What You Need To Know About Side Body Tattoos

Flower Side Body Tattoo @justmashaofficial

Side body tattoos – commonly referred to as rib tattoos – are a body art choice for those who are willing to push through pain for their chosen inked design. This tattoo placement does have positives, though, so it could be well worth the discomfort for a tattoo that you love.

If you are undecided about whether or not to get a side body tattoo, you have come to the right place. Let’s dive into what you can expect for a side body tattoo, from the pain aspect to what designs suit this placement. 

Anatomical Heart Side Body Tattoo @tynka_ink

What Makes Up The Side Body?

Side body tattoos are also called rib cage tattoos, but if you feel your rib cage, it takes up a lot of your side body. You can feel your first ribs just under your armpit, moving down to the last ribs a few inches above your hip. 

So, the middle part of your ribs, next to your bicep (where many people decide to place side body ink) is just one part of this tattoo placement.  

Scorpion Rib Cage Tattoo @takeme2atlantis

Side body tattoos can be flexible when it comes to the different tattoo designs you can place there.

“If you’re interested in getting a large design, the side has enough surface area to accommodate something quite big, and if you want a small one, the contrast against the blank skin will make it pop. For people looking at getting a vertical design, the ribs are also a good choice thanks to their size and shape. And if you want to play up the movement of your body, a side tattoo will enhance your natural lines and movement.”


While side body tattoos can look amazing and are versatile, it is important to know what you could be in store for pain-wise. 

Delicate Floral Side Body Tattoo @akkurat_tattoo

Why Do Side Body Tattoos Hurt So Much?

When it comes to tattoo placement, generally the thinner the skin and the closer it is to a bone, the more painful the tattoo experience will be. The side body, especially the ribs, has thin skin close to the bone.

“The skin around your ribs is extremely thin, and there’s less fat here than on most other parts of your body. Also, every time you breathe, you move your rib cage and the skin above it, which can make the feeling of being tattooed here much more intense,”

Number Rib Cage Tattoo @ec_artisticflow

In fact, the rib cage is one of the most painful areas to get a tattoo. However, with all this being said, pain is relative – we all have different pain thresholds. 

Can You Reduce The Pain?

Yes, to some degree. There are things you can do to make getting a tattoo a more comfortable experience.

Here are five things you can do to decrease the pain of getting a side body tattoo:

Choose An Experienced Tattoo Artist

Why does the experience level of a tattooist matter when it comes to pain? When an artist knows what they are doing, they’re more likely to finish the tattoo quicker. Also, they have knowledge from years of experience to make the process as comfortable as possible on their part. 

Butterfly Rib Cage Tattoo @sootandbone

Stay Hydrated

Hydrated skin creates a better canvas for tattoos, which results in a simpler, quicker tattoo process. So, avoid food and drinks that will dehydrate you at least 24 hours before your appointment. That means no alcohol. Alcohol also thins your blood, which won’t help the tattoo process go smoother. 

Sun And Wave Side Body Tattoo @udith_ink

If Possible, Schedule Your Tattoo Appointment For The Morning

“Mornings are when our adrenalin level is at its peak. Adrenalin is a pain-masking hormone that can help increase your pain tolerance level. Pain-blocking endorphins flood after a good night sleep. Take the rest of the day off and refrain from engaging in any active and wet activities.”

Ink Embassy
Single Word Rib Cage Tattoo @emiliyaotattoo

Take Breaks And Bring Snacks

You don’t have to white-knuckle it through your tattoo. If you need a break, tell your tattoo artist. Getting inked can be exhausting, so have a few snacks on hand for your blood-sugar.

Think About The Style Of Tattoo You Want

Yes, the type of tattoo you get does have an impact on pain.

“…a tattoo with tons of different colors or large solid areas often take longer (and are more painful) to complete. You may want to go with mono-colored line art, if you’re nervous.” 


Do Side Body Tattoos Fade Quicker?

All tattoos eventually fade. This is because the ink used is a foreign substance, and your body looks at it and thinks, “Hmmm this isn’t meant to be here.” Over the years, your body attempts to break down the tattoo. 

Tiger Side Body Tattoo @tattoochampagne

However, there are a few things that hurries this process along:

The Sun

Laying around in the sun without sunscreen isn’t good for your skin or your tattoos. The UV rays can lighten your ink. 

Poor Skincare And Nutrition

When you look after your skin and eat well, your whole body, including your tattoos, benefits. Not getting the vitamins and minerals you need, and not moisturizing your skin, can have a negative impact on your ink. 

Fine Line Tattoo @gabiemora

Excessive Friction

“If your tattoo is frequently exposed to persistent friction it is essentially being excessively over-exfoliated, which can make it fade over time,”

Adrenaline Studios
Mini Moon Side Body Tattoo @wildflowers.tattoo

Not Following Aftercare Instructions 

When you don’t look after your new ink, this can cause the tattoo to not heal correctly and even get an infection, which has a huge impact on the end look of your design. 

So, there are things you can do to help your ink stay fresher for longer. 

Sunflower And Bird Side Body Tattoo @modelajna

What Is The Aftercare Process Like For A Side Body Tattoo?

Looking after a fresh tattoo on your ribs can be a bit more of an intense process than other tattoo placements. 

You’ve got to do the usual steps, of course, such as keeping the tattoo clean with a gentle soap and moisturizing it regularly. Don’t soak the tattoo at all, so avoid swimming and bath tubs.

Aftercare can get a bit tricky when it comes to sleeping and clothing. 

When you’ve got a new tattoo, it is important to avoid rubbing anything against it so that you don’t unsettle the ink. So, if you’re a side sleeper, you have got to attempt to either sleep on your other side or on your back. 

Bird Side Body Tattoo @lucedishtattoo

In the wardrobe department, it is best to avoid tight clothing and bras while your rib tattoo is healing.

“Most bras come in nylon, and this usually causes sweating and may lead to an infection as well; hence avoid wearing nylon bras or those that don’t agree with your skin,”

Inked Mind

Leave the tight bras at home and opt for loose fitting tops. The airier and bulkier, the better, so as to avoid any friction. 

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of leaving your home without a bra on, you can wear nipple covers or boob tape as an alternative. Or, you could wrap your tattoo with plastic wrap before putting a bra on. 

However, many tattoo artists advise against rewrapping your tattoo after the first few days so that you can give your ink a chance to air out and heal. Chat to your tattoo artist about what they would recommend for your tattoo aftercare. 

Forever Single Word Side Body Tattoo @honeybee_tattoo

Other Aspects Of Side Body Tattoos To Consider

Do you want to be able to see your tattoo without the assistance of a mirror or a camera?

Then a side body tattoo may not be for you. Sure, you can look down and see a small tattoo design on your ribs if it’s not located too far towards your back, but a larger design will be difficult to see in its entirety. Also, a larger design will have a wrapping effect due to the shape of the side body, so keep this in mind when choosing your tattoo design. 

Side Body Butterfly Tattoo @bynxinks

While a side body tattoo may be invisible to you, it’s also really easy to hide. This is an amazing pro for people who don’t want to show off their ink all the time. You can still get the large design, but throw on a T-shirt and no one will know about your body art. 

Side Body Tattoo Ideas

Angel And Devil Split Side Body Tattoo @cecilmoth

Split Tattoo

A split-sided design works really well in this tattoo placement. Split tattoos are also known as interlocking tattoos – basically, they fit together. They can match or be opposite sides of the same, or similar, designs. The above tattoo design is an example of this with one side body tattoo being an angel, the opposite being a devil. 

Self Care Side Body Tattoo @badlystuffedanimal

Word Tattoo

If you have a phrase or single word that is meaningful – and extremely personal – to you and you would prefer that not many people get to see it, a word tattoo on your ribs could be ideal for you. The rib cage offers plenty of space for whatever quote or word you’d like.

Also, one of the best things about word tattoos is that you can make it meaningful to you and what you’ve been through. Whether you want a reminder of what you’ve overcome, or something to help motivate you to keep reaching towards your goals, there’s a word for that. 

Red Snake Side Body Tattoo @laurenbeetattoos

Snake Tattoo

The curves of the side body as it wraps around from the back to the chest, and down to the hip, makes it a perfect canvas for a curving or flowing design. A snake tattoo fits this description. Snakes often get a bad rap, but in reality humans have put both negative and positive symbolism on these reptiles.

On the positive side of snake tattoos, Chronic Ink Tattoo explains,

“A Japanese snake tattoo can be a symbol of protection against illness or bad luck. It can also symbolize good luck, wisdom, strength and change.”

Because of their ability to shed their skin, a snake tattoo can also represent a new beginning. 

Side Body Dragon Tattoo @pollytatttoo

Dragon Tattoo

Similar to a snake tattoo, the curves of an intricate dragon make it a good choice for the side body. A dragon tattoo is also a great opportunity to go colorful in your tattoo design. Bright red ink can further enhance a dragon tattoo.

However, when it comes to red ink tattoos, there are a few things you should know before getting inked – click here to find out. Chinese and Japanese cultures both reference dragons, and so Chinese and Japanese dragon tattoos are both popular when it comes to dragon designs.

“The Asian dragon represents balance. For the Chinese, the dragon represents one half of the yin and yang; the phoenix represents the other half…The colorful Japanese dragon, part of their cultural mythology for hundreds of years, represents balance, freedom, and good luck,”

Tat Ring
Floral Side Body Tattoo @leanneckerr

Flower Tattoo

The flower tattoo theme is broad. There are so many different flowers to choose from, all with their own unique meaning. So, if you like the look of floral tattoos, do a deep dive to find a flower with a symbolism you love. 

One of the most popular flower tattoos is the rose, symbolizing love and passion. Another popular flower tattoo choice that is as meaningful as it is beautiful is a lotus. This flower symbolizes overcoming obstacles and blooming to your full potential. 

A pro when it comes to side body tattoos is that there is a lot of space to work with, so you can incorporate branches and vines to your flower tattoo to create a bigger design. This can work well with a cherry blossom tattoo. Cherry blossoms can represent transience, as they only bloom for a short time. 

If you love the look of side body tattoos, and have the perfect design that holds a lot of meaning to you, do not let the idea of pain stop you. There are ways to lessen the discomfort of getting a tattoo, and you have got to think about the end result: A piece of body art that you will love.

Related Posts

Recent Posts