Microblading Pain vs Tattoo Pain – Which Hurts More?

By Emily M.| Last updated on July 19, 2022
microblading pain vs tattoo pain
⏱️ 4 min read

We’ve long ago established that microblading actually is a form of tattooing, but it falls into the category of cosmetic tattoos – those done with pigments that fade away after a few years that are meant to recreate or enhance a natural feature.

The application process is very different from body art tattooing, so the whole experience and the sensations you can expect from the treatment are different, too.

We’ve collected real clients’ experiences and tried to compare microblading pain vs tattoo pain. Here’s what we came up with.

Microblading Pain vs Tattoo Pain Levels

In general, microblading hurts less than traditional tattooing. When compared to body tattooing, most clients who’ve had both report that microblading was much more bearable, but there are also those who claim it was worse.

The thing is, since the application processes are so different, the sensations are totally different, too. Let’s do a quick review of how each treatment is done:

How Is the Microblading Process Different from Regular Tattooing?

Tattooing is done with a tattoo gun that features a cluster of needles in different configurations, which poke the skin to implement ink.

Microblading is done with a hand-held tool – a microblading blade. This is a pen-shaped tool that ends in a blade made up of several thin pins placed in a line. The blade is dragged through the skin to create elongated, brow-hair-shaped strokes, and implement pigments into it.

So while traditional tattooing creates punctures, microblading creates incisions – shallow cuts.

The Question of Numbing

Microblading is always done with topical anesthetics which eliminates most of the pain.

When we compare microblading pain vs tattoo pain, we have to bear in mind that tattoos are sometimes done with anesthetics, but most of the time they’re done without it, since most tattoo sessions last much longer than any anesthetic could.

When performing a microblading treatment, most artists use 2 types of numbing: primary and secondary. Primary numbing is used to pre-numb the skin, to cause a numbing sensation before any blading is done. Secondary numbing is used once the skin has been opened, to prolong and further enhance the numbing sensation.

How your skin reacts to the anesthetics is, again, individual. Numbing can be mild to moderate, or it can be very intense. Some people’s systems metabolize it very quickly and the effect wears off relatively fast.

For clients who can handle it, the pre-numbing can be skipped.

Primary anesthetics sometimes make the skin rubbery and harder to work on, so some artists prefer to skip it. Of course, if the client reports they have a low pain threshold or are particularly anxious about the treatment, they’ll pre-numb them.

But even with numbing, you still feel something during microblading.

numbing cream on eyebrows before microbladingImage source: Instagram @frangipanibeautybar


The regulations on the use of topical anesthetics by permanent makeup artists vary from one judicial area to another. They may not be allowed to use secondary numbing, or any numbing at all – if this is the case, you’ll be asked to apply the numbing yourself, before the appointment.

If you want to have all the information, ask your artists what types of numbing they use at the consults.

So, What Does Microblading Feel Like?

Numbing is supposed to eliminate pain per se, but clients generally do feel certain sensations, which are more icky than they are painful. Here’s how different people have described it:

  • Pressure
  • Stinging
  • Pinching that doesn’t let go
  • Heat or burning
  • The tightness of a sunburn
  • The feeling of repeatedly plucking out your brows
  • The feeling of a mosquito bite
  • The feeling of a cat scratching you
  • The feeling of a paper cut

You may or may not feel any of these. Some clients go so numb they feel nothing at all – artists sometimes have clients sleep through the treatment.

At any stage of the microblading process, open and honest communication is very important. If, at any moment of the procedure, you feel like you can’t handle the discomfort, don’t hesitate to tell your artist. They may be able to add some extra numbing.

Do Machine Brows Hurt More than Microblading?

Again, it’s individual and subjective, but clients who’ve had both manual microblading and some form of machine brows claim that the manual technique is more uncomfortable.

Machine brows, be it nano brows or powder ombre brows, are done by poking the skin, not slicing it, so the technique is more similar to a traditional tattoo, but they’re done with numbing, so there’s no pain.

microblading pain vs tattoo painImage source: Freepik

Final Note

Answering questions regarding microblading pain vs tattoo pain is tricky, since it’s very individual and subjective. Pain tolerance varies from person to person, and what some find excruciating others can handle without blinking an eye.

Moreover, individual pain tolerance can vary, too, depending on your mental state, how you generally feel on a particular day, your current hormonal status (if you’re on your period, chances are your pain tolerance is lower), how well hydrated you are, whether you’ve eaten or not…

So, there’s really no way of predicting what microblading will feel like for you. What you can do to make it as bearable as possible is to go through proper preparations, and show up to your appointment relaxed and with an optimistic mindset – just think how great your brows will be!

Learn how to prepare for your microblading appointment here.

Cover image source: Freepik



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