Tattoos are generally more painful in less padded areas of the body, and where the skin is most sensitive. The palm of your hand has almost no fat padding, and is one of the more sensitive areas of the body. This combination adds up to a palm tattoo being acknowledged as one of the most painful tattoos you can get.
According to the science website ThinkQuest, some parts of the body are relatively more sensitive to touch—and pain—than others. This is because the receptors in your skin are not distributed uniformly throughout your body. Certain areas, including the hands, fingers and lips, are more sensitive than other parts of the body, such as the back. The palm of your hand is typically slightly less sensitive than your fingers, upper lip, nose or cheek, but more sensitive than most of your other body parts. The palm is roughly four times more sensitive than the shoulder or calf.
Tattoos on the palm are also painful because there is very little fat on palms, which are very sensitive parts of the body. In general, the more padded an area of your body, the less painful it will be to get tattooed. Therefore, tattoos on the thigh, calf, stomach or upper arm are generally less painful than those tattoos where there is little padding between the skin and your bones. Tattoos on knuckles or directly over the spine will typically be more painful because of the lack of padding.
Because the skin on your palm has a different and faster regrowth pattern than the rest of your body, palm tattoos are susceptible to faster fading than other tattoos. They may need retouching every few months or years. Any tattoo carries certain risks associated with the tattoo needle breaching the skin, according to MayoClinic.com. These risks include allergic reactions to the tattoo ink, skin infections, skin bumps known as granulomas, the development of keloid scars at the tattoo site or blood-borne diseases from contaminated tattooing equipment.
Palm tattoos may fade, dissipate or "fall out" of the hand. Because of the way the skin of your palm regenerates, the lines of a tattoo on the palm may also thicken over a period of months. Palm tattoos are also relatively susceptible to sun damage, so it is important to keep your palm tattoo protected with sunscreen any time you are out in the sun. Having the tattoo placed relatively deep in the skin can reduce fading.
Many tattoo artists advise against getting the palms of your hands tattooed. In addition to being painful, palm tattoos are extremely visible and may be a barrier to employment. Unlike tattoos on other parts of your body, palm tattoos cannot be covered by clothing unless you wear gloves the whole time you are at work. Additionally, MayoClinic.com cautions that tattoo ink—classified as a cosmetic product—is not subject to approval or regulation by the United States Food and Drug Administration.