Do Underboob Tattoos Hurt?

Underboob (sternum) tattoos are rising in popularity. The placement is sexy and allows the user to choose when the art is on display. In addition, the skin doesn’t see a lot of sunlight unless a committed sun-worshipper, which will extend the tattoo’s longevity. But the area is pretty bony with not much fat. Thus, it is not the best place to get your first ink.

Underboob (sternum) tattoos are rated as a high pain area. The skin is thin, and there is a lot of bone, so they hurt more than firm and thick places, such as the outer thigh. In addition, underboob tattoos are often pretty big pieces, which means the sessions last longer, extending the discomfort.

Tattoo pain and discomfort are not just about the time in the chair under the needle. There is also aftercare to consider, which involves scabbing and flaking. During this time, a newly inked person must consider their clothing choices, sleeping positions, and vigorous activities. These adjustments can be more challenging with an underboob tattoo than fresh ink on a forearm or wrist.

Do Underboob And Sternum Tattoos Hurt?

Underboob and sternum tattoos are more painful than the body’s meatier parts, such as the forearm. This is because sternum tattoos require the needle to spend quality time over the sensitive ribs. Nor is there a lot of fat or muscle to protect them.

Most bony areas of the body are considered highly painful, while the fleshier areas are less painful. However, this isn’t always true. For instance, the armpit is regarded as one of the worst places to get a tattoo due to the axillary nerve.

Underboob And Sternum Aftercare Pain

Tattoos are fresh wounds that can sting, itch, and be generally bothersome as they heal. Movement increases the discomfort. Thus, it is often recommended to take a few days to Netflix and chill after fresh ink. However, it is incredibly challenging to stop breathing.

In addition, it is crucial not to slouch with a fresh underboob tattoo. Thus, the body must be kept straight when sleeping, standing, or sitting. Even people who feel pretty confident about their posture discover they slouch more than they realized after having their sternum inked. Nor do many people consider their posture when sleeping. Curling up on the side or laying on the stomach in bed is a no.

Lastly, having an underboob tattoo means going braless for 1-2 weeks. However, not all people with breasts can do this comfortably. For some people, it is liberating and feels fantastic. But for certain breast builds, the lack of a bra will create neck, shoulder, back, and chest pain.

Most Painful Tattoo Placements

Pain is relative, whether discussing childbirth, a knee operation, or getting a tattoo. Also, like childbirth and knee operations, the experiences are not the same due to external factors such as length of time and complexity. The pain of a tattoo is impacted by the artist, the type of needles used, and the design. Nonetheless, some areas of the body tend to be more sensitive than others.

Areas of the body that tend to experience the most pain when tattooed are:

  • Ankle bone
  • Armpit
  • Elbow
  • Face
  • Feet
  • Fingers
  • Groin
  • Head
  • Knee
  • Neck
  • Ribs
  • Shin
  • Spine
  • Stomach (in certain zones)
  • Underboob or sternum

Least Painful Tattoo Placements

As stated above, people don’t experience pain in the same way. Nor does everybody have the same sensitive places. For example, for some people, the belly is an easy place to get a tattoo, provided it isn’t near a rib. For others, this is one of the worst places. However, some areas generally feel less painful.

Recommended places to get your first ink due to lower pain:

  • Arm (outer)
  • Back (in certain locations)
  • Forearm
  • Shoulder (back of, avoiding shoulder blade)
  • Thigh (outer)

14 Considerations When Getting An Underboob (Sternum) Tattoo

It is always wise to research a tattoo artist before getting inked, put a lot of thought into the design, and consider aftercare logistics. However, it is especially crucial when getting an underboob, sternum, or side boob tattoo. In addition, there are unique challenges that don’t come into play when getting, say, a forearm or calf tattoo.  Thus, here are 14 tips and considerations for getting underboob ink.

1. Ensure You Are Comfortable Being Exposed To The Artist

Getting an underboob tattoo requires a lot of touching, along with the artist’s face coming close to your body. While nipples are covered with stickers or similar adhesives, the rest of the breast may be exposed, depending on the design. As the artist works, they may have to touch the sides of the breast.

Tattoo artists have seen it all, including sights they wish they could bleach from their brains. Thus, the artist will not give one fig at seeing your mostly exposed breast. They’re focused on making their artwork look amazing, not the fact their face is inches from your cleavage.

However, it is imperative that you feel comfortable and safe during the tattoo session. Every person’s safety and comfort is essential, but women, trans, and non-binary people are often the most vulnerable. Stress and fear can heighten pain. Thus, ensure you find both an artist and a setting that meets your needs so you can relax.

2. Does The Artist Have Underboob And Sternum Experience?

Tattooing any part of the chest has additional challenges due to the human habit of breathing. Other body areas can remain still, but nobody can hold their breath for an entire session. Thus, it’s essential to have an experienced tattoo artist that can handle the constant movement. Otherwise, you might get wonky lines.

Also, if you are worried about pain (fair), an experienced artist will have acquired a softer touch when tattooing bony places. The lighter the pressure, the less painful the experience. The other advantage of a lighter hand is that it reduces the chances of blowouts. These can happen anywhere on the body, but they are more common in places with delicate skin.

3. Put Extra Money Aside For An Underboob Tattoo

Underboob tattoos usually cost more than if the same design was placed on the back or thigh. This is because inking that area doesn’t just require special skills, but it takes longer. The artist has to go slower to work with the breathing and consider how the skin looks depending on how the breasts are sitting. Thigh and back flesh doesn’t get pulled and stretched in the same way.

4. Talk To The Artist If Pregnancy May Be In Your Future

Bodies are constantly changing, impacting how art looks over time. However, pregnancy takes a particular strain on the epidermis. While this area of the body doesn’t stretch as much as the lower belly, there are still changes, especially in the last few months of carrying. Also, even if your actual breast isn’t being inked, when they enlarge, the skin surrounding them is still impacted.

Thus, if you are open to possibly becoming pregnant in the future, discuss this with the artist. Certain designs will “survive” or “evolve” with pregnancy better than others.

5. Tell The Artists Where Your Bras Rub The Most

Friction wears a tattoo down, even after it has healed. Thus, it is good to be honest with an artist about any tight clothing you routinely wear. Therefore, think of where your bras rub the most. Also, if you are a frequent wearer of corsets, certain braces, chest binders, or other tight tops in this area, talk to the artist.

Knowing which areas around your chest and ribcage experience frequent friction will help the artist adjust a design or advise on your best options.

6. Discuss Clothing Options If You Easily Get Cold

The easiest way to get an underboob or sternum tattoo is for your top half to be naked, aside from the adhesive covering the nipples. However, some people get cold easily, especially if you have a condition like Raynaud’s. Thus, discuss with the artist before ink day on how you can be kept warm and comfortable.

Don’t assume wearing something like athletic compression sleeves is okay. The artist has a lot more experience with how bodies react when under a needle and may have reasons why certain clothing is a bad idea. However, feel free to bring up ideas such as wearing legwarmers on your arms, using gloves, beanies, and strategic use of thick towels.

7. Wear Zip Up Or Button Down Clothing

Wear zip-up clothing, like a roomy hoodie, to and from your tattoo appointment. If you don’t have one, then use a button-down. Some people will struggle with clothing that has to go over the head right after the appointment. You want the item to be easy to slip on, dark, and baggy.

8. Experiment With Alternative Support Before Inked

Getting an underboob, chest, or sternum tattoo can be an excellent excuse to go braless. Some people love it and have no challenges. If that’s you, skip to the next tip. However, others will find this challenging due to the configuration of the breasts or other health issues.

If you need some support, you’ll have to look into options that can tape the boob up without interfering with the areas underneath or near any other part of the skin that has been inked. Also, be aware that these can pull on the skin further down, so you’ll have to experiment to know if it is an option.

Also, suppose you wear braces or corsets for conditions such as back pain, scoliosis, or Ehlers’s Danlos Syndrome. In that case, you need to look at alternative supports or be honest with the artist so you can discuss realistic design options. For example, even if your brace only wraps around the lower half of your torso, it might cause the skin higher up to crinkle or stretch. So again, show the artist and discuss it.

For some conditions, sciatica or pelvic brace might help along with strategic use of physio or sports tape. But it is best to experiment with these solutions before you are inked.

9. Have Plenty Of Loose And Dark Clothing

Make sure you have plenty of loose and dark clothing to wear for the next 10-15 days. You need it for a few reasons:

  • Tight clothing slows down healing
  • Tight clothing can cause parts of the design to blur
  • Loose clothing might be more comfortable when braless
  • Loose clothing is more comfortable when ribs are sore
  • Dark clothing is less transparent
  • Dark clothing won’t show ink stains
  • Dark clothing handles flaky ink scabs and skin better

10. Have Dark Sheets Available

Tattoos are wounds with ink. Thus, you have some inky fluids that might escape overnight and onto your sheets. Nothing dramatic, but not something you’ll want on white sheets. Also, as tattoos heal, they scab and flake. Again, there is ink in the old skin, and this can be hard on pale sheets and bedding.

11. Put Necessary Items Down Low

Some people find it challenging or uncomfortable to reach higher than chest level for a few days after an underboob or sternum tattoo. It typically doesn’t last more than 1-3 days. However, just in case, think about putting anything you usually keep higher up on a counter ahead of time. Examples are dishes and items held in medicine cabinets. Clothing hung on high rails might also be an issue.

12. Practice Sleeping On Your Back

Practice sleeping on your back if you don’t already. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t just uncomfortable; it is bad for the tattoo. Sleeping on the side typically scrunches up the skin, which is also bad for healing. Also, many sternum tattoos extend up the side, and pressure in these areas can impact how well the art will look after it has healed.

Thus, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief and frustration if you practice sleeping on your back before the big day.

13. Practice Good Posture

Slouching and underboob tattoos are a poor mix. It is not only uncomfortable but can prolong healing. Thus, practice good posture in the run-up to your session. Therefore, you’ll have built up some muscle before you need them.

14. Give The Gym A Break

If you enjoy exercising regularly or are training for an event, remember that you will have to give the gym (or your workout) a miss during some of the healing process. New tattoos are open wounds, and your body needs to recover. Also, sweat is not good for fresh tattoos as it creates a breeding ground for germs. Lastly, you might be too sore to move with an energetic enthusiasm for a few days.


Underboob and sternum tattoos can be gorgeous, sexy, and fun. However, they should never be done on a whim. These tattoos typically hurt more than your average ink session. Also, the area requires a higher skill set, so you’ll need an experienced artist you can feel comfortable around.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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