By Max Sargent

Do you have a big tattoo coming up and you’re wondering how to make it hurt less? It’s probably not a great idea to turn up to your tattoo appointment drunk or high, as you want to be as steady as possible to make sure those lines are straight. Also, you don’t want to make any rash decisions while you’re there that you may later regret. That being said, if you’re feeling nervous or you just want to minimise pain, you may want something to help you out.

Could CBD be just the thing? Widely deemed safe and with few reported side effects, this non-psychotropic cannabis constituent has a surprisingly large impact on the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system affects many processes, from pain response to mood, appetite, memory, and more.

What Is the Tattoo Process?

In a nutshell, a tattoo is a permanent marking placed in the top layers of the skin using pigments inserted via a needle. Typically, a tattoo artist uses a handheld device called a tattoo machine that acts almost like a body sewing machine. The tattoo artist stitches tiny ink droplets that mark the skin each time they puncture it, which can cause bleeding and slight to significant pain.

What Causes Tattoo Pain?

This all really depends on your own personal threshold for pain. For example, sleep, diet, and water intake are just a few things to consider. Another significant factor is the tattoo artist themselves. There are some who apply their ink with careful finesse, while others hammer down into your skin like they’re searching for something inside. No matter what, when it’s all said and done, tattoos are going to hurt, so you must prepare yourself for some pain.

For longer tattoo sessions, you may experience a case of the shakes, which is your body’s natural response to mild shock. Your body will be dealing with adrenaline, fatigue, and overworked pain sensors after a multiple-hour tattoo session.

Now that we have that out of the way, we are happy to tell you that there are a multitude of products on the CBD market that can potentially help with the tattoo experience.

What Is the Tattoo Process?

How Can CBD Help With Tattoos?

CBD is currently being touted by many as a sort of cure-all miracle sent by the ganja-god themselves. This has led some to view it with suspicion, and others to use it as a remedy for almost everything. It’s likely the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But can CBD be used to help with tattoos?

Whether it’s used pre or post-tattoo, it appears CBD could play a useful role. Below, we’ll examine the potential of using CBD to prepare for your tattoo session, to make the process hurt less, and to aid the healing process.

  • CBD and Pain

CBD has undergone multiple studies to determine its potential as an analgesic[1]. Analgesic is the term given to anything that causes a reduction in pain.

While the exact mechanisms behind CBD's potential soothing capabilities have yet to be determined, it is suspected it has something to do with the endocannabinoid system. While THC binds to the system's CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD inhibits them, ultimately altering levels of endocannabinoids in the body.

There are two types of endocannabinoids found in abundance in the body: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Both of these have distinct and specialised functions. AEA seems to mostly affect the brain, regulating mood, memory, cognition, and so forth.

2-AG, on the other hand, seems more bodily focused and is associated with pain relief, appetite, and tumour growth. By affecting levels of 2-AG in the body, CBD may be able to influence these processes to a beneficial degree.

  • CBD and Anxiety

The physiological understanding of anxiety is significantly less understood than that of pain—which itself is very complex—and so it is not possible to draw clear lines between bodily process and outcome.

That being said, it seems that the endocannabinoid system and the experience of anxiety are linked; when the endocannabinoid system changes, anxiety is shown to fluctuate[2] too. Likewise, sleep and the endocannabinoid system seem to have some kind of relationship[3].

What does this mean for CBD? It’s not entirely clear, but what we do know is that CBD affects numerous molecular targets[4], including those independent from the endocannabinoid system, such as serotonin receptors. We also know that CBD is non-toxic and has very few adverse effects. Therefore, it could be worth trying a dose of CBD before a tattoo session if you’re feeling particularly anxious.

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  • CBD and Inflammation

The 2-AG endocannabinoid affects a host of bodily functions[5], including those to do with the immune system and inflammation. Inflammation is the body's natural process for dealing with all manner of issues—whether infection or injury. Upon becoming inflamed, blood, enzymes, and antibodies are brought to the site of injury or infection, allowing it to be healed. The body is a wonderful thing.

However, sometimes this inflammation can cause discomfort and does not provide any benefits. The site of a new tattoo can be one of these instances, so you may want to reduce this effect. CBD is likely to affect the 2-AG endocannabinoid[6], which, in turn, could result in alterations to the body's immune response.

How To Use CBD for Tattoo Pain

Now that we have a clearer understanding of how CBD may affect the body's endocannabinoid system, how is it best administered? This depends on whether you want to influence the tattoo healing process, minimise tattoo pain, or just relax a little.

  • Before Your Tattoo Appointment

Talking CBD oil before an appointment could be a good idea if you’re feeling a little nervous. Oil is good, especially for long sessions, as it stays in the body for several hours, meaning you’ll experience its effects for the duration of the session. Plus, if you don’t smoke and you want a quick and easy way to take CBD, you’ve got one.

How To Use CBD for Tattoo Pain
  • During Your Tattoo Appointment

You’ll have to check with your tattoo artist before trying this one. But if you’re able to vape during your session, this can be a great way to take your mind off the pain. Not only do you get to imbibe the powers of CBD, but the act of inhaling will give you something to focus on other than the repetitive stabbing of a needle into your skin.

How To Use CBD for Tattoo Pain
  • After Your Tattoo Appointment

After your appointment, you will likely find that your tattoo continues to hurt as the skin heals. In this case, perhaps try applying a topical CBD cream to the area to soothe it and moisturise the skin in the process. These can be picked up in any health and body shop. If you can find oil-based ones, perhaps consider applying them under the wrapping to keep the skin moist and stop it from getting too sore.

How To Use CBD for Tattoo Pain

Does CBD Have Any Disadvantages for Tattooing?

CBD has no real disadvantages for tattooing. As stated, it’s non-toxic, and it’s not an addictive substance. So you’re unlikely to have any serious issues with it. That being said, CBD is not for everyone. And though it is non-psychotropic, it can still have side effects.

Moreover, it can interfere with some prescription medications. So before you set off to a tattoo parlour under the influence, we’d recommend trying CBD at least once in the comfort of your own home to be sure that it works for you. With any doubts, always consult your doctor.

External Resources:
  1. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain
  2. Cannabidiol prescription in clinical practice: an audit on the first 400 patients in New Zealand | BJGP Open
  3. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series
  4. Molecular Targets of the Phytocannabinoids-A Complex Picture
  5. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol
  6. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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