The Differences Between Tattoos and Piercings

Tattoos and piercings are two of the most popular body modification practices in the world today, but they are far from the same thing. While both types of alterations involve puncturing the skin, that’s where the similarities end. They do have some similar side effects, but there are also significant differences between them, both in terms of physical impact and emotional attachment. This guide will look at the difference between tattoos and piercings, so you can decide which path to take when altering your body forever.

Common misconceptions

For starters, people tend to assume that tattoos and piercings are synonymous terms. That’s simply not true, as a piercing is defined as inserting a solid object through an orifice (most commonly a hole in your earlobe). This definition would exclude lip- and tongue-studs, which many would argue are technically piercing[s]. Likewise, tattoos don’t necessarily involve needles. Some people opt for what are called dermal implants: semi-permanent crescent shapes embedded into their skin by means of hypodermic needle.


While tattoos are a small nuisance that you can cover up, many people choose piercings as permanent reminders of their experiences. For those with an active lifestyle, they can be challenging. As your body moves around, so will your jewelry—and in some cases, it can lead to scarring. Although it’s not as common, it’s worth being aware of before choosing a piercing as a souvenir or expression of yourself (don’t worry—that doesn’t mean we think you shouldn’t get one). If they’re worried about scarring when selecting a piercing location, be sure to let your piercer know! It may help them advise you on where to avoid getting pierced.

Fear of needles

Maybe you’re not a fan of needles or maybe you fear pain. Maybe getting a tattoo doesn’t seem as cool as it once did. We respect those feelings—and don’t worry, we won’t judge. If needles make you queasy, you can always go for a piercing instead; there are tons of piercings that look great with almost any style of fashion, including eyebrow piercings, septum piercings, nostril piercings and more. You should also note that some people experience pain when they get their ears pierced—you might want to ask your local piercing shop if ear-piercing guns are used to do all ear piercings in their studio to avoid potential issues down the road.

Healing times

The first thing you should know about tattoos is that they’re permanent. They can be removed, but it’s a painful process. If you go to a reputable artist, removal costs hundreds of dollars per session—and it can take many sessions to remove a tattoo completely. You should also know that getting a tattoo could hurt: pain tolerance varies from person to person, so expect some discomfort. This depends on where your body artist pierces your skin, but tattoos typically hurt more than piercings because there are no nerve endings under your skin that feel pain.


There’s a bit of a cost difference between tattoos and piercings. Both types of body modification procedures can be expensive, but because tattoos are done by applying ink directly to your skin, they tend to cost more than piercings. Factors that can contribute to cost include size, placement, artist credentials and materials used. If you choose a skilled tattoo artist over a piercing professional for your first session, you might spend as much as $100 an hour; piercing professionals usually charge less than $60 an hour. There are also lots of places online where you can get high-quality piercings for a reasonable price; typical costs range from about $50 for simple ear piercings to upwards of $1,000 or more for particularly large or elaborate pieces.

Discomfort during healing process

While it’s true that both piercings and tattoos are permanent once they’re done, there is one important difference between them. Once a piercing is finished, you can take care of it on your own by washing with antibacterial soap once or twice a day. For example, if you have your navel pierced, you can just wash around it to keep bacteria away. On the other hand, getting a tattoo is something that requires an artist to sit down for several hours straight; thus making it much more difficult to maintain in between sessions. It may seem like a strange thing to say about something as small as a piercing, but having one actually means that you need help washing every day because of its placement on your body.

Pain during healing process

Both tattoos and piercings are very likely to hurt during healing. The way that our nervous system works is that it only interprets a sensation as painful when we are in danger, so there’s no such thing as an invisible pain. This means that even if you can’t feel it right now, your body will still interpret things like piercing needle pricks or tattoo machine vibrations as pain – not itchiness or tingling or burning (these are real sensations). However, once healed, many people notice differences between tattooing and piercing: some say tattoos cause more long-term soreness than piercings do; others report that piercings require much longer healing periods than tattoos.