These Are The Most (& Least) Painful Places To Get A Piercing

Before getting a piercing, one question inevitably runs through your mind: How much is this going to hurt? A Google search will tell you that you’re far from alone; that same question, or along the lines of it, has been asked nearly 18 million times before. The age-old inquiry probably hasn’t stopped anyone from adding another gold stud to their constellation piercing — but still, we wonder.

Los Angeles-based celebrity piercer Brian Keith Thompson tells us that he gets asked, “Is this going to hurt?” before almost every single appointment — regardless of whether he’s working with a piercing virgin or full-body pro, because pain is relative. Similar to the elusive pain factor revolving around tattoos, gauging exactly how uncomfortable it feels to get a piercing isn’t possible until that sterilized needle penetrates your skin. Then, just like that, it’s over. Within seconds you’re checking out your new jewelry, too preoccupied by the result to think about how it actually felt.

Thompson says that a few variables can affect how painful a piercing feels to an individual. “Pain isn’t just physical,” he says. “It’s mental, too. People tend to be more nervous about that split second of discomfort, but don’t think about how they’re now dealing with five to six months of aftercare.” Getting an infection from a new piercing because you didn’t follow the post-piercing instructions can be far more uncomfortable than the piercing itself, Thompson stresses. The pro does recommend that clients eat, drink plenty of water, and stay in a good frame of mind before arriving to their appointment. Ultimately, he agrees that there’s always the potential for pain, but isn’t that sort of why we masochistically puncture holes into our bodies in the first place?

Here’s the thing: All piercings will probably sting, maybe bleed, and then throb for a few hours. But if you find a piercer you trust, listen to their aftercare instructions, and treat your new holes with enough TLC people will start thinking it’s your pet, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. But just in case you’re still curious exactly how much pain you should expect from a second lobe piercing or barbell in your nipple, read on.

Piercing: Lobe

Pain Level: Low

“The lobe is this spongy, fatty, soft area of your ear, so pushing a needle through is like pushing a hot knife through butter,” Thompson explains. “But if you come in and are looking for multiple piercings on the lobe, like a constellation, then the second, third, and so on and so forth will continue to hurt more than the last.”

Thanks to our nervous system, physical stimuli, like the pinching of a needle, trigger a signal in our brain to let us know we’re being hurt and to move far away from whatever is causing that physical pain as quickly as possible. Think about touching your hand to a hot stove: You don’t pull your hand away until you feel the burning sensation, and only then do you remove your hand from the heated surface. A piercing — especially double or triple piercings — is similar. By the time the needle hits the skin a second time, our body is triggered and ready to let us know we are potentially in danger of being physically hurt. Unfortunately for our biochemical reactions, this is one kind of pain we willingly seek out — and pay for.

Piercing: Navel

Pain Level: Low

“Navel piercings, for some reason, really freak people out,” says Thompson. “It’s one of those things that a person can get really in their head about because the skin around your belly button is so thick and they worry that means it’ll hurt more, but that’s not true.” If you’re trying to mentally prepare for a specific sensation, Thompson says the whole process feels more like heavy pressure than excruciating pain.

Piercing: Dermal

Pain Level: Low

Technically referred to as a micro-dermal piercing, these studded holes have become trendy when done on the forehead or next to the outer corner of the eye using a biopsy punch needle. Thompson notes this method/tool isn’t allowed in every studio but, from his experience, is the most comfortable way to get a micro-dermal piercing.

“The thing about dermal piercings is that there isn’t an exit point. It’s a punched hole right into the skin,” Thompson says. “But, really, it only feels like a mild bee sting. The more fluid the piercer is with their movements, the less physical trauma it’ll cause to the client.” However, the piercing itself might not be painful, but the insertion of the jewelry could hurt. “The piercer is stretching the anchor of the jewelry, that kind of looks like the bottom of a boot, into the new hole,” he explains. “You’ll feel a quick sting from the needle, some pressure to insert the jewelry, and then it’s done.”

Piercing: Nose

Pain Level: Mild

“Nose piercings can be a little painful, but only because the most uncomfortable piercings are going to be the ones on your head,” says Thompson. “There are just so many nerves in your nose, it’s one of your senses. But at the most, the pain is mild. Just expect your eyes to water a little.”

Piercing: Cartilage

Pain Level: High

Since the top half of the ear is more dense than the lobe, a cartilage piercing is likely to hurt more than any other ear piercing. “There’s more drag on the needle when pulling it through the cartilage,” Thompson explains. “So, yes, it hurts a little more than other holes, but is tolerable enough that I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t handle it.” Hey, at least you could always fake it with one of these convincing pin earrings.


Pain Level: High

“My nipples hurt the worst out of any piercing I’ve ever personally gotten,” Thompson says. “For some reason, I’ve noticed that men don’t handle the pain as well as women do in the nipple area.” If you get both done in the same day, expect the second piercing to hurt more than the first. Thompson explains that, more often than not, people notice their tolerance lower by the second round because their bodies are already well-aware of being in pain from the previous puncture. But, again, it’s all relative.

Piercing: Genital

Pain Level: High

No one needs to tell you that your genitals are sensitive — it’s just how those body parts are built. Since that’s the case, Thompson says this one will hurt, but again, only for a second. A good rule of thumb is to do your research in advance and ask prospective piercers how many genital piercings they’ve done in the past, and figure out exactly what kind of genital piercing you’re looking for (there are at least six options for a vagina piercing).

“I once had a client have such a jolting reaction, she accidentally kicked me in the chest,” Thompson recalls. “If you’re getting a piercing on your clitoris, remember that one of its main jobs is to receive sensation, so it’s totally normal for you to have an instant, involuntary reaction. Luckily, the process is over fast.”

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