Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?

Look at any Tattoo Removal Clinics’ web-site under their FAQ’s and you’ll see the question ‘Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?’

And that’s because it’s one of the most popular questions they get asked (along with ‘do you have a time machine so I can go back and scream at myself “Don’t get that Tattoo!!!!!!”)

But not all Clinics want to tell you exactly what it feels like in case you decide not to go ahead, so we’ve put together this independent guide to answer your burning questions about the pain of Tattoo Removal.

Does Tattoo Removal Hurt?

Unfortunately the short answer is ‘Somewhat to Yes’. Tattoo Removal uses a laser to penetrate the skin and break up the ink particles so there will be a level of pain ranging from ‘discomfort’ to ‘pain’. Common descriptions of the feeling are:

  • Someone flicking a rubber band at your skin repeatedly
  • Someone cooking bacon on your arm (only really useful if you’ve actually cooked bacon on your arm before)
  • Rapid pin-pricks
  • Scratching sunburn


Though some pain comes much gain
Through (some) pain comes much gain

Well that’s the bad news – any good news?

Of course there is! The first thing to realise is that everyone’s pain threshold is different. For some people it’s not much more than discomfort, and as you’re at least 18 years or older (otherwise you shouldn’t have a Tattoo in the first place) you probably have some idea of your pain threshold. Other things to consider are:

  • A single Tattoo removal session can be over in minutes depending on the size of your Tattoo. So it might be painful, but the actual treatment time is usually short
  • Guess what? You’ve already experienced pain when you got your Tattoo in the first place – unless you were passed out drunk and got a pair of Ray Bans tattooed on your face. The pain level is comparable to getting your Tattoo in the first place and you survived that
  • Tattoo treatments are spaced out over several weeks, so you have time to recover between sessions
  • Not all parts of the body experience the same level of pain. Areas with more fat (such as the arms or buttocks) are less painful. Tattoos in areas with less fat or close to bone are (gulp) more painful

Are there ways to minimise the pain?

Yes there are, and you should discuss these in consultation with your preferred Clinic. The main forms of pain relief are:

  • Local numbing agents. These are topical anaesthetics applied to the skin and help with numbing the area
  • Paracetamol or other over-the-counter pain relievers taken prior to treatment but ALWAYS discuss this with your clinician before taking, as some may have an adverse effect with treatment process
  • Cold air machines. Many clinics will offer this non-invasive option which involves blowing cold air (up to -30 Celsius!) onto the treatment area before, during and after, which produces a numbing effect
  • Local anaesthetic. Not as popular in Australia, but some clinics may offer a local anaesthetic administered by needle to the area

Should the ‘pain factor’ put me off getting my Tattoo Removed?

No, we don’t think it should. You’re not thinking of getting a Tattoo removed on a whim. You didn’t wake up and think “Today I might go and get my Tattoo Removed just for fun”. There’s a sound reason (or reasons) behind your decision. Our favourite quote on the matter says it best “Tattoo Removal Pain is temporary – Tattoo Removal is for a lifetime”