Ear Tattoo Pain: Cartlidge, Earlobe & Behind the Ear Tattoos

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It’s not very common for people to consider getting an ear tattoo. This is because both the cartilage and the earlobe are extremely sensitive and one of the most painful body parts to tattoo!
It’s even possible for ear tattoos to cause jaw lock, migraines, as well as headaches. This doesn’t happen with other body parts.

Because of all these reasons, many tattoo artists might warn you that getting an ear tattoo is not a good idea. The Aftercare for an ear tattoo also requires a lot of work because the ear tattoo should not get any shampoo on it.

It’s not all negative though. In this article we’re going to go over everything you need to know about ear tattoos. We’ll answer all the common questions so you can make an informed decision before getting one.

How bad do ear tattoos actually hurt?

Most people would describe the pain of an ear tattoo as fairly bad. The reason for that is because there isn’t much fat on the ears. The lack of fat means that there is no cushion for the tattoo needle. The ears also have many nerve endings which get irritated during the tattoo.

Both ear cartilage and ear lobe tattoos are known to hurt more than other body parts, so if you can’t handle much pain then it might be best to choose another body part.

At the end of the day, the individual’s pain tolerance will determine how badly an ear tattoo hurts. Pain tolerance differs drastically among people and even among gender (1). Some people report that their ear tattoo was more annoying from the machine buzzing than it was painful.

How do you ease the pain of an ear tattoo

Here are the best ways to decrease the pain from an ear tattoo. These tips are for before, during, and after the session.

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before the tattoo
  • Go with a reputable and experienced tattoo artist. An experienced artist will be able to finish the ear tattoo quicker, which means less pain for you.
  • Stay hydrated. If the skin is dry, it will hurt more karma both during the tattoo and during the healing process.
  • Don’t take any painkillers. They thin the blood and can cause the tattoo to take longer than usual.
  • Avoid alcohol for at least 1 day before getting your tattoo. Alcohol thins the blood and can increase the sensitivity to pain.
  • Eat before getting your tattoo. Having low blood sugar can make the experience more painful, so having a meal beforehand will help.
  • Stay relaxed during the tattoo. It will be over before you know it, so take deep breaths and try to relax.
  • Distract yourself from the pain. Having a friend to talk to you can make all the difference, or listening to music can help as well.
  • Use a skin numbing cream. The tattoo artist will probably have several different types and you can ask them if you need it.
  • Don’t get a tattoo while sick. Your pain tolerance will be lower and the tattoo could take longer to heal because the immune system is preoccupied.
  • Avoid any type of caffeine before a tattoo session. Similar to alcohol, caffeine will thin the blood what you don’t want. Caffeine can also increase anxiety, which is not good for first-time tattooers.
  • Take a pain reliever that’s different than aspirin. Acetaminophen is a good option as it won’t thin the blood like aspirin does.
  • Stay as still as you can while the tattoo artist is doing the tattoo. movements can be very distracting for tattoo artist, making it more difficult for them to do a quality job.
  • Ask for break if necessary. Any good tattoo artist should give you brakes whenever you need them.

Are ear tattoos a bad idea?

It really depends on the person, but for some people ear tattoos are a bad idea. First of all they have the potential to be painful. They’re also very hard to hide. So if you work in a field where tattoos are frowned upon, behind the ear tattoos can be difficult to hide if you don’t have long hair.

Is a tattoo behind the ear unprofessional?

In regards to an ear tattoo being unprofessional, it really depends on the size. A small and discreet tattoo behind the ear will be quite hard to see, therefore not being unprofessional if nobody sees it.

A bigger design on the ear however could be viewed as a professional by some employers. at the end of the day, it completely depends on the industry that you’re working in. Somewhere places are more tolerant than others, so it pays to look into this ahead of time if you are dead set on working in a certain field.

Do ear tattoos blow out?

Just completely depends on the scale of the tattoo artist, but in general, yes ear tattoos have a higher chance of tattoo blowout. Because the ears have no muscle and very little fat, The tattoo artist has to inject the ink deeper into the skin versus other locations.

Read this article to learn more about tattoo blowout.

Do ear tattoos fade easily?

Generally, ear tattoos don’t fade any faster than tattoos on other body parts. Caring for ear tattoos can be hard, especially right after getting it. But as long as you don’t let it get wet in the shower it shouldn’t be an issue.

The only time you have to worry about your tattoos fading prematurely is when they are not done properly, or if the Aftercare process is not done right.
Also you have to make sure to keep your your tattoo covered before going out in the hot sun, as sunlight can cause it to fade faster.

How long does it take for a behind the ear tattoo to heal?

It takes roughly three to four weeks for a tattoo either on or behind the ear to heal 100%. The aftercare process is crucial for making sure that the tattoo heals and the color does not Fade Away prematurely.

If you want to know more about proper tattoo aftercare than read our article here.

How to reduce the healing time of an ear tattoo

Ear tattoos usually need the typical 3 to 4 weeks to heal completely, but there are a few things that you can do to speed it up a little bit.

Block sunlight exposure

A new tattoo on anybody is sensitive to sunlight. Your tattoos however, are especially sensitive you need to make sure that your ear tattoo is covered during the healing stage. Having long hair is good in the situation, but you can also use clothing to get the job done.

Related: best tanning lotions for tattoos

Don’t use plastic wrap over an ear tattoo

It’s normal for a tattoo artist to cover the ear tattoo with a plastic wrap like Saniderm after the session. Usually you remove this plastic wrap after 3 to 4 days. You don’t want to wrap it again though because this reduces the amount of oxygen that the tattoo gets and can cause the healing process to take longer.

Clean the ear tattoo daily

You want to use water that is lukewarm, but not hot. If the water is too hot, it can hurt the skin and open up pores, which can make the ink draw inwards. This water should be sterile as well. Cleaning your hands using an antibacterial soap is also very important to do.

Use proper tattoo ointment

Because ear tattoos need a good level of oxygen to heal, the tattoo artist will usually tell you to not use stuff like Vaseline. For the first couple days after the tattoo, it’s okay to use products such as lanolin and vitamin A. 4-5 days later, you can start using fragrance-free moisturizer that’s made for aftercare.

Don’t scratch or pick at the tattoo

It’s completely normal for a new tattoo to scab. No matter how tempted you might be, do not pick or scratch at the scab as this will further delay the healing. It could even cause scarring, depending on how hard the tattoo is picked at.

Don’t use scented products on the tattoo

You want to avoid using any kind of scented soap or lotion on your tattoo. Ear tattoos are quite vulnerable when showering, so switching to an unscented shampoo and conditioner can help prevent an allergic reaction in case it comes in contact with the tattoo.

Keep the tattoo dry

It goes without saying that you should avoid swimming for at least three weeks after getting an ear tattoo. When washing the tattoo you only need a small amount of lukewarm water to get the job done.

Do tattoos on ears last?

Yes, ear tattoos should last as long as any other tattoo, as long as they are taken care of properly. The Aftercare process is crucial so make sure to read the rest of this article.

How much is a small ear tattoo?

A small ear tattoo will typically cost between $40 to $150. This will obviously depend on the size and complexity of the tattoo, as well as the artist, but this is an average estimate.

Are behind the ear tattoos easy to hide?

While it can be pretty hard to hide a tattoo on the ear, a tattoo behind the ear is definitely more discreet. If you have long hair, a tattoo behind the ear is not that hard to hide.

How do you shower with an ear tattoo?

It really depends on where the tattoo is located, but if it’s not right on the hairline then it should be easy to avoid getting chemicals on it.
If your new ear tattoo does happen to get wet, make sure to gently dry it using a fresh paper towel.

Can I wash my hair after getting a tattoo behind my ear?

Yes, it’s fine to wash your hair normally, just be sure not to let the tattoo get too wet while it’s fresh. Having a quick shower should be fine though as long as you pass the tattoo dry when you’re finished.

Can you get a tattoo if you just got a piercing?

While you technically can get a tattoo if you just got a piercing, it’s better to wait until it heals. both tattoos and piercings are both traumatic to the ear and it’s best not to stress out the body.

What hurts more, ear piercing or ear tattoos?

In the short-term, ear piercings definitely hurt more than ear tattoos. However, ear tattoos take much longer to complete, therefore making them more painful overall. Ear tattoos also take longer to heal than ear piercings.

Can you go in the sun after an ear tattoo?

No, you definitely want to avoid direct sunlight after getting a new tattoo. If you must go out in the sun, make sure that your tattoo is covered for 1 month after.

How do you sleep with a new ear tattoo?

Using a travel airplane pillow is the best way to sleep with a fresh ear tattoo. Using one of these will prevent pressure on the ear while you’re asleep.
If you are unable to get a travel pillow, you can also roll up a t-shirt and put it around your ear. This way, there won’t be any pressure on the ear and tattoo when you lie on the side.

Ear tattoo aftercare tips

When you wash your ear tattoo, make sure to pat it dry gently using either clean towel or paper towel. It’s important not to rub the tattoo. Once the tattoo is dry, apply some unscented lotion. you should repeat this process between two to three times per day during the first two to three weeks of healing.


Overall, there are definitely some downsides to getting an ear tattoo. The pain potential, complicated after care, and difficulty to hide make ear tattoos less appealing for the average person.
If you really want one though, don’t let anything stop you! Ear cartilage and earlobe tattoos can turn out looking amazing if you get the right artist.

Have an ear tattoo? Let us know how it turned out.