Halsey. Miley Cyrus. Ariana Grande. These are just a few of the many celebrities who have added hand tattoos to their personal collections this year. While there's been an obvious uptick in the placement's popularity in Hollywood and, by extension, Instagram, hands have historically been one of the most popular areas to ink. But there's a lot you need to know before you show up to a tattoo parlour asking for one.
For one, consider their history: Some archaeological evidence and one 3,000-year-old mummy suggest Ancient Egyptian women frequently tattooed their fingers in dainty dots and shapes, although historians haven't nailed down the exact reason why. During the crusades, Europeans tattooed tiny crosses on their hands to signal a desire for a Christian burial postmortem. And, of course, hand tattoos are ripe with tradition in Hindu and Sikh cultures, where henna tattoos are a sacred part of pre-wedding Mehndi ceremonies. And that's just the beginning.
With all the rich historical context around hand tattoos, some tattoo artists decline inking the spot altogether to avoid cultural appropriation. Other artists might say no to first-time tattoos in that spot, given its highly visible (and still somewhat taboo) placement.
"There is no turning back once you have your hands tattooed," explains Jessica Valentine, tattoo artist and owner of Haven Studio. "Keep in mind these tattoos will be seen by everyone and not easy to conceal. Also, as the wearer, you always have to see these tattoos, so choose wisely."
Mira Mariah, New York tattoo artist at Fleur Noire, adds that tattooing hands is a tricky process, which also explains artists' reluctance with new clients. The delicate skin on the hands makes the area more susceptible to fading and healing poorly overall, which could result in a low-quality or blurry tattoo — something most artists wouldn't want to put their name on. (Personally, Mariah likes to avoid tattooing the palms, fingers, and sides of hands if she can.)
Another thing to consider is the discomfort of getting a hand tattoo. While all pain is subjective, most people say that hand tattoos are some of the worst, mostly because of the area's thin skin and bony nature. Still, the level of discomfort depends on the exact location of the tattoo. Valentine says that there are a number of areas to tattoo on the hands, including the top (or back) of the hands, the tops of the fingers near the knuckles, the cuticles, the insides of the fingers, the sides of the hands, and the palms.
With all of that said, hand tattoos can be beautiful, significant, and deeply meaningful to those who wear them. If you're still considering one to add to your growing collection, then it's important to choose a design wisely. Ahead, you'll find plenty of inspiration from celebrities and celebrity tattoo artists, plus even more pro tips about tattooing this sensitive spot.