How Painful is a Head Tattoo?

How Painful is a Head Tattoo?

Getting a head tattoo takes a decent size head. And some major size balls. Sure, there’s no shortage of artists willing to ink your scalp. But WAIT! Use your noggin because a head tattoo differs from any other tattoo! We’re talkin’ the design and the mega pain tolerance you will need to bring with you. Plus, ehm…are you really ready to make a permanent impression...on your dome of glory?


First: The pain level for a head tattoo places it in the 'HOLY MOTHER FU**ING, chair clenching' category, with an average pain rating of 10 out of 10. (So far, so good, right?😂) So let's look at why the f*ck it hurts so bad and what to expect as it heals.

Dude don't be someone else's bowling ball to practice on.

As with all tattoos, spend time researching your tattoo artist. Just any artist can't do a good head tattoo. The reality is the MAJORITY of tattoo artists have little to zero actual experience tattooing a head. Yep. So make sure you find an artist with genuine verifiable experience doing head tattoos.

Tattoo Designed By Drew Plotkin

Look at their designs but also at how their head tattoo pieces healed. Most freshly done tattoos can look great, especially in photos and on social media.

But the most important thing is how they look AFTER the healing phase. (And thus, for the rest of your life!) It's a good sign when an artist has photos of their work showing up to a year of healed tattoos.

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But, be careful. Some dishonest artists use filters and photoshop to make tattoo pictures appear better than in reality. That's why asking for actual client referrals is also a good idea.

Oh, and another important reality with getting a head tattoo. Ya gonna be BALD as in SMOOOOTH operator. Like your arm, leg, etc. get shaved clean for a new tattoo, your head is no exception. So even if you don’t plan on remaining smoothly bald after the tattoo, you will need to get The Rock’s ‘hair do’ for the actual tattoo session. You’ll also have to ask your artist if they prefer to shave your head (or the specific tattoo area of the head) themselves or if they want you to get professionally shaved before your appointment.

Drew Plotkin Getting Head Shaved | Head Tattoo

Don’t try to shave your head yourselves, dudes. Your head will end up with nicks and micro-cuts, making the tattooing process even more challenging and potentially not doable.

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Arc Angel Head Tattoo

The most painful areas to tattoo on the body are anywhere with nerve endings and thin skin. Going over bone doesn’t help, either. I.e., knees, behind the knees, ribcage, elbows, etc. The skin on your head is the thinnest and, therefore, more likely to bleed than on any other area on your body. Your head is also home to numerous nerve endings and is completely surrounded by the bone of your skull. Of course, pain tolerance is different for everyone, but it’s a known fact that any tattoo near/on bones is going to hurrrrt.  


Mr K Head Tattoo on Drew Plotkin

Despite all of this, there are some things you can do to try to make the pain more bearable:

1. Try earbuds. As the needle navigates across your head, the sound of tattoo guns can be loud, especially when close to your ears. You may wonder if you signed up for a lobotomy instead of a tattoo. Throw on a podcast, youtube video, or your favorite playlist, and maybe scroll through TikTok to tune out the pain. (@dermdudeofficial is a great channel to surf and is clinically (not) proven to reduce pain by 99.9%)

2. Numbing cream is tricky. Some artists encourage it, and others strongly dislike their clients using it. Ask your artist before booking the appointment if they’d be comfortable with you using numbing cream before the head tattoo. We are not huge fans of numbing creams for tattoos, but that is another blog post for a future date.

3. Depending on the head tattoo design size, you can also consider breaking up the tattoo into multiple sessions. It’ll take longer to finish your tattoo, but it should be easier to handle the pain in smaller chunks. You can also start with a small design to get an idea of how bad the pain is for a head tattoo and make sure you’re happy with how a head tattoo would heal on your skin. (And you just might avoid crying your eyeballs out pleading for the pain gods to save you in front of the entire shop).


Hair on your head can grow back fast and can itch when it does! DON'T scratch or pick at it. Your head tattoo will probably flake like all other body parts with fresh tattoos healing. Flaking is a good sign for your healing tattoo and makes it all the more important that you don't scratch or pick at it.

Make sure you use a very good tattoo aftercare balm on your head as soon as your tattoo is finished and for at least the first two weeks after. We also suggest using a good moisturizer on your head at least ten days PRIOR to your new head tattoo. And if you can't quite reach that tattoo with your usual tattoo aftercare balm or other aftercare products, try an aftercare spray! It'll fit in your pocket and be able to go with you everywhere for when your healing tattoo needs some love.

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Remember not to shave the area of your new head ink for at least 6-8 weeks after your tattoo. This should be pretty self-explanatory but shaving the area of a healing tattoo can lead to more cuts and further irritate the skin. Your tattoo could get infected and heal poorly. Make sure it is safe to shave this area before you do so!


Drew Plotkin Head Tattoo | URDU In God's Hands

Still think you're ready for some great new head (ink)? Best of luck with the pain, and don't be scared to go through a few stencil placements to make sure you're truly in love with it before you pull the trigger.

And don't forget to plan your aftercare supplies! We always got you covered, dudes (and gals).

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  • Seabass on

    Just came across this man, great read! I have one face side of my ear similar to yours, found the breaking of the skin painful but the rest of it fine, so just wondering is the head much worse in comparison? Going for the back of my head and have quite a big scar there too so kind of worried 🙈 btw your head tat is unreal 👌

  • Drew Plotkin on

    Thanks Jack! It hurt like hell but so happy with the tattoo. Yes, it is Mr. K. I have had several tattoos done by him – great tattoo artist!

  • Jack on

    Awesome Head Tatt dude, Is that Mr. K?

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