Depending on who you speak to, getting a tattoo is either super painful, or doesn't even register on the pain scale. The reality is, getting inked will likely never be completely pain-free, and that's for a very obvious reason. "There are needles being poked deep enough into the skin to draw blood," Amanda Wendel, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, told POPSUGAR, noting that getting a tattoo will be somewhat uncomfortable in any location. That being said, there are painful spots on the body you can avoid if you're concerned about the experience, like areas where the skin is thin, there are a lot of nerve endings, or there's less fat, according to Dr. Suzanne Friedler, board-certified dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology PC and Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. The hands, rib cage, feet, and face are especially sensitive given this criteria.
On the other hand, while in the tattoo artist's chair, there are points on the body that will cause less discomfort than others. "Optimal locations for less pain include areas like the outer arms and legs, where skin is thicker, more fat is present, and nerves are less plentiful," Dr. Friedler said. Dr. Wendel agreed, saying that "in general, the most painful places to get a tattoo are areas of the skin that are thin or have less subcutaneous tissue for cushioning." She explained that a tattoo on the ankle or overlying the rib cage "would be much more painful than a tattoo on the buttock," for example, because the latter has more fat.
Still, doctors and tattoo artists alike told POPSUGAR the pain experienced during inking can depend greatly on the individual. Matt O'Baugh of Black Cobra Tattoos in Little Rock, Arkansas has seen clients react very differently to being inked in the same spot. Jimmy St John of Skin Kitchen in Des Moines, Iowa also told POPSUGAR that "everyone's pain tolerance is different." But in his experience, the least painful places are going to be the outside of the arms. The truth is, you never know how the pain will affect you until you're in the tattoo artist's chair, even if you've had a tattoo before.
All things considered (like the potential pain you may endure), it's worth putting a lot of thought into where on the body you want to get your tattoo. Because, as Dr. Wendel notes, "laser tattoo removal is very expensive and time intensive, so I recommend if you are on the fence, don't do it!"