Tattoos can be a painful process, but isn’t that an important part of the process?

While I don’t know of any tattoo artists or collectors that are totally opposed to using numbing (or desensitizing) creams, I do know plenty that will frown upon it. Bring up the topic to any purist or old timer and they’ll tell you tales about the good ol days and how numbing creams are for sissies. Yet even better than the stories, are the facial expressions you’ll get – a look so degrading, that’s its actually more mentally tormenting than the pain of the tattoo itself.


You see, the pain you process during a tattoo is all about one thing: You. It’s a test to ones self about limitations, control, and about pushing that magical threshold. A tattoo in certain areas is like a rite of passage and a ranking system of just how far  you’re willing to go. Ever meet a person with a tattoo in the arm pit? On the ribs? In the crotch area? Oh yeah…they’ll be the first to tell you.

Remember, pain is an output of the mind, not an input of the body. When needles penetrate your skin, it reaches nerve endings which then send signals to the brain. At that point the signals sit in idle up until the brain interprets the information and decides to send you an indicator – that indicator being a signal we process as pain. So in the end, much of what you experience is a result of your focus.

A small percentage of people feel nothing but sheer pain, and that’s probably because that’s all they concentrate on. For the majority, tattoos become a mostly euphoric experience, and for others it’s therapeutic, and that’s the reason they become addicting. As mentioned earlier, pain is a part of the process, and the end result is a great piece which you can truly appreciate.

You can almost say tattoos mimic love. Much like tattoos, love is a painful process that makes you appreciate what you have. But unlike love, tattoos are only painful and high maintenance in the beginning and after that it’s a blissful relationship with a few touch ups. Of course, if you ever want to end the relationship, you can simply have it removed – and even at that, getting rid of it is much cheaper than getting rid of a husband or wife.

In the end, the decision to use a numbing cream is completely yours. Some like it easy, some like it rough, but we’re firm believers that a little pain goes a long way. Remember a tattoo isn’t only a piece of art, it’s an episode of life to be experienced and endured, and I think Jack Rudy summed it up best when he said, “It’s a good thing they [tattoos] hurt, otherwise every pussy in the world would have one.”

A truly epic statement for those who in the know.


by SDT Contributor Simon K. 
– As a frequent lifestyle contributor for Los Angeles Times and home publications such as Dwell and LUXE. Simon is a tattoo loving, architecture obsessed journalist with a knack for doing stories that are different. Actually, different is way of life for Simon. He lives in one of the most peculiar homes in the Valley along with a two legged dog that’s always riding dirty. Did we mention that he also drives an Excalibur, but still prefers to walk?
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