Piercing Vs Tattoo: What Hurts More? [Comparison Guide]

Do you want to know which one is the best option in piercing vs tattoo? It is normal to be concerned about the level of pain and health risks that these body arts present.

I will show you what are the differences between piercings and tattoos and which is best for what people. Read more!

How Much Do Piercings Hurt?

Piercings are known to only cause minimal pain.

The art of body piercing gives expression to the human body in a more personalized fashion.

The level of hurt/pain that a piercing can cause depends on several factors.

For example, if you’re enthusiastic about visiting the body piercing studio for body piercing services, you’ll likely not feel as much pain as someone getting this body art procedure with pessimism or fear.

The body part where you’re having the piercing (e.g., nose, genitals, tongue, nipple, etc.) will determine how much pain you’ll feel.

But when body piercers use the right piercing equipment and perform the procedure properly, the pain shouldn’t exceed 5 on a scale of 10.

Ensure that your body artist complies with body art regulations such as proper sterilization requirements and other sanitation standards.

Safety standards will prevent health risks, such as a delayed healing process, bacterial infections, blood-borne disease transmission, and skin infections.

How Much Do Tattoos Hurt?

Tattooing procedures are painful, but not extremely so.

man getting a tattoo

The level of perception of pain is relative, as we have different pain thresholds, and different parts of the human body have varying pain tolerance levels.

Tattooing can be described as permanent make-up/cosmetics done with the aid of tattoo ink and needle by a licensed cosmetic tattoo artist.

For a valid tattoo procedure, tattoo pain can be like a cat scratch or a sunburn.

But factors such as age, sex, and psychological disposition can affect how much pain a tattoo procedure causes.

For example, the older you get, the lesser your pain sensitivity (1).

To find out the best micropigmentation machine, check out this article.

Piercing Vs Tattoo: How Long Does the Pain Last?

Pain from a body piercing procedure rarely extends beyond the first day, although the signs of inflammation such as redness and minimal swelling may linger on for about one week (2).

The pain duration also depends on how long the healing process takes. For example, piercings done on the ear lobe may take two months to completely heal while those done on ear cartilage may take close to four months.

Pain in tattooed skin can last as long as 2 weeks, although the soreness will reduce significantly from about the fourth day.

You should suspect an abnormal inflammation, which may be because of an invasion of infectious diseases whenever the pain takes too long to disappear.

Tattoo Vs Piercing: Where Does It Hurt More?

Tattoos hurt more when done on areas of the body that are bony.

man putting tattoo on the body

Body parts that are more fleshy and that contain more fat will experience less pain, as the pain tolerance will be higher.

That is because fat and body fluid can insulate better the harder tissues beneath, such as bones, against pressure.

The most painful body parts for this form of body art include the ankle, head, face, knee, spine, fingers, ribs, neck, and groin. The forearm, shoulder, stomach, and parts of the back hurt less.

Don’t forget to check our guide on how to make a tattoo hurt less.

For body piercing, areas of the body with a high nerve density and lesser cartilage will hurt more. For example, the genitals, nipples, and some parts of the nose will hurt more than areas such as the ears and the tongue.

Check out this catalog of easy tattoo drawings for beginners.

Piercing Vs Tattoo: How To Reduce the Pain

To reduce pain from a body piercing procedure, follow the following tips:

  • Treat the pain directly by using painkillers, using a chamomile tea compress, taking cold drinks if you did a lip piercing, etc.
  • Do not tamper with the healing process by fiddling with the piercing. The ouch factor sometimes can be tempting and you might want to run your hands very frequently over the piercing but this could worsen the inflammation.
  • Protect the pierced area from contamination that could cause an infection. Avoid swimming and always keep sanitation standards such as hand washing.

For tattooed skin, the following tips can help reduce pain:

  • Drink enough water before and after the procedure, as dry skin hurts more when a needle is applied.
  • Dress comfortably. I recommend loose clothes.
  • Ask your cosmetic tattoo artist for skin-numbing creams.
  • Avoid using pain relievers 24 hours before the procedure.

Watch this video to learn more about how to minimize tattoo pain:

Piercing Vs Tattoo: Which One Should You Get?

If you’re considering the pain level, I advise you to get a piercing rather than a tattoo. Piercings only create a brief, sharp pain while tattoo pain takes longer, even if it’s not as sharp as the pain from piercings.

But people get tattoos and piercings for different reasons, even if both are body modification procedures.

A tattoo is more appropriate for those who want something close to permanent cosmetics. Body piercings are ideal for those who want to use body jewelry for body decorations.


When’s the appropriate age for a piercing?

The appropriate age for a piercing is when a child is old enough to communicate how they are feeling. You can check out the body art laws provided by the board of body art practitioners for more details.

What are the risks of having a tattoo?

Allergic reactions, skin infections, and keloids are the risk factors for having a tattoo.


According to research, invasive body modifications such as body piercing and tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable (3).

But when doing a piercing vs tattoo comparison, consider that they are very different.

Tattooing takes longer and does not cause intense pain, while piercing takes a shorter time but causes sharper pain.

Talking to your body piercing artist about your pain threshold is a good way to prevent being exposed to unbearable pain.

lady having a piercing on her nose


1. Farrell MJ. Age-Related Changes in the Structure and Function of Brain Regions Involved in Pain Processing. Pain Medicine. 2012;13:S37–43.

2. Schmid-Schönbein GW. ANALYSIS OF INFLAMMATION. Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering. 2006;8:93–151.

3. Preslar D, Borger J. Body Piercing Infections [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537336/

About Edith Russo

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