Behind The Ear Tattoos: Pain, Fading, Aftercare & More is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Are you burning to get a tattoo, but you want something small you can easily cover-up? Then a behind-the-ear tattoo may be just what you’re looking for. Behind-the-ear tattoos are growing in popularity for their inconspicuous nature making them the perfect choice if you want to dip your toe in the tattoo culture. 

Since the area behind your ear is so small, it is easy to conceal with make-up or longer hair, but when you’re feeling daring and want to show off your art, it can be a flashy statement. 

However, before getting a behind-the-ear tattoo, you need to know that it does come with some drawbacks. 

Do Behind-The-Ear-Tattoos Hurt?

Getting inked hurts, no matter where you get it, but the intensity of the pain is much worse in specific areas of the body. Ribs are a notoriously painful area to get tattooed. But what about behind-the-ear tattoos? Well, the skin in that area is super thin, so you can expect to feel the needle piercing your skin intensely. In fact, the area is so sensitive that it can be considered an erogenous zone. In other words, behind-the-ear tattoos hurt pretty bad.

If we had to score the pain level on a 10-point scale, behind-the-ear tattoos will get a 5 or 6 rating. So, it’s not the most painful body part to get a tattoo but definitely makes the top five. 

What exactly makes behind-the-ear tattoos so uncomfortable?

Well, the vibration from the tattoo machine is one of the main reasons. Since the skin is so thin behind the ear, the vibrating sensation is much more noticeable. The sensory nerves in and around your ears also won’t like the constant buzzing of the tattoo machine.

Although the vibration and buzzing don’t necessarily cause pain, they can be extremely annoying and irritating. Of course, if you go to a tattoo artist who uses a rotary tattoo machine, the vibration and noise levels are basically non-existent. 

The good news is that the area behind your ear is small and can only accommodate tiny designs. This means you won’t be hurting for too long as it won’t take your tattoo artist hours to ink you. 

After the initial soreness, you may experience some sensitivity, swelling, redness, and scabbing the first week after getting your behind-the-ear tattoo. The pain will improve gradually as time goes on. If it doesn’t then it may be a sign of an infection or some other complication like an allergic reaction.

If you experience the following, you have to go visit your healthcare professional:

  • Worsening of pain
  • Excessive swelling or redness
  • Itchiness, rash, or blisters
  • Open sores
  • Smelly puss
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
Behind ear tattoo

How To Make Behind Ear Tattoos Less Painful

To help alleviate some of the pain during and after your tattoo:

Choose the right tattoo artist.

If you choose an experienced tattoo artist, you can rest assured that they’ll use the right needle size and technique to make your behind-the-ear tattoo last.

Professional tattoo artists also use only the best quality tattoo inks. The better the quality of the ink, the longer your tattoo will stay looking bright, which is a good thing since behind-the-ear tattoos tend to fade easily. 

Use a tattoo numbing cream

There are various tattoo numbing creams on the market, which will help take the edge off the pain. Just have a chat with your tattoo artist as some artists don’t like tattooing on numbed skin. 

Don’t drink alcohol

Alcohol lowers your pain tolerance and also increases bleeding.

Stay hydrated

When you’re dehydrated, your pain perception is increased. Also, dehydration can make you feel bad in general, so be sure to drink plenty of non-alcohol fluids before your tattoo session and take something to drink with you. 

Take breaks

You may not want to ask for a break because behind-the-ear tattoos are so small, but if the pain gets too intense, ask your tattoo artist to stop for a while. They won’t judge you. Believe us, they’ll much rather take a break than have you pass out from the pain. 

Listen to your tattoo artist

Tattoo aftercare is super important if you want your tattoo to heal as well as it can. If you don’t follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions, your tattoo may scab and scar, both of which will dull the appearance of your tattoo. Infection is also a possibility if you don’t take care of your behind-the-ear tattoo. 

behind ear tattoo

Best Behind-The-Ear Designs

When it comes to getting a tattoo behind the ears, there aren’t any rules. You can truly let your tattoo design imagination go wild but we do suggest you chat with your tattoo artist so that you can make your ideas work in an aesthetically pleasing way.

If you’re still looking for designs, check out these 20 meaningful back-of-the-ear tattoo ideas. Whether you choose the popular tiny musical notes, anchors, hearts, a feather, or even Chinese symbols, the fact that the design is placed behind your ear already makes it a unique statement. 

We do have to mention that all-black behind-the-ear tattoos are recommended. Black tattoo ink tends to make tattoos stand out more and also stays looking vibrant longer than colour options. Of course, that is only if your artist uses high-quality tattoo ink, to begin with! Another tip, vegan and organic tattoo ink tends to be more durable and it is better for your skin and body, so even if you don’t follow a vegan lifestyle, consider getting tattooed with vegan ink. 

Final Thoughts

Getting a tattoo behind your ear is a great idea if you’re looking for something small that can easily be covered up. But don’t for one moment the discrete placement makes behind-the-ear tattoos less visually stunning! Although it is a small space, you can fit a beautiful design there that holds meaning or just looks beautiful.

Yes, behind-the-ear tattoos hurt but considering that the tattoo is so small, you won’t have to grit your teeth for too long until it is over and you have a tiny piece of artwork. 

These tattoos also tend to fade faster than those done on other parts of the body, largely due to the thinness of the skin and the constant friction of hair over the tattoo. However, if you choose a professional artist who uses only the best quality tattoo ink, then you won’t have to worry that your behind-the-ear tattoo will lose its vibrancy too soon after getting it. 

There you go, all you need to know about behind-the-ear tattoos. All that’s left to do is for you to decide on a design and tattoo artist to join the inked family! 

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