For those looking to try a body piercing somewhere other than their ears, perhaps a surface piercing is a good option. Sternum piercings, located on your breastbone, can draw attention to your cleavage, or simply offer a little more intrigue to your chest area. However, due to this piercing being located close to the skin's surface, they may become infected or reject entirely.
As with any body modification, it's important to find a piercer who is experienced in surface piercings. Incorrect piercing techniques might cause damage, potentially leading to scarring or a higher likelihood of rejection.
Placement: Anywhere on the chest
Pricing: $150+ (including jewelry)
Pain Level: 7/10
Healing Time: One to three months
Aftercare: Clean with saline solution twice a day and avoid touching or twisting otherwise.
What is a Sternum Piercing?
"Sternum piercings are either surface piercings or surface anchors placed in the chest, usually with emphasis on adorning the cleavage area, center of chest, and below the clavicle areas," says Starr Ellis, owner of Nine Moons Piercing.
Much like an ear or other body piercing, your piercer will clean the piercing area, ensuring that your skin is sterile. Then, they'll make a marking where the piercing will go, just to make sure it's put exactly where you want it. Now, it's time for the actual piercing—your piercer will most likely use a hollow needle to create a channel for the jewelry to go through. After they've removed the needle, they'll insert the jewelry.
Pain and Healing Time
"When discussing people's potential pain levels we stay intentionally vague stating that they are uncomfortable, but tolerable. It is impossible to guess what each client's individual pain tolerance or pain level could be," says Ellis. She describes the sensation as "not much different than a big pinch."
Normally, sternum piercings may take an average of one to three months to heal with proper care, but healing times may differ by individual. Be sure to follow any instructions your piercer gives you, and be on the lookout for signs of rejection. Should the piercing become hot to the touch or ooze pus, it's most likely infected. Like any piercing, there is a chance of rejection. "Since this area is not double-sided like the earlobe, philtrum or nasal ala, the piercing is anchored or embedded into the skin. Our bodies don’t like foreign objects and can literally push them out," says Sydney Givens, PA-C and founder of Skincare By Sydney. But with proper care and cleaning, you're most likely to keep your piercing happy for a while.
Cost of Sternum Piercing
"Cost will range from studio to studio depending on jewelry materials or even level of expertise and comfort. Typically the studios I've worked in price surface piercings and anchors around $150 and up with basic titanium, for precious metals and gemstones would be more of course," says Ellis.
After you've got your piercing, it's important to take care of it properly. Improper care may lead to infection and rejection, which can be painful. Since the sternum piercing is placed in the center of your chest, it's especially important to be aware of the possibility of it snagging on clothing.
"We highly recommend the most minimal aftercare utilizing your body's natural healing abilities and rinsing the area thoroughly twice a day with sterile saline solution, as well as daily shower rinses," says Ellis. Be sure to use a new cloth each time you clean around the area, and wipe away any crust that may have formed around its edges. "Definitely important to avoid touching piercings, do not twist or turn them!" adds Ellis.
"General aftercare advice from the dermatology side is to keep it clean and dry, especially after showering," says Givens. Avoid swimming or soaking underwater for at least two weeks to avoid infection. Never submerge in water if the areas are red, inflamed, or draining."
For the first few days after getting your sternum pierced, keep a bandage over the area to prevent it from getting caught.
Side Effects of a Sternum Piercing
- Rejection: "Rejection and migration is common, thus, it is a good idea to go into the process accepting that it will not be a forever piercing and that scarring is likely," notes Ellis. She adds that consultations are an essential part of the process for surface piercings; these appointments can help prepare you for the possible side effects. Opting for the proper jewelry style can add to the longevity of this piercing style.
- Scarring: There's always a risk of scarring when it comes to piercings, and proper aftercare can mitigate the chances. "Scarring is quite difficult to estimate, but the chest can have indented or raised scars from piercings," says Ellis. "If the piercing is rejected," notes Givens, the resulting scar will be worse. "It will most likely always be noticeable although it will heal with time."
How to Change Out a Sternum Piercing
The number one thing to remember: Don't try to do it on your own! "We always recommend consulting a professional for assistance," says Ellis. "These piercings can be very temperamental or easily irritated so make sure the professional has experience with surface piercings or anchors. We have special tools, understanding of the jewelry, and clean techniques that of course all come in handy."
What Type of Jewelry Is Used for a Sternum Piercing?
Almost as important as what jewelry to choose for a sternum piercing is what jewelry not to choose. "Surface piercings and anchors have extremely specific jewelry designed for optimal healing and longevity, and that jewelry is not a curved barbell," says Ellis.
- Surface bars: A flexible rod or surface bar is your best option for a sternum piercing.This style of jewelry resembles "long but short staples, and some have flat wearable surface area," says Ellis.
- Surface anchors: "Surface anchors are a small flat elongated disk, sometimes with a couple holes and a post to screw different ends on to. The options for the visible jewelry, we call 'ends', is vast! It can range from flat disks, gemstones, and even decorative designs and floral ends," says Ellis.
What Jewelry Material Is Used for a Sternum Piercing?
- Titanium: Titanium seems to be the most "implant friendly" metal if you're getting a surface bar. "We recommend the bases to be implant grade titanium and the ends can be implant grade titanium, solid (never plated) gold or platinum," says Ellis.
- Stainless steel: Often used in other piercings, this metal is meant to be hypoallergenic, and so is niobium. Givens cautions to "always avoid nickel," no matter what metal you choose, as its a common allergen.
- Gold: This is an option, too, but make sure it's of good quality. Gold higher than 18-karat isn't as durable as 14-karat gold. "The visible jewelry can be simple metallic, solitaire gemstones, or stunning decorations for these piercings," notes Ellis.
Association of Professional Piercers. Safe piercing FAQ.
Association of Professional Piercers. Body piercing troubleshooting for you and your healthcare professional.