Head Tattoos Pain - How Much Do They Hurt?

Written by: Claudia

You’ve narrowed down your placement and decided on tattooing your head. 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.

Head Tattoo Pain

We might as well break it to you gently: a head tattoo is going to be an incredibly painful experience. Though pain thresholds vary from person to person, the skin on your head is generally thinner, is packed full of sensitive receptors, and features prominent bones, making for an uncomfortable tattooing experience, overall.

Along with a lot of pain comes a very complex commitment. Head tattoos or tattoos on or around your face should not be considered lightly, because they could potentially reduce your employment opportunities and, until the hair grows in (if you have hair), they cannot be easily hidden.

tattoo pain chart

While you will feel the standard tattoo pain sensations when tattooing your head, such as stinging, scratching, burning, and needle rattling on your bones, you’ll also likely have to deal with a terrible headache during and following your session. This is due to the rattling but primarily due to the fact that needles working in this area will be incredibly loud.

Are Other Areas of the Body Less Sensitive to Pain?

The head and face area has larger pores, thin skin, and less muscle and fat content, making for a significantly more painful experience than many other parts of your body. Add onto that fact that your face also contains numerous highly sensitive nerve endings, and you’re headed for an extremely uncomfortable tattoo procedure.

It’s definitely not recommended that you select a head tattoo as your first tattoo choice, and if you’re looking for regions that rank lower on the pain scale, we recommend your bicep, thigh, or shoulder region.

The head is also a challenge for artists to tattoo, and many will outright refuse tattooing there, not wanting to be responsible for the commitment and potential regret of a head tattoo. You need to select an artist who has tattooed heads before, and who knows how to be gentle in this difficult region.

How to Reduce Head Tattoo Pain

Because the skin is notoriously difficult to tattoo in this region, reducing the pain also becomes difficult. It’s also nearly unavoidable that the sound and pressure of tattooing in this area will lead to a headache. It’s important that you avoid any blood thinners to combat this pain, but painkillers such as Tylenol are okay.

Here are some additional suggestions to help combat the pain:

  • Spread out your appointment. Start with a small design to see whether you’re ready for the commitment, or perhaps ask your artist to break the design into sections that make for a shorter and more tolerable tattooing experience.
  • If you get permission, use a numbing cream. Since skin on your head is already thin and difficult to tattoo, your artist may not be okay with you using a numbing cream on this region. Make sure to discuss this option with your artist at your consultation, and if you get the go-ahead, check out our article on Best Tattoo Numbing Creams.
  • Bring earphones to reduce the noise. Again, you’ll need permission from your artist for this because they may not feel comfortable with you not being able to hear them, but if you are allowed to wear earphones to help distract you and reduce the needle noise, this could lead to a less intense headache at the end of the session.
  • Ensure you are in healthy shape. This includes nutritional eating, hydration through drinking lots of water prior to and during your session, limiting alcohol, and moisturizing your scalp before your tattoo procedure.

You also need to be aware of and prepare for a very complex aftercare experience. You are not allowed to shave over a tattoo until it has had at least a month to heal, so your hair will be growing into the tattoo, disturbing the healing process, and making for very itchy ink.

Our Final Thoughts

A head tattoo is one heck of a commitment and not one that should be considered lightly. It’s an extremely painful region to tattoo and could have complications during the healing process. If you are sure that this is what you wish to tattoo, find an artist with experience tattooing heads and have them walk you through their suggestions on how to make this a less painful experience.

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