Tattoos are rapidly becoming more popular and also more accepted throughout society. Whether it’s just one tattoo or as many as possible, lots of people want some ink. However, not everyone is prepared for the level of pain that is involved in a tattoo. Some hurt more than others, but it’s always going to hurt. Those who have never gotten a tattoo before are smart to do some research and learn about what they should expect from the whole experience. Just how long will a tattoo be sore? The pain, discomfort, and aftercare last much longer than just getting the tattoo itself.

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Whether you’re getting a small tattoo or a full sleeve, the duration of tattoo soreness can vary from person to person. It’s essential to note that tattoo soreness is normal, and there’s nothing to worry about. Think of it as your body’s natural healing process.

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Adjusting to your new tattoo will take time, but it will eventually become part of your skin. So, buckle up, and let’s dive into this post and get to know more about sore tattoos!

How Long Will a Tattoo Be Sore After the Session?

On average, the soreness from a new tattoo will last between 3-7 days. This is assuming you are following the aftercare instructions and no infection or reaction has set in.

In a perfect world, tattoo pain won’t last that long. However, there are many factors that go into what you will feel and experience when getting and healing your tattoo. Some are out of your control, such as allergic reactions. But, there are plenty of things you can do and control to minimize the pain in the days following the tattoo.

What Makes a Tattoo Sore 

Everyone reacts and heals differently, but no one is going to be completely immune to pain. Tattoos are not natural and they irritate the skin. This will cause some swelling and soreness no matter who you are or what you do. 

That being said, there are several things that can contribute to the pain of your tattoo experience. Keep these things in mind when getting your tattoo, and when taking care of it after the fact. 

Your Health

The best time to get a tattoo is when you are completely healthy. If your body is at all compromised from being sick or healing from major wounds, it won’t handle the process of tattooing very well. This means the swelling and bleeding during the tattoo can be worse than usual, which will not only hurt more but it can impede the artist’s ability to do the tattoo. 

Tattoos gotten under these conditions will hurt for longer after the fact as well, due to the added irritation and/or damage to the skin. If your body is fighting something else at the same time, the healing process may also be prolonged.


Your artist will take every precaution necessary to give you a  professional, clean, and safe tattoo. They will then send you home with detailed instructions on how to take care of it. After this, it’s up to you; they’ve done all they can. 

Aftercare instructions may vary slightly in terms of product recommendations and application/cleaning frequency but they are pretty much the same across the board: 

  • Wash with unscented soap.
  • Moisturize with unscented lotion. 
  • Stay out of the sun for the first two weeks.
  • Stay out of the water (short showers are okay) until it is healed.

Closely follow the specific instructions you are sent home with. There may be some variations depending on the tattoo location and/or your skin type. Failure to take care of the tattoo properly will prolong the healing and can cause unnecessary pain due to dryness, tightness, or possible infection. 


The more friction that a fresh, healing tattoo comes in contact with, the more it’s going to hurt. Of course, no one expects you to sit at home and not move for two weeks while it heals. You must go on with your life, but you should be wary of your healing tattoo for the first couple of weeks. 

Try not to touch it until it’s absolutely necessary for cleaning. Wear loose clothing when possible to avoid rubbing. 

As you go about your day, try not to let anything bump or touch the tattoo. If something hits it or you bump it on the wall or someone grabs it, it’s going to hurt. The stronger the impact, the more painful it will be. 

There is also the risk of damaging the tattoo if it gets hit or scraped hard enough. So, just be mindful of the tattoo and try to leave it alone and covered as much as possible.

Recommended: Are Tattoos Hypoallergenic?

Normal Tattoo Reactions

Since tattooing is not a natural thing, our bodies aren’t going to react perfectly. As far as your body is concerned, the tattoo is no different than any other open wound or injury. 

Therefore, there are several symptoms and reactions that are completely normal. First-time tattooees may experience these and become concerned or even panicked, thinking something is wrong. 

If you’re experiencing any of the following, there is no cause for concern: 

  • Mild soreness in the days following the tattoo. 
  • Slight redness. 
  • Mild swelling. 
  • Itching.
  • Flaking. 
  • Peeling. 
  • Scabbing. 
  • Some bleeding during the tattoo. 
  • Draining of excess ink, blood, and plasma in the first 24 hours. 

Of course, calling your artist or the shop to be 100 percent sure won’t hurt if you’re still anxious about something you’re seeing. The above symptoms are normal but don’t hesitate to make a phone call – they won’t charge you for it and you’ll put your mind at ease.

How to Spot Infections 

Infections are probably the biggest health risk you’ll take when getting a tattoo. Fortunately, they are not terribly common these days. Technology, health/safety precautions, and practices, as well as the ink itself has all improved tremendously over the years. Tattooing is considered relatively safe, but there is always the possibility that it will get infected, much like any other cut or wound. 

If you follow all aftercare instructions and take care of your tattoo properly, you will greatly minimize the risk. However, it’s important to keep your eye out for any possible infection. The sooner an infection is noticed and treated, the better the prognosis will be, for both yourself and the tattoo. 

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, call your artist or your doctor immediately for further steps: 

  • Extreme and/or prolonged redness or swelling. 
  • A rash or bumps are forming around the tattoo area. 
  • The pain is increasing rather than decreasing over time. 
  • There is excessive drainage coming from the tattoo. 
  • If you start having the chills, sweats, or shakes. 
  • If you develop a fever. 

Just because you take perfect care of your tattoo, doesn’t mean you are completely immune to infection. Monitor the tattoo closely and don’t delay in calling a professional if you even think it might be infected. 

How to Spot an Allergic Reaction 

It is possible to be allergic to tattoo ink. Some people will perform a patch test before getting their first tattoo, though many don’t. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can happen immediately after getting the tattoo, or years down the road. It all depends on how your body reacts. 

Whether it’s happening right away or years later, there are symptoms and signs that you can watch out for. If you think you’re having an allergic reaction, contact your artist as well as your doctor to find out what can be done. They can often be treated with topical creams. In extreme cases, tattoos may have to be removed in the case of severe reactions, but this is a rare occurrence. 

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: 

  • A lot of swelling, irritation, and redness on and around the tattoo. This is a minor reaction and often clears itself up in a few weeks. 
  • Photosensitivity. All tattoos should be protected from too much direct sun exposure,  but if yours is particularly sensitive and reactionary to the sun, you may have an allergy. 
  • Dermatitis. This can be developed as a result of an allergic reaction to mercury sulfide, which is found in most red inks. 
  • Small bumps developing on and around the tattoo – also most common with red inks. 
  • A scaly, bumpy appearance can be indicative of an allergic reaction.

The Healing Process of a Tattoo

After getting a tattoo, it is common to experience some soreness around the area of the ink. While this can be uncomfortable, it is a normal part of the healing process. It is important to understand how tattoos heal, so you know what to expect and how to care for your new tattoo.

The first step in healing a tattoo is the formation of a scab. This is because the needle used to create the tattoo punctures the skin, causing damage. The body then reacts to this damage by sending white blood cells to the area to help repair the skin. The white blood cells form a scab, which protects the wound while it heals.

During this scabbing phase, it is common to experience some soreness and discomfort around the tattooed area. This is because the scab is formed from dry blood, which can feel tight and itchy as it dries out. It is important not to scratch or pick at the scab, as this can damage the new tattoo and prolong the healing process.

While the duration of tattoo soreness varies from person to person, most people will experience soreness for around two to three weeks. After this time, the scab will start to flake off, revealing the new tattoo underneath. However, it is important to remember that each tattoo is unique, so some people may experience lingering soreness for several weeks or even months.

In order to promote healing and reduce soreness, it is important to follow proper aftercare instructions. This includes keeping the tattoo clean and dry, avoiding direct sunlight, wearing loose clothing, and using a tattoo-specific moisturizer. With proper care, your new tattoo can heal smoothly and painlessly.

Will Pain Killers Help My Tattoo Be Less Sore?

If a tattoo is always going to be painful, it may seem logical to take painkillers right before to alleviate some of the pain. This makes sense on the surface, but it can actually be a bad idea. 

Many medications, including the very common ibuprofen, can affect the thickness of your blood. Most tattoos will bleed a little bit. This is normal. However, having blood that is extra thin can cause excess bleeding, which can eventually lead to problems. 

Medication can also inhibit your body’s ability to clot the blood, meaning it will take longer to stop bleeding. In addition to the health concerns related to too much blood loss, it can affect your tattoo as well. 

Too much blood can cause impaired visibility for your artist. A lot of blood coming too quickly can block their view of your outline and may cause mistakes. It will also take them longer to complete the tattoo as they will have to stop more often to wipe it. This can result in higher costs. 

If you plan to get a tattoo, doctors recommend not taking pain killers beforehand. Taking them after the fact is not a problem. 

Also Read: Do All Tattoo Artists Do Coverups?

How Do You Soothe a Sore Tattoo?

You’ve just got a beautiful tattoo, and now you’re experiencing some soreness. It’s normal to experience some degree of pain, redness, or swelling after getting tattooed. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to soothe and minimize the soreness. So, let’s dive into some of the best ways to help your tattoo get through the healing process.

Firstly, ice is an effective way to reduce soreness; wrap some ice in a clean cloth and hold it gently over the tattoo for 10 to 15 minutes, and repeat as necessary. This can help reduce immediate inflammation and bring down any swelling.

Another popular way to help alleviate soreness is to use an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. This can be particularly effective if you’re experiencing pain while sleeping. Keep your tattoo hydrated as well.

Use a gentle, fragrance-free lotion to keep the area moist to maintain your skin. However, avoid over-moisturizing the tattoo, because it can lead to irritation and slow down the healing process. Lastly, consider using a cold compress, keeping the tattoo wrapped in plastic wrap, and applying antibacterial ointment.

Do Smaller Tattoos Hurt Less?

Those who are worried about the pain may opt for a smaller tattoo for a less painful experience. This can be a good plan if you’re pain tolerance is low or you’re unsure what to expect. 

While the process is no different with a smaller tattoo, you are subjected to less irritation on a much smaller surface area. While the pain levels, symptoms, and healing process will be the same, dealing with it all on a smaller section of your body is much easier and less taxing. 

When to Seek Medical Attention for Tattoo Soreness

Tattooing is an art form that has been around for centuries, and for many people, it is a way to express themselves and add meaning to their bodies. However, like any form of body modification, tattoos come with potential risks and complications. After getting inked, it is not uncommon to experience soreness around the tattooed area.

Usually, the soreness is mild, much like a sunburn, and will subside within a few days. However, if the soreness persists for longer than a few days or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be time to seek medical attention. If the tattooed area is hot to the touch, swollen, and painful, it may be a sign of an infection.

Infections can occur if the tattoo artist did not properly sterilize their equipment before tattooing, or if the person getting the tattoo doesn’t properly care for the area after the procedure. In addition to infections, allergic reactions can also cause soreness that lasts longer than a few days. If the soreness is accompanied by redness, raised bumps, or a rash, it could be an allergic reaction to the ink or other chemicals used during the tattooing process.

If you experience any of these symptoms after getting a tattoo, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. While most soreness is normal and expected after a tattoo, if it persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms, it is better to be safe than sorry. Remember to follow all aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist to minimize the risk of complications, and always keep an eye on the tattooed area to ensure it is healing properly.


Getting a tattoo can be an exciting and empowering experience, but it’s important to remember that there might be some temporary soreness and discomfort involved. How long will a tattoo be sore?

Well, the answer varies depending on a range of factors, from the size and placement of your tattoo to your individual pain threshold and healing time. However, as a general rule, you can expect your tattoo to be sore for at least a few days, if not up to a week or two. But fret not, my ink-loving friends! With proper aftercare and a little bit of patience, you’ll soon be able to enjoy the full aesthetic payoff of your new tattoo without any lingering pain or discomfort.

Just remember to keep your tattoo clean and moisturized, avoid tight clothing and excessive sun exposure, and listen to your body’s needs as it heals. At the end of the day, the duration of tattoo soreness is a small price to pay for the permanent artwork you’ll be sporting for the rest of your life. So embrace the soreness, savor the experience, and show off your new ink with pride!

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