Do Bicep Tattoos Hurt? Plus Tips to Reduce The Pain

If you’re thinking about getting a bicep tattoo, you may be wondering how painful your tattoo session will be. Bicep tattoos are located on the upper half of the arm and are typically described as less painful compared to other body parts. Pain level for the inner and outer bicep area can differ and pain tolerance also plays an important factor with any tattoo.

How Bad Do Bicep Tattoos Hurt?

Bicep tattoos are generally less painful than most tattoo locations. The sensation you feel when getting tattooed resembles a burning or stinging pain. Some people describe the feeling as getting stung by a bunch of small bees. While there will always be some amount of pain when getting a tattoo, bicep tattoo pain tends to be much milder compared to other body parts.

Tattoos in areas with less fat, muscle, or skin will often be more painful. For example, head, hand, or rib tattoos are generally much more painful than tattoos on the outer bicep. Biceps also do not have as many nerve endings as other areas which helps lower the pain level. It is important to note, however, that everyone has a different pain tolerance and areas that some people find less painful can still be more painful to others.

How Does Inner and Outer Bicep Tattoo Pain Compare?

Although a bicep tattoo has a low pain level, there is a difference between pain levels for the inner and outer bicep. The outer bicep is less painful and many people believe the outer bicep is one of the easiest tattoos to get in terms of pain.

An outer bicep tattoo ranks between 2 and 4 out of 10 on pain level. An inner bicep tattoo bumps the pain level up to a 6 out of 10. The inner bicep area is more vulnerable to pain because the skin is more sensitive and has a few nerves that run through the area. 

The pain level for an inner bicep tattoo can be higher depending on how close the tattoo will be to the armpit or the inner elbow where the inner bicep and forearm meet. The armpit and inner elbow area is ranked an 8 to 9 out of 10 on the pain level scale.

Depending on pain tolerance, one may want to consider the size of an inner bicep tattoo in order to avoid the higher pain levels that come with getting a tattoo in close proximity to the armpit or inner elbow area.

Can You Make a Bicep Tattoo Hurt Less?

One should always expect some amount of pain when getting a tattoo. There are ways to help calm the nerves and possibly make the tattoo session less painful.

Eating an hour or two before a tattoo session and staying hydrated is always recommended by tattoo artists. Eating before a session will help raise your blood sugar levels and prevent you from feeling nauseous while getting tattooed which also helps with comfortability.

You can also make a tattoo less painful by coming into a session well-rested. When we are tired or exhausted, our bodies become more irritable which can cause us to become more sensitive to pain. People tend to like morning tattoo sessions for this reason, but taking a quick nap and having a nice meal will be just as beneficial for an evening session.

Numbing Cream

Using numbing cream can help reduce the amount of pain one will feel when getting a tattoo. It is ultimately up to the person getting tattooed whether they want to use numbing cream or not. 

Lidocaine is a common numbing agent in numbing creams known as a “nerve deadener”. 

Numbing creams with lidocaine typically don’t last very long, so reapplying the cream throughout the session may be required depending on how long the session takes. Benzocaine is another topical anesthetic that can reduce pain by blocking the nerve signals of the body.

Do Tattoo Artists Use Numbing Cream?

Many tattoo artists do not like using numbing cream during tattoo sessions for various reasons. Some artists believe that numbing creams could affect the surface of the skin, risking damage to the final product of the tattoo. If you would like to use numbing cream for a tattoo session, ask the tattoo artist you intend on getting the tattoo from if they allow the use of numbing cream. 

If an artist allows numbing cream, they may ask you to apply it before the appointment or the artist may supply the numbing cream themselves. Some tattoo artists believe that pain from a tattoo is part of the experience and will not use numbing cream.

An important part of the process for getting a tattoo is finding a tattoo artist who can accommodate your requests, compromise with you, and make you feel comfortable. If you are set on using numbing cream for a tattoo to relieve some of the pain and an artist refuses, find another artist you like who will work with numbing cream.

How Long Does a Bicep Tattoo Take?

Bicep tattoos can take anywhere from an hour to 5 hours or longer depending on the details of the design and size. As with any tattoo, the larger the tattoo the longer the session will be. A tattoo that has a lot of detail in it will take longer even if it is small. Small, simplistic tattoos may take no more than an hour or two to complete. A tattoo artist can give you a rough estimate of how long the session will take once the tattoo design is finalized.

How Long Will a Tattoo Be Sore After You Get It?

A new tattoo is considered a wound and can be sore for up to a week after the session. It is recommended to wear loose clothing to a tattoo appointment and up to a week after to prevent clothing from restricting the tattoo. Soreness will fade away after the first week of the tattoo and will begin to scab as a part of the healing process.

How Do You Prepare for a Bicep Tattoo Session?

There are a few things you should do to prepare for a bicep tattoo. 

  • Eat an hour or two before the tattoo appointment
  • Be well-rested before going to the appointment
  • Wear loose clothing

Eating before a tattoo appointment and being well-rested will help you feel more comfortable, prevent nausea, and reduce irritability which may lessen the pain. Wear a loose t-shirt to the appointment and up to a week after getting a bicep tattoo so the tattoo can heal properly and prevent further soreness from occurring.

Should You Shave Before Your Session?

Tattoo artists keep disposable razors at hand for when they need to shave an area that will be tattooed. Even if the body part does not have a lot of hair, the tattoo artist may still shave the area to get rid of tiny, peach-fuzz hairs from interfering with the tattoo process. You may shave prior to the tattoo appointment to help the tattoo artist out, but professional tattoo artists will have disposable razors in the shop and can shave the area for you.


Will Gaining Muscle Harm My Bicep Tattoo?

If the muscle gain is gradual, the tattoo on the bicep will most likely not be harmed. Rapid muscle gain can cause the skin to stretch drastically which may result in the tattoo becoming distorted. Bicep tattoos are more vulnerable to distortion from significant muscle gain because the skin’s surface area tends to change more significantly depending on the amount of muscle growth.

When Is the Best Time to Get a Bicep Tattoo?

The best time to get a tattoo is in the fall or winter because the skin is usually less exposed to the sun during these seasons. Getting a tattoo in the summer is generally not recommended, especially on the bicep, because it will be exposed to the sun more often and cause the tattoo to fade quicker. It is also highly recommended to avoid swimming before a tattoo has fully healed because it can prolong the healing process.

How Can I Protect My Tattoo From Fading?

Moisturize the tattoo often, especially during the healing process, to help maintain it. If the fresh tattoo will be exposed to sunlight often, wear sunscreen to prevent fading. Even if a tattoo is healed, wearing sunscreen with a high SPF on the area will help a tattoo maintain its color. Once a tattoo has faded, the only thing you can do to bring back the colors is get a touch up.