Do Stick And Poke Tattoos Hurt?

Although they've recently experienced a huge surge in popularity, stick and poke tattoos have been around for thousands of years. But it was during the heady days of bellbottoms and feathered hair that the style really began gaining ground. According to Tattoo Art From the Heart, a blog all about the history of tattoos, stick and poke tattoos started gaining prominence during the 1960s and 1970s, a time when everyone was itching for a way to express themselves creatively. 

It was a kind of crude and homemade method of giving yourself a tattoo that looked a bit more punk rock than what the professionals typically do. Since then, this DIY method of tattooing has become a trendy way of getting inked that totally kicks butt. Nowadays, you can visit a tattoo parlor to get one or even purchase a kit and give yourself a stick and poke tattoo at home (though we don't recommend doing so — stick and pokes are only safe when professionally done).

There are plenty of questions surrounding this old-turned-new tattoo technique including, perhaps most pertinently, whether they're painful. As Medical News Today points out, regular tattoos, created using a machine with several needles attached, typically hurt. Does the stick and poke method mean we can forget about experiencing any pain during a tattoo?

It really depends on your pain tolerance

While certain tattooing methods, such as henna tattoos, are completely painless, it will definitely be a disappointment to learn that you will feel at least a little bit of pain when getting a stick and poke tattoo. The amount depends on where you get your tattoo, how big it is, and your overall pain tolerance, as Byrdie explains. 

Stick-and-poke tattoos hurt because of the method used to create them. If you've ever played around with pixel art apps on your phone, you'll know what we're talking about when we say the method is done dot by dot. Each little dot will eventually form a beautiful picture, but the needle has to be pushed into your skin numerous times to do so.

In reality, a stick and poke tattoo isn't that much different from a machine tattoo. According to Healthline, the crucial difference between the two is that stick and poke tattoos are done entirely by hand without the assistance of electricity. The type of pain you experience from a hand-poked tattoo will probably differ from a machine tattoo, but the jury's still out on whether it's more painful or not.

How to make stick and poke tattoos hurt less

Stick-and-poke tattoos may not be pain-free, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to make them hurt a little bit less. One method to ensure you experience less pain when getting any kind of tattoo done is by choosing the right place on your body. In a chat with the tattoo blog Inside Out, tattoo artist Talia Missaghi confirmed that the least painful places you can get a stick and poke done are your thighs, forearms, biceps, and triceps. 

There's more muscle mass in these areas and fewer nerves, which makes them the perfect spots for hand-poked tattoos. She did note, however, "Hand poke tattoos tend to take longer [than machine tattoos], too, which can cause the area to become more sensitive and therefore may be more painful throughout the session." Taking a painkiller is another great way to reduce the pain you feel during the tattooing session. 

Authority Tattoo recommends opting for an acetaminophen like Tylenol instead of ibuprofen, however, because ibuprofen acts as a blood thinner and can make bleeding last longer as a result. Any way you poke it, you're going to feel at least a slight amount of pain when getting a tattoo. But hopefully, these techniques will help make your stick and poke tattoo experience as painless as possible.