Philippines · Third-Culture Thoughts

How Badly Does Getting a Tattoo Hurt?

If getting a tattoo isn’t a thing to do while traveling, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been in the Philippines for some time now and will be leaving soon, so this seemed like the perfect time to finally get one at the highly recommended Whiplash Tattoo parlor on Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes–my very own stomping grounds.

I’ve always been curious as to exactly how badly getting a tattoo hurts.

I’ll start by documenting the various levels of pain I’ve experienced in my life on a rough scale of one to ten so that I can see where getting a tattoo fits in. On this scale, one represents nothing more than a pinprick while ten stands for I’m literally dying right now.

For clarification, we’re talking about an entry-level tattoo here, on my thigh which is basically all muscle, so we’re not hitting any bones or nerves. Who knows, one day I might get one on the spinal cord or some other such sweet spot and rank that in too.

  • Laser hair removal: It’s just a pinprick: you can more or less pretend it’s not happening.
  • Practicing MMA with a bruised rib: When someone puts their full body weight on your chest and you already have an injured rib cage, you will definitely wince. It is equally unenjoyable when you get kicked in that same spot.
  • Sprained ankle: A fairly common sports injury, sprained ankles are no fun. You know you can’t get up and keep playing because it hurts too much.
  • Removal of wisdom teeth: Sure, I got anesthetics. I consider the needle the size of my hand they jabbed into my gums multiple times to be one of the most unpleasant parts of the experience but, then again, I do hate needles. Even after the numbness kicked in, the pressure and general discomfort of drills and tongs breaking up and forcing out bits of a tooth that hadn’t even broken the surface yet was not fun. Years later, my orthodontist said I could’ve kept them. Thanks for nothing, dentist.
  • Broken hand bone: This happened to me in high school and in the first couple of hours it hurt quite a bit. I think I even cried.
  • Frozen ear: Not fun. This was in high school as well. It happened when I rode my bicycle to school on -15 degree Celsius winter day and wore this little hat with barbed wire that I thought was so cool, only this hat did not cover my ears, at all. I barely made it through the first class before my ear and head started aching so much that a teacher got me a ride home. Laying on the couch that day with a frozen ear is one of the most uncomfortable things I can remember.
  • Phakic Intraocular Lens implant: So very worth it but definitely not fun for the first few days.
  • Reconstructive jaw surgery: More specifically, waking up after eight hours of reconstructive jaw surgery. I experienced pain of all sorts during my week-long recovery in the hospital.
  • Childbirth: Yes, giving birth to life feels like death. I have other no words for it, except that it was the only time in my life that I screamed in pain. The sound of it surprised me quite a bit, in fact.

I detailed the pain experiences above before actually going in for the tattoo, so it’s funny that it ranks in just below a sprained ankle.

On my way out the door for my booking, I missed a step and twisted ankle, which is still a bit swollen. It was only a light sprain but when I got home with my fresh ink and swollen ankle I was groaning much more about the latter far than the former.

And we have our finalized rankings:

  1. laser hair removal
  2. practicing MMA with a bruised rib
  3. getting a tattoo
  4. sprained ankle
  5. removal of wisdom teeth
  6. brokenbone in the hand
  7. frozen ear
  8. phakic intraocular lens implant
  9. reconstructive jaw surgery
  10. childbirth

So there we have it, getting a tattoo falls right in between a bruised rib and a swollen and receives a pain ranking of two: not exactly comfortable but certainly bearable.

What does it feel like?

I’d say it’s a little more uncomfortable than laser hair removal because there are actual needles burrowing into your skin, but the initial pain is mild, you get used to it quickly, and it only becomes unpleasant towards the end.

At that point, the artist is doing touchups on an open wound and the skin is already sensitive. Plus, I was getting quite stiff from laying on the table for three hours and I really needed to pee: much harder to deal with than the tattooing itself.

P.S. The tattoo artists at Whiplash are amazing; if you’re in town you’ll want to book them for sure.

P.P.S. You can check out my first ink here on their Facebook page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.