Sternum tattoos: What you need to know

Sternum tattoos: What you need to know

Share this article

Are you obsessing over sternum tattoo designs on your socials but not booked one in yet? Are you worried about the pain and how to heal them? Well worry no more, we chat to tattoo artist Laura Fenwick (@ldyfenwick_tattoo) to bring you everything you need to know about sternum tattoos. I’m sure you’ll have booked your sternum tattoo before you’ve even finished reading this!

What are sternum tattoos

You’ve probably heard a few different names for sternum tattoos. People refer to them as underboob tattoos, chest tattoos, ribs tattoos, in-between boob tattoos and more. Generally they sit under your breasts or on your chest if you don’t have boobs.

No matter what your body looks like, you can get a sternum tattoo. Tattoos are for all shapes and sizes, and a good tattoo artist won’t make you feel self conscious. They’ll help design a tattoo that perfectly fits your body how it is now. You might even find a sternum tattoo increases your confidence.

Sternum tattooTattoo by Laura Fenwick

Do sternum tattoos hurt?

Yeah tattoos hurt. Some hurt more than others, but a sternum tattoo is pretty high on the most painful places to get inked. It’s not just the rib part of your sternum that can be painful, but if you decide to tattoo between your boobs this part of your body can be painful too.

Tattooist Laura agrees. "I'd say sternums are certainly one of the spicier areas, however absolutely manageable. Certainly the style and size of the tattoo plays a part in how much it will hurt, the smaller dainty dotty designs are going to be far easier than something that is heavier and bolder."

What can you do to cope with the pain during an appointment?

To help make your sternum tattoo a pleasant experience, Laura suggests you "bring some headphones so you can listen to something that keeps your head in a good space, take nice deep breaths, do not hold your breath! I find lollipops really help keep customers distracted so maybe take a few with you. Best advice though: relax and stay calm."


How long do sternum tattoos take?

How long it takes to get a sternum tattoo depends on a few things:

  • The size of the area you’re covering - are you getting a small sternum tattoo or spreading onto your ribs or stomach?
  • The design - is it detailed?
  • The style of tattoo - linework or traditional or something else?
  • If you have colour ink or not
  • The tattoo technique - hand poke or machine?

Your tattoo artist can give you a rough idea of timing when you book in. Remember you can always ask for breaks when getting tattooed. You could also split your tattoo into multiple sessions as well.

Sternum tattooTattoo by Laura Fenwick

How much are sternum tattoos?

How much your sternum tattoo will cost depends on all of the above and your artist. Generally in the UK prices for tattoos vary from location. You might pay more for a tattoo in a city, like London, than you might in a small town. If your artist is really sought after, or tattoos in a specific style, you might also pay more.

Depending on your sternum tattoo your artist might charge per piece, per day or per hour. A rough guide is anywhere from £50 to £120 per hour and a day sitting of around 8 hours can be from £350 - £800. Price per piece depends on the size of the tattoo, whether it’s flash or custom and your tattoo artist. You could be looking at anywhere from £100 for a small minimalist sternum tattoo to £1,000 for a more elaborate tattoo. Your tattooist will let you know how much it’ll be when you book your tattoo.

How to prepare for your tattoo session

So, you’ve booked your new tattoo and you’re feeling a little nervous. You’ve heard (and read) that sternum tattoos hurt, and now you’re wondering how you can best prepare for your new ink. We’ve got you covered with advice from Laura:

"I would always say make you feel the best you can on the day of your appointment. So make sure you have had a good night’s sleep the night before, a good breakfast, stay hydrated and try to not let your nerves get the better of you.”

“Bring a sugary drink, something to eat (for longer appointments). Make sure you have clingfilm, micropore tape, antibacterial soap or tattoo wash, tattoo aftercare (if your tattooist doesn’t sell it) and some good food and sugary drinks at home for after your appointment as you will need them.”

Sternum tattooTattoo by Laura Fenwick

What to wear for a sternum tattoo

Getting your sternum tattooed can mean you have a lot of your body on show, including your breasts. Knowing what to wear when getting tattooed can be tricky. Laura recommends wearing a "shirt, zip hoodie or cardigan so you can keep warm but your tattoo artist can get to the area" while getting your sternum tattooed.

You can also use "nipple covers, which are a great way to make you feel a little more covered as you will need to remove your bra (you can purchase these from asos or Amazon)."

"If you're feeling like you would like privacy for your appointment let your artist know before your appointment, so you can discuss how things work in their studio." They may be able to put up a screen to keep other guests or artists seeing you, or have a more private room they can use.

Make sure to read our guide so you know what’s appropriate tattoo artist behaviour, especially when getting intimate places tattooed.

How long do sternum tattoos take to heal?

Tattoo artist Laura gives us the lowdown on sternum tattoo healing:

"On average they take 1-2 weeks to heal. They are pretty easy and comfortable to heal. Especially the daintier designs you will barely even get any flaking. However, bruising, swelling and sore skin is completely normal for the first few days."

Even though swelling and soreness are to be expected, keep an eye on your tattoo for any signs of infection. If you’re not sure, speak to your tattoo artist.

Sternum tattooTattoo by Laura Fenwick

Aftercare for sternum tattoos

When it comes to caring for your tattoo you should always follow the aftercare advice given to you by your tattooer. Laura agrees:

"I'd always suggest following the tattoo aftercare advice your artist gives you and don’t hesitate to contact them if you're concerned. We would rather you ask the question than sit and panic."

To help heal your new sternum tattoo Laura advises that you:

  • Always make sure your tattoo is washed and dried fully before putting any after care on it.
  • Avoid submerging in water for two weeks - find out when you can have a bath here.
  • Don’t pick it!
  • Most importantly, enjoy your tattoo and show it off (using sun cream) you earned it and you’re one tough cookie.

Aw thanks Laura! But seriously, tattoos are meant to be enjoyed and you really are super tough for getting your sternum inked.

Tattoo aftercare: Stories & Ink Aftercare Duo are the ultimate in skin cleansing and healing for new tattoos.

Can you wear a bra after a sternum tattoo?

This is the top question for people with breasts who want a sternum tattoo. Laura’s main healing tip is to "let the girls (your boobs) be free!"

She explains that you should “avoid underwire bras for two weeks, choosing something softer like bralettes would be better. So, there is nothing sitting and rubbing on the area that’s been tattooed.”

Our top 5 ideas for your sternum tattoo

Now you’re clued up on sternum tattoos, scroll through our top 5 ideas to inspire your next ink.

Flower sternum tattoo

Got a favourite flower or two? Flowers always make for good tattoos, and this sternum is no exception.



Often a symbol of strength and rebirth, lotus flowers make for beautiful tattoos. We love how a small lotus is incorporated in this delicate sternum tattoo.


Delicate sternum tattoo

The planets have well and truly aligned in this tattoo. Super cool, small and delicate. Could this be the perfect sternum tattoo?



Choosing a word or phrase is a magical way to add meaning to underboob tattoos. Choosing someone’s handwriting or a special font can make it extra meaningful.


Moth sternum tattoo

Always a popular choice for tattoos, moths and butterflies look good anywhere. Including on sternums.