Your Ultimate Guide To Getting A Tattoo On Your Sternum

Consider a sternum tattoo if you want a cool new placement for your body art (although it may not be the best option if this is your first-ever tattoo). Despite being one of the most painful and tricky placements to get inked, it's becoming a favorite among women for several reasons. This includes how hidden the location can be, making it ideal for those who want something secret and intimate. It can also be a way to celebrate your femininity, and getting inked here may even make you feel confident and empowered.


With all the pros to getting a sternum tattoo, you might be tempted to make an appointment immediately, but there are important factors to consider first. The most obvious drawback is the pain, so go into the tattoo studio feeling fully prepared. From design options to aftercare, consider these things before taking the plunge and getting a sternum tattoo.

What is a sternum tattoo?

The sternum is the flat bone located in the middle of your chest. It protects your organs, specifically your heart and lungs. It has also become a popular placement for tattoos, which are inked directly onto the breastbone. However, this is not your only option, and the location offers some versatility. Depending on the design you choose and how big it is, your tattoo can also extend underneath the breasts.


What makes this a popular choice for body art is its ability to highlight one of the most attractive parts of a woman's body. Some tattoo artists are incredibly passionate about tattooing here, as Brooklyn tattoo artist Angie Tufariello explained to Byrdie: "I'm always honored when someone trusts me for a tattoo, but I am always extra elated to work on a sternum or stomach. It's the center of their body ... their center of self and life."

It is an incredibly painful location (so come prepared)

When you get a tattoo for the first time, one of the most common questions is how painful it will be. The sensation is described in multiple ways, including a pricking or scratching feeling. The discomfort associated with tattoos will differ depending on your pain threshold, the location of your body art, and the design detail and size. Some areas on the body are less sensitive than others, but the sternum is considered one of the most painful places to get tattooed. This is partly due to the location's proximity to bone and the thin skin surrounding it (there is also less fat or muscle, which could give otherwise have given you padding).


"Near the sternum can be pretty awful, mostly because it's such a bony area," tattoo artist Bob Haase told Inside Out. Haase also commented on how your physique could impact the pain, saying, "If someone is in very, very good shape, takes care of their body and their skin, it's usually a little easier to tattoo because the skin is taut and easier to work with, whereas someone who is less toned or maybe bustier in the chest area will have skin that moves more." The good news is that while sitting for the tattoo, your body will build up adrenaline, which may make the intensity of the pain subside.

The sternum is one of the trickier places to get inked

The location of the sternum makes it one of the trickier places to get a tattoo, which is why it is essential to do your research beforehand. Not just for what you can expect when getting inked so close to the bone (and the discomforts that will come with this) but also for the skills of your chosen tattoo artist because it can be easier to make a mistake in this area.


"It's typically a more difficult area for a tattooist to tattoo because the skin is very thin in comparison to other areas like your forearm, so it is a little bit tricky," tattoo artist Joanna "JoJo" Roman told Cosmopolitan. "Because of that, it could possibly be more expensive." Your tattoo artist will also have to take their time completing a design in this area because of the pain involved (you may need several breaks) and your breathing. The natural movement that happens when you breathe will make it more challenging for the artist to work in the area (via Tattify).

Can you wear a bra after getting a sternum tattoo?

The placement of the sternum tattoo means that you will be restricted with what you wear for several days after getting inked. This includes not being able to wear tight clothes and ditching your bra. The problem with clothing over this area during healing time is that it can cause friction or irritate the tattoo, increasing your discomfort. "Keep all tattoos clean and moisturized, and avoid sweat and swimming," tattoo artist Mira Mariah told Refinery29. "Bra-wearing clients should plan for a few days without a bra or tight clothing."


The lack of clothing is also something to consider when getting your tattoo, as you will likely have to take off your top for the tattoo artist to access the area. This can be an uncomfortable experience for some women, so it's essential to trust the person creating your tattoo. You may also want to bring nipple pasties for your comfort. Be advised not to bring your favorite top, as it's possible it could get spots of blood or ink on it.

What type of designs will look best on the sternum?

Your tattoo is the perfect opportunity to get creative and find something unique and expressive. The design you choose could have geometric elements, be floral, or be a name of a loved one. When choosing your tattoo, there is no right or wrong option. However, specific designs will look better in this area. "Since most sternums are a flat plane, there are really good opportunities for detail," tattoo artist Mira Mariah told Refinery29. "It's a great placement for something organic or architectural." 


You may also want to choose something that complements the body's curves or feels balanced (especially if it is covering the underboob area as well). Also, consider how it will look when you move. "Skin is not like paper," tattoo artist Ariel Wei told Allure. "If you are not getting it in a flatter surface area, the tattoo may stretch and look not straight when you move, but this is completely normal."

The sternum tattoo may heal faster than other areas

Unlike piercings, which can take months to heal, the healing time for tattoos is pretty quick, and some areas of the body will heal even faster than others. In general, your sternum tattoo will take around two weeks to heal with the proper aftercare, and this is considered a placement on the body that will heal slightly faster due to the blood flow around the heart (via Tattify).


Your tattoo artist will give you guidelines on how to clean your tattoo during the healing process, but generally, it's a pretty straightforward procedure. You want to gently wash the area twice daily with antibacterial soap and water, and then pat it dry with a paper towel. Do not submerge the tattoo in water. When the area is completely dry, apply a thin layer of unscented moisturizer to it (and continue to do this until it is healed).

Avoid touching your tattoo too much, as this can introduce bacteria, but ensure you have washed your hands thoroughly before you do.

Is it true that winter is the best time to get a sternum tattoo?

When and where you get tattooed is a personal preference, but getting inked on the sternum in the winter makes sense. It might seem random to choose a specific season, but the appeal of the colder weather is that you'll sweat less, which makes keeping your tattoo clean and dry much easier.


When getting tattooed on the sternum, you are also advised not to wear a bra or tight clothing during the healing period, and it is easier to do this in winter. You can layer up with clothing, like loose sweaters and coats, so it will be unnoticeable that you're not wearing a bra. Another pro is that you have less concern about the sun and how it could affect your body art. Exposing a healing tattoo to sunshine can result in more discomfort, including sunburnt skin. In general, sunlight is avoided because it can fade the ink (so once it is healed, always wear sunscreen), but the chances of your tattoo fading increase during healing.

Hold off on your ink if you're going to be pregnant

The sternum is a popular location for getting tattooed, but it's not suitable for everyone. Some people are advised not to get tattooed, including pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant and women who are nursing. There are risks involved when getting tattooed while pregnant; these include the effect on the immune system and safety concerns like an infection. "Most dermatology and OB experts advise against getting a tattoo during pregnancy or while breastfeeding," ob-gyn Lauren Demosthenes told Cosmopolitan


However, this location should also be avoided for another reason. Getting a tattoo on the sternum will naturally stretch and expand during and immediately after childbirth. For this reason, if you are pregnant or are thinking of becoming pregnant in the near future, it is best to wait until after giving birth (or when you stop breastfeeding, if you choose that option).

You may have to change your sleeping position

It may seem self-explanatory, but when getting a tattoo, you must give it time to heal before putting any pressure on it. Your tattoo should be treated like a wound, which must be regularly cleaned to prevent infection and irritation and keep the design looking its best. You may have to change your sleeping position to accommodate your new tattoo, especially if you are a stomach sleeper.


"If you have a fresh tattoo, you definitely don't want to sleep on it or have it sitting on the sheets, especially because it could secrete a little bit," tattoo artist JoJo Roman told Cosmopolitan. "You want to be careful not to sleep directly on the tattoo." So, while you may have to say goodbye to stomach sleeping, the good news is that sternum tattoos do not take particularly long to heal, and you'll be back to your favorite sleeping position in no time! 

How much will a sternum tattoo cost?

The cost for a sternum tattoo will depend on several factors, including your chosen tattoo artist, the design's detail, and the difficulty involved in tattooing the area. For this reason, you can expect your piece to be more expensive than other less challenging locations like the forearm or the leg.


It is difficult to give an exact cost as some tattoo artists charge a minimum fee while others offer an hourly rate. You are likely looking to spend upward of $100. An excellent point to remember is if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Choosing a reputable tattoo artist who charges a fair price because of their skill, the cost of materials, and the steps they take to ensure cleanliness is essential.

Cleanliness should be a contributing factor when deciding on a tattoo studio. This point cannot be stressed enough! "It's very important for a client to feel comfortable with how clean the studio is," tattoo artist Bang Bang McCurdy told Seventeen. "Ask an artist: What do you do to clean in between tattoos? How often do you clean this station I'm going to be tattooed on? What kind of surface do you tattoo off of?'"


Pick a tattoo artist that makes you feel comfortable

In addition to finding an artist that does work that you love, it is also essential to do your research and find someone who you trust and feel comfortable with. This is because the placement is on one of the more intimate parts of the body.


Getting a tattoo can be intimidating, and you will need to trust how you feel about this person, not only because of their skills but because they will be touching your body. What is the best way to ensure you pick the right tattoo artist? "Follow them online and gather a sense of who they are as a person," Portland-based tattoo artist Brit Abad told Allure. "Having a great experience actually getting the tattoo often has a huge effect on how a person feels about the tattoo on their body. Love your artist and you'll love the artwork even more."

If the tattoo artist isn't right for you, don't be afraid to walk away

So, you've chosen the perfect tattoo design and found an artist whose work you love, and everything should be good, right? Chances are you're excited to get permanently inked on your sternum. Still, there is another step you need to consider before doing this. Consult with a tattoo artist before your appointment, especially for an area as private and challenging as the sternum. It is okay to walk away if you don't feel your chosen artist is right for you (for one of many reasons, including feeling uncomfortable, getting bad vibes, or disliking the studio).


"I think that in our industry it's a common thing where a young girl is going to come in to speak to an artist and is going to be met with a nose-in-the-air kind of attitude, like 'I don't want to do this girl's silly tattoo,'" tattoo artist Bang Bang McCurdy told Seventeen. "I don't think that it's a fair thing or that a client should put up with that. You should find someone who wants to do your tattoo."

Are there potential side effects involved with a sternum tattoo?

As with all tattoos, there is a potential risk of infection and allergic reactions. Although this is uncommon, it is something to be aware of before getting inked, especially if it is your first time. "True allergic reactions to tattoos, and the ink, are very, very possible, but thankfully not super common. Often people with sensitive skin mount a reaction to the prep process that cleans and sterilizes the skin, which is more common than a true allergic reaction to the ink and tattoo itself," dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian told Seventeen.


This is not the only risk involved when getting a sternum tattoo (or any tattoo, for that matter) because the needle can go too deep into the skin and result in a blowout. "A blowout is when a tattoo expands below the skin layer when it hits fat [and] veins or when scarring occurs," Brooklyn tattoo artist Crys told Byrdie. "It is easily identified by the blurring effect on the surface of the tattoo." This is definitely not something you want to experience. 

It's important to come to your appointment feeling prepared

Getting a tattoo is an exciting moment and a great way to mark your body with something you think is beautiful or meaningful. Still, it's a big (and permanent) decision, so it's essential to come to your appointment fully prepared. This can include a good night's rest the night before, drinking plenty of water, and eating a balanced meal. "I definitely try to make sure my clients have a meal at least 30 minutes before the tattoo," New York City-based tattoo artist Doreen Garner told Allure.


You may also want to bring snacks or a sugary drink if you are worried about getting low blood sugar during the tattoo session. And what if you are feeling anxious? This is entirely normal, and many people feel anxiety before getting their tattoo, especially if it's the first time. You can try to mentally prepare yourself beforehand and familiarize yourself with a few breathing techniques to help you find your inner calm.