You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on your armpit. But now you’re wondering about how much it will hurt. Our Tattoo Pain Series of articles looks at the most popular tattoo locations and gives you the rundown on what you can expect in regards to pain.
Table of Contents (clickable)
How Bad Do Armpit Tattoos Hurt?
Armpits are up there on the scale of some of the most painful regions for tattooing. Along with the pain comes this weird knee-jerk reaction to what is usually a ticklish spot, meaning your session may be filled with twitches and involuntary spasms, along with a high level of discomfort.
Armpit tattoos have become immensely popular in the last few years due to the fact that they are so discrete and they beautify an area that usually has no exposure or is paid no attention - except to wash and apply deodorant.
Despite this, many artists will advise against getting your armpit tattooed due to how extreme the pain can be. Especially if this tattoo is your first tattoo, or you have no prior experience with sensitive regions, diving in armpit first is not recommended.
Learn more about where tattoo pain is most and least sensitive on the body
Why Does It Hurt So Much to Get an Armpit Tattoo?
The primary cause of the pain of armpit tattoos is due to the axillary nerve, which runs through your armpit region. This is a main nerve in your body with numerous nerve endings making it highly sensitive.
According to Healthline, the largest concern is that, “excessive stress or damage to the axillary nerve, which serves the deltoid muscles and skin of the shoulder,” can cause loss of movement or sensation in your shoulder area. Tattooing can cause this kind of stress to the axillary nerve. Some people reported not being able to lift their arm over their head for weeks after their armpit tattoo, and some say the pain radiated across their back.
In addition, skin here is weak and thin, as it is not normally exposed to external irritants. Your armpit also has many sweat glands, which could make the healing process even more painful for you.
The Very Real Risks of Getting an Armpit Tattoo
Coupled with extreme pain, there are risks for getting an armpit tattoo that should be considered. Along with compromising your sweat glands, which could lead to dehydration issues or bacterial concerns that cause infection to a healing tattoo, your armpit contains your lymph nodes.
What are lymph nodes?
The Cancer.gov definition of lymph nodes are, “A small bean-shaped structure that is part of the body’s immune system. Lymph nodes filter substances that travel through the lymphatic fluid, and they contain lymphocytes (white blood cells) that help the body fight infection and disease. There are hundreds of lymph nodes found throughout the body. They are connected to one another by lymph vessels.“
Tattooing on this region could:
- Damage and prevent your lymph nodes from doing the important job they are intended to do;
- Cause poor or cheap or toxic tattoo ink to enter into your lymph nodes, and this toxicity travels to other parts of your body;
- Or lead to swelling of your lymph nodes which could cause infection or greater immunity concerns down the line.
Other Things to Consider With an Armpit Tattoo
Coming back to the sweat gland issue, keep in mind that healing an armpit tattoo is immensely difficult.
You have to be thorough with keeping it clean, and considering you cannot help putting down your arm and closing up this space, your healing tattoo may lack the oxygen it needs to properly regenerate its cells. People have said that this space forms scabs that are sticky and thick and that healing this area can take over a month’s time.
You must also be aware that this area experiences a lot of movement, and though it does not often come into contact with external concerns such as UV rays, it can still have a lot of fading and distortion.
Our Final Thoughts
Tattoo placement is a personal choice, but diving headfirst into armpit tattooing takes thorough research, careful consideration, a high pain tolerance, and discussing this with your tattoo artist. With the medical concerns associated with armpit tattooing, it may also help to speak to a healthcare professional about the risks involved with this location.