Everything You Need To Know Before Getting A Hand Tattoo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
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 parlor asking for one.
For one, consider their history: Some archeological 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.
1 of 15
Valentine says that you don't have to limit your imagination for hand tattoos, but keep in mind that the location can dictate the size and shape of your desired design. This spotted snake by L.A. tattoo artist Daniel Winter is just small enough to fit on one side of the hand.
2 of 15
Thanks to the 17,000 touch receptors and nerve endings, getting tattooed on the palm of the hand is next-level pain. Don't believe it? Ask Ariana Grande and her "Japanese BBQ" tattoo.
3 of 15
If you're not totally prepared for that wave of pain, consider the outer edge of the palm instead.
4 of 15
The top side of the hand is also a prime spot for fine-lined designs, including Miley Cyrus' new "1961" tattoo in honor of her father Billy Ray Cyrus' birth year.
5 of 15
Want to mix text and floral designs? Consider the top side of the hand, just like this one created by tattoo artist Dr. Woo.
6 of 15
Turns out, getting inked closer to the knuckle isn't as painful as you might think. “Although other places close to the bone are painful, the top of the finger by the knuckles can actually handle a decent amount of pain,”  tattoo artist Noah Lee once told Refinery29. “It's also a place that typically suffers the least amount of fading, as far as finger tattoos go.”

Hailey Bieber splurged on a whole collection of finger tattoos from Dr. Woo.
7 of 15
Mariah is a big fan of hand tattoos that include a collage of smaller designs vs. one large singular image. The celestial collage of a moon and stars on Ariana Grande's left hand is the perfect example.

8 of 15
Considering how many popular tattoo spots are in places you can't see without a mirror (like, for example, the back of your arm), it's rare for a tattoo to be as much a part of your daily life as a hand design.
9 of 15
If you're looking for an artist who creates stunning hand tattoos in New York, look no further than Brittany Randell (known as @humblebeetattoo on Instagram). This hand tattoo of Medusa is just one example of her detailed designs.
10 of 15
Brace yourself before getting a tattoo on the side of your finger. It'll certainly make you squirm, but the discomfort is so worth it if a tiny tattoo like this one (created by JoJo of Chronic Ink) is the end result.
11 of 15
Some hand tattoos are less visible than you'd think, including Halsey's tiny tattoo near her knuckles.
12 of 15
Shay Mitchell has "honey" tattooed between her index finger and thumb — a favorite spot for tattoo artist JonBoy.
13 of 15
Zoë Kravitz's hands are packed with dainty tattoos, including two tiny leaves created by Dr. Woo in 2016 and her siblings' names tattooed on her cuticles (ouch). She also has a small tattoo of a cross on her right palm.
14 of 15
Hand tattoos of lions are a particular favorite among Hollywood stars, including Demi Lovato, Cara Delevingne, and Ella Mai.
15 of 15
Out of Dua Lipa's 12-piece tattoo collection, at least three are on her hands, including the word "patience," a star, and Keith Haring graffiti art.

More from Celebs & Influencers

R29 Original Series