Under the breast and sternum tattoos have become exceedingly popular among women in recent years. From small, delicate floral tattoos on the sternum, to larger lace and chandler designs following the curves of the breasts, these tattoos can be feminine and eye-catching.
The options for breast and chest tattoos can also extend to the top of the chest below the collar bone, and to the areola and nipple.
Before getting inked in these areas, there are a few things to consider to make sure you’re prepared for the procedure and can make decisions that you’ll be happy with in the long run.
Sternum And Under-Breast Tattoos
One of the reasons why these chest tattoos have become so popular – besides celebrities sporting them (such as Rihanna with her Egyptian design) – is because these tattoos are very easy to hide.
A simple shirt can cover the ink, and no one – from your super up-tight boss to your conservative family members – will know that you have a tattoo. So, for those who want their ink to go under the radar, a sternum design could be the ideal choice.
However, there are a few things to consider before booking your tattoo appointment.
Pain And Precision:
A good rule of thumb when it comes to getting a tattoo and the pain that comes with it is that the fleshier and the more muscle and fat between the bone and the needle, the less painful the procedure is.
This is one of the reasons why some tattoo artists recommend your forearm as a first tattoo placement area – it doesn’t hurt that much.
Places on the body like your spine, ribs, knee, collar bone, and sternum have a thin layer of tissue between the top of the skin and the bone beneath. So, when you’re getting a tattoo on one of these bony places, it can be painful.
“In fact, some people even claim that the sternum is one of the most painful places to get a tattoo. Also, tattooing over sensitive areas is time-consuming because this type of tattooing requires a high amount of precision,”Chronic Ink
They recommend going for a smaller design if you’re worried about pain. You can always start with a tiny design that can stand by itself, and then later down the road add onto it.
Obviously, pain is in the nerves of the receiver – everyone is different and with different pain thresholds.
Top Of Chest Tattoos
This tattoo placement is a great option for larger designs, as it’s a sizable surface area which a tattoo artist can work with.
However, this area can be a bit more challenging to cover compared to a sternum or under-breast tattoo – to keep it hidden, you’d need to leave thin strap and low-cut tops in your wardrobe and opt for higher neck clothing.
As this part of your body consists of thin skin over your ribs, the pain of the procedure won’t necessarily be less than with a sternum tattoo, especially if your design goes high enough to reach the collar bone.
When it comes to upper chest tattoos, there are many different styles to choose from, and not all of them are large and commanding. A small, fine line or mini tattoo can look amazing in this area. Some top minimalist designs to consider include constellations, the moon, words, and geometric pieces.
Related Post: Minimalist Tattoos – the Essence of Modern Style
One thing to consider when getting a small tattoo in a large area is any future tattoo plans you may have – if you think that you might want to add to your chest tattoo later down the line, choose an initial design that can be incorporated into the bigger picture.
Areola and nipple tattoos are often chosen by breast cancer survivors after surgery as a way to take their body back after an extremely life altering experience. An areola tattoo works as a way to reconstruct the look of a natural, realistic nipple with color.
This type of tattooing – which includes a lot of details, blending, and feathering to gain a natural look – is also done for a host of other situations where people are looking for a way to feel more comfortable in their bodies, but don’t want to go for nipple reconstruction surgery.
Shaughnessy Otsuji, owner of Studio Sashiko, told Byrdie,
“I work with trans and non-binary clients who have received top surgery and reconstruction; clients who have burns, skin grafts, or other scarring that has affected their chest; as well as anyone who is unhappy with their natural nipples and may need reshaping or re-pigmentation.”
Areola tattoos, whether they’re realistic designs to indicate the feminine form, or intricate designs, can be an empowering way to reshape your body.
Getting an areola tattoo as a way to reshape or gain the look of a nipple isn’t done in completely the same way as a traditional tattoo – it’s more of a microblading procedure, as someone would have on the eyebrows.
“A trained tattoo artist will design and perform this semi-permanent technique similar to the one of microblading eyebrows. Just like microblading eyebrows, nipple and areola tattoos are made by implanting color pigment beneath the outer layer of the skin. The treatment is done with a small electronic machine using precise disposable and sterile needles. However, unlike microblading eyebrows that last one to three years, tattooed nipples and areolas tend to last much longer,”PMU Hub
When choosing an artist for this tattoo, it’s important to find someone who has experience with this type of procedure – make sure to look at before and after pictures.
Areola Restorative Tattoo is a collective of artists who specialize in areola tattoos, and is a good resource to use to find an artist.
Areola Tattoo Aftercare:
To make sure your tattoo is in the best possible condition after the healing process, it’s important that you follow your aftercare instructions.
Keep the tattoo clean by washing it with a fragrance-free soap and warm water – don’t use a sponge, washcloth or anything abrasive as this could cause damage to the ink.
3D Nipple Tattoos recommends using nappy care ointment to heal the tattoo,
“Cover the nipple tattoos in a thin application of the aftercare cream (Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment). Work it gently into the area with clean hands. The cream is very thick so you may want to warm the tube in your hands before applying as this helps spread the cream easily over the tattoo. The cream keeps the tattoo moist and prevents scabbing whilst providing a protective barrier from dirt and infection.”
While your tattoo is healing, don’t soak in a bathtub or go swimming. Laying in a bathtub can result in some of the healing scabs to fall away before it’s ready, taking some of the ink with it, while chlorine in a pool or and bacteria in a lake or in the ocean could give you an infection.
There is no room for shyness and modesty when you want any type of breast or upper rib tattoo.
You’re going to have to be comfortable with going through your appointment topless and for a tattoo artist to have a full view of your breasts (maybe not for some tattoos on the top of your chest, nearer to your collarbone, but most likely for sternum and areola tattoos).
Choose a tattoo artist that you fully trust, and one that is comfortable with tattooing topless women. Always ask to see their portfolio, and check that they have experience in sternum and breast tattoos – this can go a long way to ensuring you have both a comfortable appointment and walk out with a tattoo you love.
When doing your tattoo studio and artist research, you can ask if there is a private room in which you can get your tattoo, so that you don’t have to be topless in the studio with a lot of people around if you’re uncomfortable with that.
Breast Tattoo Aftercare
After you get a tattoo, the artist will send you home with a list of aftercare instructions so that your tattoo can heal properly. One of these rules is to let your tattoo breathe, so super tight clothes on the fresh ink should be avoided.
When it comes to bras and fresh sternum tattoos, Tattmag recommends,
“If you wear bras, you will want to figure out an alternative for the next two weeks. Friction is the number one enemy to a tattoo, and bras have to fit closely to the skin. They’re also often made with underwire, which will dig into your healing ink. Smaller chested people may opt for pasties, but there are some cup-less ‘sticky bra’ alternatives for larger chested folks who need some support.”
It may be a good idea to plan to get your tattoo during winter, a season where you can cover up in loose sweaters and forgo bras while your ink heals.
Breast Tattoos And Breastfeeding
Having a baby and breastfeeding is a huge life moment. As a person who is breastfeeding, you most likely want to make sure that you baby is getting the best possible nutrition and that nothing harmful can get into your breastmilk.
When it comes to having tattoos and breastfeeding, there is no danger to the little one, as Healthline explains,
“The placement of tattoos does not increase any risks when breastfeeding, even if they’re on your breasts. The tattoo ink is unlikely to get into your milk supply and the ink is sealed under the first layer of your skin, so the baby cannot contact it.”
However, getting a new tattoo while you’re breastfeeding is another matter.
Author of What To Expect The First Year, Heidi Murkoff, explained on What To Expect that putting your body through the further trauma of a tattoo while you’re still healing from giving birth and breastfeeding can be an unnecessary risk to take,
“The biggest concern about getting a tattoo while you’re still recovering from pregnancy and childbirth: infection, which postpartum bodies are more susceptible to in general – especially once you consider the many other factors that can zap your new mom immune system, including sleep-deprivation, normal hormonal changes and the physical and emotional toll around-the-clock newborn care involves.”
Remember, getting a tattoo is a distressing event for your body and one that you must heal from. While your skin is open, there is a risk of infection. Getting an infection while trying to feed and care for a baby isn’t an easy thing to go through.
“Though it’s probably impossible for the ink to make its way into your breast milk, the risk of infection is real and looms larger when you’re breastfeeding. Some infections can be passed to your baby, and infections require treatment that might not be breastfeeding compatible. Any kind of infection can also impact your breast milk supply.”
You should also think about the practicality of a sternum or chest tattoo while looking after and breastfeeding a newborn. The position of a breastfeeding baby is directly over your chest, so having a new tattoo in this area could result in very uncomfortable, and even painful, breastfeeding sessions – also, newborns feed around 12 times a day, so you’ll be in this position a lot.
Burping a newborn often involves putting the baby’s head above the shoulder so that their body is against one side of your chest. A tattoo around the top of your chest and collar bone area could be impacted in this position.
Just practically, having a new baby to feed and take care of and adding fresh ink on top of these responsibilities can be a lot to handle.
One of the best things to do when it comes to tattoos is to make sure you’re prepared – do your research so that you not only choose a design you’ll love for a long time (maybe forget about trendy, fashionable designs), but also choose a place that will work for you and your lifestyle.
For 10 essential points to consider before getting a tattoo, click here.