Wrist Tattoo Pain - How Bad Does It Hurt?

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

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

Do Wrist Tattoos Hurt?

All tattoos are uncomfortable to some extent, with some just feeling annoying, and others stinging. The general consensus on the pain of wrist tattoos is quite divided with many feeling they’re unbearable and others falling asleep during the experience.

tattoo pain chart

According to a medical research study that was performed in 2014, a researcher stung himself with a bee on various body parts to see what the pain threshold for each region would be. In this study, the wrist ranked 4.7 out of ten on the pain scale. This is actually below average for other regions he tested, and emphasizes that the pain is pretty tolerable.

The issue with wrist tattoos stems from the fact that the skin in this region is thin and highly sensitive, so you need to make sure you are getting an artist who is gentle and doesn’t overwork the skin. As such, where, specifically, you get tattooed on your wrist, will have an impact on how much pain you feel.

Wrist Tattoo Pain Spots

If you’re considering a wrist tattoo, it’s important to note that the sensitivity to pain varies depending on where, specifically, you’re being tattooed.

Inner Wrist Tattoo Pain

Inner wrist tattoos can be painful for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the skin on the inside of your wrist is very thin and has many pain receptors due to the multitude of nerves running through this area. Secondly, the bones and tendons that run down the center of your wrist may be awkward or painful to tattoo around, depending on how prominent yours may be.

Pain in this area usually feels like pricks or a stinging sensation. The place where your wrist meets your hand may present more of a burning sensation, but generally the real estate is small and the tattoo is completed rather quickly, anyway.

Outer Wrist Tattoo

Your prominent wrist bone is a weird place to tattoo, and the needle may jump or rattle on this area which could be exceptionally uncomfortable. People find this vibration to be more painful than the actual damage done to the skin by needles. Once you move past this point, tattoos on the outside of your wrist are usually rather painless.

Side of Wrist Tattoo Pain

Essentially, your artist is working along a primary bone, right up to your wrist bone, when you’re getting the side of your wrist tattooed. This makes the experience not too painful as it is awkward and uncomfortable. The rattling vibrations can even extend further down your arm. If you keep yourself distracted, this shake won’t defeat you and you’ll end up with a fantastic art piece.

Check out our Tattoo Pain Chart to see how much tattoos hurt on different parts of the body

How to Make Wrist Tattoos Hurt Less

Wrist Tattoo Pain

Though a tattoo will never be completely painless, there are a few ways to minimize the pain of wrist tattoos.

Choose a Simple Design

A design that has less shading, coloring, or which uses less square-ended needles will generally make the experience of getting a wrist tattoo far less painful. Stick to one color, line art, or pointillism designs if you want to test the waters and feel less pain.

Consider Placement Carefully

The placement on your wrist will impact your experience of pain. Some people can’t stand the bone rattling feeling, while others would rather avoid the needle-to-thin-skin stinging sensation. Choose what’s best for your threshold.

Select a Gentle Artist

Choose an artist with experience tattooing wrists. This is an area that, if not tattooed properly, could experience a lot of blowouts. That means the ink was not deposited in the right part of the dermis and the design gets feathered and blurry upon healing. An unskilled artist will also trigger more sensitivity while you are being tattooed, so research and select your tattooist carefully.

Take a Painkiller

Thin skin can swell easily when exposed to trauma, and then can experience more pain while being tattooed. Take a painkiller like Tylenol which also combats swelling, but avoid blood thinners like Advil which will actually make the experience more painful.

Mind Over Matter

Since your wrist is a place that you can watch being tattooed, this may actually increase your anxiety and, thus, increase your pain. Keep yourself distracted. Practice relaxation or breathing techniques. Keep your eyes focused on something else rather than watching the needle go in your skin.

Take Breaks if You Need Them

Don’t be afraid to ask your artist for a break should the pain be overwhelming. Professionals have no issues with this and want you to be as comfortable as possible.

Use a Numbing Cream

Numbing cream can dull the experience of pain receptors - but they can also complicate the tattooing process, especially on thin skin. If you plan to use a numbing cream, be sure to discuss this with your artist prior to your session. For more information about numbing creams, check out our article, What Is The Best Tattoo Numbing Cream.

How to Care for a Wrist Tattoo

Because a wrist tattoo is on a part of your body that experiences constant exposure to external irritants, dirt, and bacteria, aftercare of your wrist ink is extremely important. In addition, this is an area that experiences a lot of movement, so you need to be extra careful with regards to damaging or removing essential scabbing, as well as making sure you don’t bang your wrist up against anything, or have it scratched by your pets or children during play.

Due to this, in general, wrist tattoos take a little while longer to heal. Here are some tips when it comes to caring for these tattoos:

  • Do not wear watches, bracelets, or long sleeves that are cinched at the wrist for at least three weeks.
  • Be sure to start moisturizing after the tattoo stops weeping, because tattoos along areas that bend can crack your scabbing more easily.
  • If possible, keep your wrist elevated at night or when it is not in use.
  • Be hyper aware of your surroundings and don’t let external irritants disturb your healing process.
  • Make sure your wrist is not directly exposed to UV rays when you are outside.

For more information about how to care for a wrist tattoo, check out our article on Tattoo Aftercare Tips- How To Care For A New Tattoo

Our Final Thoughts

In general, wrist tattoos don’t rank very high on the pain scale, and since they’re generally a small space, even if it does cause some discomfort, it usually doesn’t last very long. The easiest way to combat the pain of wrist tattoos is to select designs that are simple and avoid square-ended needles used for shading or coloring. If you’re ever unsure about your own tolerance, discuss these fears with your artist who will likely give you suggestions or alternatives for your tattoo design.

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