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Do Hand Tattoos and Finger Tattoos Hurt?

illustrated snake hand shake on yellow backgroun

Hand tattoos have become more popular recently, thanks to a wave of pop stars like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus brandishing them. But whether you’re thinking about your own small finger tattoo or a design to cover your whole hand, there are some important things you should know about inking hands before you take the plunge.
 

What to Expect From a Hand Tattooillustrated hand with question mark on back against blue background

Many people worry about tattooing their hands because they’ve heard that hand tattoos hurt more than tattoos in other places. That can be true, as the skin on the hands is thinner and packed with more nerve endings than most other places on the body (the palms in particular). In general, anywhere bones sit closer to the skin surface will be more painful to tattoo, but the best predictor of hand tattoo pain is your own personal pain tolerance.

One of the most important things to know about hand tattoos is that they are one of the most prone to fading and ink loss. Because the skin is thinner, the ink doesn’t hold as well in hands to begin with. Additionally, we use our hands constantly and they are almost always exposed to the sun. Such frequent movement and exposure means that sharp lines and fill colors are more likely to fade and blur, especially on fingers and knuckles, and that you’ll likely need touch-ups to maintain detailed or line-intensive designs.

The final thing to consider if you’re thinking about a hand tattoo is your own personal and professional ambitions. While they may be having a moment in the pop culture spotlight, some employers still may not appreciate or even hire applicants with hand tattoos. Unfortunately, if you’re in a more traditional career, you may want to consider a hand tattoo’s potential impact on your employment as well.
 

Planning Your Hand Tattooillustrated numbered list against blue background

As with any tattoo project, you’ll want to find an experienced and reputable tattoo artist whose style you admire. This is especially important for hand tattoos since they are more difficult and complicated to tattoo successfully than other areas of the body. Check reviews on Google or Yelp, as well as their portfolio and social media before committing to an artist.

Once you’ve found your artist, you’ll want to plan a tattoo design that will work with the natural challenges of hand tattoos. That means you’ll probably want to steer clear of designs with lots of fine lines and details that will likely fade. Trust your artist’s experience and let them help craft a design that will minimize the impact of any fading or ink loss.
 

Hand Tattoo Designsillustrated traditional rose design on blue background

Because they are hard to conceal, hands are a great place for a small, simple hand tattoo that you’ll like to see because it means something special to you, or for a statement piece that will be impossible for others to miss. Words, icons, or a tattooed wedding band are popular finger tattoo designs, while the back of the hand is large enough to accommodate many types of designs. Talk to your tattoo artist or search for hand tattoo designs on social media if you need some inspiration.
 

Hand Tattoo Aftercareillustrated recovery tattoo salve tin on blue background

Although aftercare is largely the same for hand tattoos as for other areas, hand tattoos do present some unique aftercare challenges since they’re so hard to rest and keep clean. It’s a good idea to schedule your hand tattoo appointment before a couple of days off of work so that you can rest it as much as possible and give the ink a chance to set well early in the healing process. In general, try to minimize manual tasks and sun exposure as much as you can during the first 1-3 weeks after you get your tattoo. You’ll also want to wash your hands regularly to avoid infection of your new hand tattoo. Be sure to follow your artist’s specific aftercare instructions and check back with them if you notice any complications.

For all your aftercare supply needs, visit our online store, and for more information and articles about tattoos, piercing, and products, check out the PainfulPleasures blog.