How Bad Do Sternum Tattoos Hurt?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 16, 2019
    Last Updated: October 13, 2021

Sternum tattoos are also called chest tattoos or under-boob tattoos. These types of tattoos are becoming trendy, stylish, and, of course, sexy. The special thing about sternum tattoos is that they can be shown off or concealed easily.  

They’re designed on the breastbone for men; however, for women, they flow under the breast and around the cleavage curves. It’s always up to you to choose the design — you can have a small, cute one, or a big and bold tattoo. However, everything comes with a price, and, in such a case, it’ll be the pain of inking your tattoo.

Sternum Tattoo Pain

Sternum tattoos hurt more than most other tattoos. This is due to the bony prominence of the sternum and the low levels of fat over the bone. Bony areas are much more painful to tattoo over compared to fleshy counterparts, and there aren’t many areas on the body that are bonier than the sternum.

Other Pain Factors

They’re on Your Ribs

Scientifically speaking, all types of tattoos hurt; however, the level of pain differs according to the body part. It’s known that tattoos on parts of the body with less fat and muscle hurt the most. Since sternum tattoos are inked over the ribs and breast bones, they come with high pain levels.

The Sensation Can Be Uncomfortable

When tattoos are performed on areas where there is little protection above the bone, the needle literally feels like it’s smacking against the bone every time it bumps in and out of the skin. This can cause you to feel an uncomfortable vibrating feeling rattling throughout your body.

While the needle isn’t actually hitting the bone, and while the sensation isn’t really painful as such, it can come as quite a shock to clients who haven’t felt this type of vibration before from getting a tattoo.

Breathing Motion

It’s sod’s law that you’ve just gotten a tattoo in the very place that moves with your every breath. Therefore, the client and the artist must sync up their movements to avoid errors or more pain.

After your tattoo is complete, a good idea is to avoid strenuous exercise to reduce the movement in the tattooed area. Heavy breathing will likely cause you more pain.


Sternum tattoos require lots of patience, precision and detail. Due to the awkward location of a sternum tattoo, your artist will have to maneuver around the area slowly and carefully. With this in mind, a sternum tattoo is likely to take longer, thus will require you to site in pain for longer

How to Make Sternum Tattoos Hurt Less

Choose a Small/Simple Design

The smaller and simpler the design, the less the tattoo will generally hurt. While sternum tattoos usually look better when they’re on the larger side, it may be a good idea to start small and build on your tattoo over time – especially if you’re highly concerned about how you’re going to deal with pain.

Pick a Gentle Artist

When tattooing an area as delicate and bony as the sternum, you’ll want to pick an experienced artist who isn’t too heavy-handed.

No matter who you pick, you will feel some pain and discomfort due to the nature of the tattooing process. However, it’s good to know that some artists are generally more gentle than others.

Use a Tattoo Numbing Spray/Cream

If you’re especially concerned about how you might feel in the chair, you may wish to try applying a numbing product to your sternum area before/at the beginning of your tattoo sitting.

Although the effectiveness of numbing creams varies from person-to-person, many customers are usually very happy with the numbing effect that their chosen product has achieved.

For people wanting a little extra assistance for dealing with the pain, a good tattoo numbing cream can really help to take the edge off.

One of the most effective tattoo numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions supplied with the cream and apply shortly before your tattoo appointment is due to begin so that you can look forward to a less painful and more comfortable tattooing experience. The amount of cream you get in a tube also ensures you have more than enough for a large tattoo. Click here to buy from Amazon

What Else Should You Consider?

Choose a Trustworthy Artist

This tip is mainly for women because you’re about to get a tattoo in an intimate place.

You’ll have to stay shirtless and without a bra in front of your artist for an extended period. Moreover, your artist will have to hold the general breast area.

So if you’re female and didn’t feel comfortable reading this, we recommend:

  • Choosing a female artist
  • Asking for a private room

You should go for a trustworthy artist anyway, since they’ll have a more gentle touch and will have more experience in helping you deal with and overcome pain.

Ditch Your Bra

If you’re unable to stay braless, you might find this very annoying. After having your tattoo, avoid wearing anything that is too tight to your skin. Sorry, ladies — you should stay unsupported for at least a week to prevent any irritation or inflammation. This is excellent news if you like to be free anyway!

If you must wear a bra for an important event or meeting, we suggest wearing a string bikini but choose one that isn’t tight.

Minimize Driving

We recommend getting your sternum tattoo done when you’re having a vacation or when you can stay at home for a week. Having seat belts resting tight on your chest area will cause too much pain and inconvenience.

The belt can also rub on the skin through clothing, preventing the healing process and potentially causing an infection.

Adjust Your Sleep Posture

If you move a lot while sleeping, you might face some pain from your tattoo. The only position that will mitigate this is to lay flat on your back.

There’s no guarantee you won’t roll over while asleep, but you stand a higher chance of remaining on your back if you fall asleep in this position. Who knows whether your subconscious will work in your favor, but you can at least help it out a little.

Tatted Up and Ready to Go 

Try not to let the fear of pain stop you from getting that sternum tattoo you’ve always wanted. Pain is a relative word, and you can easily control and overcome it if you want something badly enough. 

Carry out diligent research on your design and your artist, and be sure to follow their advice for proper tattoo aftercare.

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