a friend (but no more than one!). You don’t want to be a distraction or constantly moving when getting tattooed, so try to keep things calm and collected, and check with your artist first if you can bring someone with you. Some shops don’t want an entourage, but a distracting conversation could do you some good while you get inked! (Photo by Katrina Eugenia, from Lord’s Eye)
Use an anesthetic.
There are anesthetics that are FDA-approved and specifically designed to alleviate and numb the pain of getting tattooed. If you are going to use an anesthetic check out the brand HUSH, which comes in a gel, spray and foaming soap to help numb the pain during and directly after getting a tattoo. However, make sure to talk to your tattoo artist before using an anesthetic to get their opinions or see if they have any other suggestions.
Check out the list to see all of our tips to make getting a tattoo hurt less.