Nipple Tattoo. Everything you need to know about Nipple Tattoos.

Everything you need to know about Nipple Tattoos after Breast Cancer.

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I have tried to create a resource of everything you may want to know when considering a Nipple Tattoo after Breast Cancer. For this reason, it has ended up becoming a bit of an epic post so I have added in an index to help you navigate more easily. I hope you find this information about Nipple Tattoos useful.

Helen x

Nipple Tattoos can mark the end of your breast cancer journey

Your breast cancer diagnosis is the beginning of a long journey. Your journey can lead you into some of the darkest and most frightening situations you have ever had to deal with, situations which require all your inner strength and courage. 

Cancer cruelly tests the strength and courage of the strongest person and at the end of the day, even with wonderful family support, it’s a journey you must travel alone… 

The treatment is arduous and takes a toll on your mental and physical health. Once you have dealt mentally with diagnosis, another hurdle lies in your path, the choice of whether or not to have reconstructive surgery. 

Reconstruction techniques have come forward leaps and bounds in recent years and talented surgeons can recreate your breasts with amazing skill, using a variety of complex techniques to replicate the shape and profile of a natural contour. Sadly, though, surgery often means that you have to lose your natural nipple along with your breast tissue in order to make sure that cancer doesn’t return. 

However perfect the shape of the reconstructed breast is, the lack of a nipple can make your breast feel unnatural and not a part of you. 

As women, we identify closely with our breasts and when these are taken away or dramatically altered this can be disorientating and make you feel that you have lost some part of your soul and spirit too… 

When you catch a quick glimpse of yourself as you walk past a mirror, without a nipple you may feel dissociated and that you don’t recognise your own body anymore. Little wonder that at the end of this long, dark and arduous trek, you may feel that you just want to “feel like me again” and put everything behind you. 

How can you move forward with your life and complete your cancer journey? 

Permanent Nipple Tattoos can help… 

What Are The Options For Recreating your Nipples after Mastectomy?

Reconstructive surgery has taken huge steps in recent years. Post-mastectomy, new techniques allow surgeons to create incredible new breasts, often using your own tissue rather than implants. The results are amazing and allow you to rebuild your confidence and body image after fighting cancer, an incredibly important step on the journey to recovery. 

However, at the end of this journey is the finishing touch, the nipple and areola complex. 

During the majority of life-saving mastectomy surgery, it’s impossible to keep your nipple and it must be removed with other breast tissue. If a new breast shape is created it will only replace the shape of the breast and not the nipple and areola structure. 

Your options up to this point have been limited… 

Surgical Reconstruction of your Nipple. 

Surgeons can create a bump on the breast out of your own skin to replicate a nipple. However, over time the bump will generally flatten back down into the breast so the procedure may need to be repeated.

 The areola skin around the nipple will still need to be coloured by tattooing to give the correct appearance. Nipple Tattooing can really help here to give a more natural appearance.

Silicone Prosthetic Nipples which stick onto your breast. 

These have the advantage (or disadvantage) of showing as a bump through clothes but may slip off or dislodge in some situations and let’s face it, it’s a pain to have to stick your nipples on every day! 

They may also be irritating if you have skin sensitivity or scarring.

Semi-Permanent Cosmetic Nipple Tattoos, performed by your surgeon, NHS Nurse or a Cosmetic Tattooist.

After surgery, many NHS hospitals offer people the chance to have nipples tattooed by the surgeon who performed the reconstruction or a nurse in their practice using semi-permanent pigments. 

Whilst surgeons and nurses possess incredible medical skills, they generally don’t have the artistic or tattooing training and experience of skin needed to create a realistic nipple. 

To create a realistic nipple tattoo requires a high level of skill in the specialist field of Artistic Medical Tattooing.

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Nipple Tattoos after Breast Cancer - Everything You need To Know

Nipple Tattoos after Breast Cancer – Nipple Tattoo FAQ

Permanent Nipple Tattoos. A new option after Breast Cancer. 

As a professional tattooist and a woman, I felt that people were nearing the end of their cancer journey and then being offered less than optimal choices. I wanted to be able to offer something more. I felt that there should be a better, higher quality permanent option to enable you to get as close as possible to your body before surgery, to reclaim your body confidence, restore your spirit and put cancer behind you. 

The Real Issue – Non-Permanent Ink & Fading Nipple Tattoos 

However, the real issue, which many people don’t realise is that in most cases, micro-pigmentation inks are generally used, rather than true permanent tattooing inks. 

Micro-pigmentation inks are designed to fade quickly over time for readjustment in cosmetic applications. These pigments are great for eyebrows but not so good for nipples. They have a limited colour palette and lack the wide range of colours needed to create a realistic artistic 3D Nipple and Areola Tattoo. 

The use of these inks results in nipples with no definition, which will quickly look faded and patchy as the ink is absorbed by the body. 

You will need to return for regular colour top-ups every couple of years, meaning potential extra future maintenance costs or visits to the hospital, something you may want to put behind you… 

In addition, as the inks are absorbed by the body, the nipple can fade unevenly and look pale, patchy, orange and unreal, ruining the illusion of a real nipple. 

Often, the nipples created will be red blobs with little or no shading or definition, sometimes described by women who receive them as “salami slices”. They may be the wrong size or colour.

When permanent isn’t permanent

To add to the confusion, cosmetic tattooists often refer to their pigments as permanent {as in Permanent Cosmetics}, even though they are designed to fade away slowly. This refers to the fact that they last longer than daily applied cosmetics. However, they are not permanent in the generally understood use of the term.

Likewise, cosmetic tattooists lack the experience and artistic background to do this delicate and important work. Their equipment is designed to create fine hairs on eyebrows, lip liner etc. It’s important to use the right equipment to tattoo breast tissue which may be scarred and fragile and to have experience of working with such delicate skin. 

The results are often less than ideal. This is a huge shame when you have come so far on your recovery journey. The nipple should be the final piece of the puzzle. The cherry on the cupcake to make surgery complete. 

I believe that to be offered less than optimal nipples at this stage is unacceptable. 

Nipple Tattoo Pigments Colour Test Swatch

Nipple Tattoo Pigments Colour Test Swatch

Why go to a specialist tattoo artist for a Nipple Tattoo?

Specialist Tattoo Artists, use the highest quality permanent tattoo inks to ensure that the Nipple Tattoos won’t fade away. 

Having an artistic background and extensive experience of tattooing different kinds of skin and scar tissue means that they can create an incredibly detailed and realistic 3D image of a nipple on the flat skin of the reconstructed breast. 

By the careful artistic positioning of shading and highlights, the appearance of a raised nipple can be created, even though there is no actual nipple bump there. 

They are essentially tattooing on a detailed and delicate portrait of a nipple. The overall effect is of a natural nipple and areola and is the finishing touch making the reconstructed breast appear natural and complete and this is permanent. 

This is why using a Specialist Tattooist with an artistic background is very important to get the best results possible. 

The differences between Tattoo Artists who specialise in Nipple Tattoos and Cosmetic Technicians.

There are many Cosmetic Technicians who offer Nipple Tattoos and areola Tattoos. However, it’s important to understand the differences between specialist Tattoo Artists and Cosmetic Technicians before you make a booking, especially if you are looking to receive permanent Nipple Tattoos.

The differences between Tattoo Artists who specialise in Nipple Tattoos and Cosmetic Technicians.
Specialist Tattoo ArtistCosmetic Tattooist
Training2 years intensive tattoo apprenticeship training2 days training course
EquipmentHigh Powered equipment which can handle scar tissue and radiation damaged skin safelyLow powered equipment which can result in overworking of skin in an attempt to implant the pigment.
RealismGreater choice of equipment, needles and colour ranges means increased realism of tattoo.Limitations of equipment can mean less realistic result.
Artistic backgroundUses drawing and artistic skills in everyday workGenerally no trained artistic background
ExperienceExperience of working with many different types of skin, different body areas, scars etc in different scenariosSkin experience limited to eyebrows, lips and cosmetic applications
PigmentsLicensed and insured for truly permanent pigmentsNot licensed or insured for permanent pigments. Semi-Permanent only
Pigment retentionLifetime6 months – 2 years approx
Top-up feesNot neededApprox 3/4 of original cost

In this medical research paper “Nipple-Areola Tattoos: Making the Right Referral” it was found that many nurses and referring clinicians believe that tattoo artists, who are outside of the traditional healthcare setting, could provide better outcomes for patients. However, they aren’t letting the patients know about the possibility of accessing this service so more work is needed in this area in order to fully advise patients of their options.

Read the Research Paper here.

Percentage of Clinicians & Nurses who would recommend a Specialist Tattooist for Nipple Tattoos
Non Nurses – Including Physicians, Clinic Managers etcRegistered nurses
Currently recommend tattoo artists for reconstructive tattoos28%9%
Believe that tattoo artists could provide a higher quality reconstructive tattoo64%56%
Would recommend tattoo artists for reconstructive tattoos in the future52%42%


Why is it so important that Nipple Tattoos are Permanent?

I believe that it is of absolutely crucial importance that Nipple Tattoos are created using permanent ink.

  • The main reason is the psychological benefits this gives to clients. A permanent Nipple Tattoo allows you to put cancer behind you and come to the full stop at the end of your cancer  journey. If you are having to return for top-ups regularly then it’s hard to find that point of closure.
  • To receive a Nipple Tattoo, only to find it fade away within a year can be very psychologically distressing. This can lead to depression and body image issues as well as lack of confidence.
  • Many people who receive a semi-permanent nipple tattoo become disillusioned with getting top-ups. They often stop trying after 2 or 3.
  • A semi-permanent NHS tattoo can mean having to keep going back to the same hospital where you had your cancer treatment, which can be a mental trauma. I know from personal experience that it’s a great relief when you don’t have to visit there any more.
  • Another important consideration is cost. A Cosmetic Technician will charge a top-up fee every time you need a colour boost. Often this is a similar price to the initial cost of getting the tattoo. As a semi-permanent Nipple Tattoo can fade at approximately 6 months to 2 years, this can mean a large ongoing cost stretching into the future.

What does a 3d Nipple Tattoo look like? Image Gallery of before and after pictures.

Below is a small gallery of a few of the Nipple Tattoos I have completed. It’s important to note that all these images show Nipple Tattoos completed by me and are not stock images or other peoples work. All are taken in my studio with no filters or retouching.

I’m really grateful that so many of my clients are very happy to allow me to show their work in the hope that it may help others coming after them in the cancer journey.

You can view a more extensive gallery of images by clicking here.

My site also has a gallery of healed nipple tattoos. When choosing a Nipple Tattoo artist it’s really important to ask to see healed photos in order to assess pigment retention.

What are the benefits of a Nipple Tattoo?

A 3D Nipple Tattoo can help to restore your confidence and spirit after cancer. It may help you to… 

  • Feel complete again when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.
  • Complete the final step on your cancer journey, allowing you to put it all behind you and move forward with your life.
  • Draw the eye away from any scars you may have.
  • Feel confident again, for example, in the gym changing rooms, on the beach, in bed.
  • Feel back in touch with your body.
  • Feel more like YOU again.
  • Create the realistic appearance of a protruding nipple, even on completely flat skin. 
  • Match your existing nipple in the case of unilateral mastectomy, to achieve symmetry again. 
  • Feel comfortable in your skin again and reclaim your new reconstructed breasts. 
  • Be free from dealing with awkward prosthetic stick-on nipples. 
  • Put hospital visits and touch-ups behind you. No need to worry about recurring future hospital visits, faded patchy nipples or costly top-ups every couple of years, thus allowing you to put your cancer journey behind you and move forward with your life. 

In an interesting medical research paper titled “Does nipple-areolar tattooing matter in breast reconstruction? A cohort study using the BREAST-Q” patients reported, “that nipple-areolar tattooing significantly improves satisfaction with their nipple reconstruction.”

Read the medical research paper here 

The Procedure. – How Nipple Tattoos are created.

I fully appreciate that, if you have never had a tattoo before, the thought of starting the process can be daunting. 

I’m always happy to answer all your questions and chat through everything in your consultation but if you have any questions prior to that you can ask me anything you may want to know via hello {at} or via facebook messenger or call 01484 680 104. 

You are welcome to pop into the studio to have a look around or communicate via email if you are coming from further afield. 

When you come to the studio for your appointment we will begin with a chat and a cup of tea to understand what you want to achieve. You are welcome to bring a friend for moral support who can accompany you for the procedure. 

Together we will decide the location of your nipples and mark the area on your breast. You will be able to see the location in the mirror and we can reposition until we are satisfied the location is right. 

We will then work together to mix the colours to be used based on our required outcome and your skin tone. If you have a photo of your original nipple, we can use that to mix a colour range that matches.

As in nature, each nipple is made from a wide range of tones and values which we will individually match to you. Small samples, allowed to dry on your skin, give an indication of the colour when healed. 

When you are happy with both the colour and location you will lie back on the comfy treatment table to begin the procedure. 

Creating your nipples takes very approximately 45 minutes for each nipple tattoo. When the nipples are complete you can look in the mirror to experience your new look. 

We will then go over the aftercare regime and answer any questions you may have. A breathable dressing will be applied and you will be given an aftercare pack with instructions to take home. 

I find that the best results can be obtained by following up with another appointment after 6 weeks {the perfecting session}. Therefore we will make a booking for this follow-up appointment before you leave. 

At this appointment, we will check how you have healed. We can then darken the nipple if required and redefine any details etc to make sure everything is as perfect as possible.

Everyone’s skin heals differently dependent on scarring and skin definition so this is an opportunity to reassess and refine the nipple. The cost of this second appointment is included in the cost of treatment. 

Equipment used for Permanent Nipple Tattoos

It’s important to know that safety and hygiene are paramount when creating a Nipple Tattoo.

Therefore all the equipment I use is fully disposable.

I use the Cheyenne Hawk Disposable Cartridge Needle System which means that each tattoo needle comes in an individually sealed and sterilised unit which is disposed of after each client. I can choose from an extensive range of needle sizes which helps with creating realism in the tattoo.

The set of ink colours that I use has been specially developed for use in Nipple and Areola Tattooing. It offers an extensive and natural range of colours to match every skin type.

It is manufactured in the US by an ink manufacturer of the highest quality and conforms to all safety and quality requirements. 

Frequently asked questions about Nipple Tattoos

Does it hurt to have a Nipple Tattoo?

Generally, most people having Nipple Tattoos after Breast Cancer and Mastectomy find the procedure relatively painless.

Sadly, often the nerves in the area have been disturbed by surgery meaning that sensitivity isn’t high. If you do find that there are areas with more sensitivity, then numbing cream can be used. 

How long do I need to wait after my Mastectomy to get a Nipple Tattoo?

I advise waiting at least six months after your last surgery before you get a Nipple Tattoo.

Sometimes surgeons give the go-ahead after 3 months but I wouldn’t advise this. I appreciate the wait can be frustrating when you just want to get on with it but it’s crucial to wait 6 months to ensure the best result possible. 

Waiting 6 months allows scar tissue in the area to heal and solidify. Fresh scar tissue is fragile and tattooing into it too early can result in it not healing properly and damaging the new scar.

In addition, this amount of time allows any inflammation and swelling in the breast to go down. This means that the reconstruction settles into its final position. Any earlier and you risk positioning the new Nipple Tattoo in the wrong place if the breast drops further. 

Are Nipple Tattoos safe?

Yes, Nipple Tattoos are as safe as any other minor medical procedure. 

All inks have to comply with strict EU regulations or they can’t be sold in the UK.

Inks are covered by the General Product Safety Directive in the EU.

I use top quality inks from a respected ink manufacturer in the US. Each bottle is EU Certified and CPNP {Cosmetic Product Notification Portal} Registered. The company website has a Material Data Safety Sheets for each ink. This gives a breakdown of the ingredients in the ink and any known toxicities. 

Under Toxicological Information they note Carcinogenicity: None per OSHA, IARC or NTP

Strict studio precautions and adhering to the same hygiene rules as hospitals minimise the risk of infections.

Aftercare. How long does it take to heal a Nipple Tattoo?

Nipple Tattoos heal quickly with fairly minimal aftercare requirements.

Any redness should subside in a day or so. Within approximately two weeks the Nipple Tattoos will be fully healed.

For the first three days, you will need to wash the Nipple Tattoos and apply Bepanthen Cream.

It’s really important that you avoid swimming or saunas for around 3 weeks to allow the Nipple Tattoos to heal fully.

If you have a Tattoo appointment we will go over the aftercare in detail and you will be given a sheet with all the information on it.

You can find more detail about the suggested aftercare regime here.

Pricing. What is the cost of a Nipple Tattoo?

I aim to be very transparent with my Nipple Tattoo Pricing so you don’t need to worry about surprise extra costs.

I charge £400 for one nipple and £500 for two and this covers two sessions. {The first session and a perfecting session 6 weeks later}.

You can pay for the work at each session, ie pay half at the first session and half at the second session. {ie £200 first session, £200 second session for 1 nipple: £250 first session, £250 second session for 2 nipples}

The 3D Nipples I create are permanent, so unlike the NHS or cosmetic ones they won’t fade away. Importantly this means that you won’t need to pay for top-ups in the future.

Secret garden – Private Tattoo Studio.

Secret Garden Private Tattoo Studio Holmfirth Yorkshire UK

Secret Garden Private Tattoo Studio Holmfirth Yorkshire UK

After travelling through my own cancer journey. I fully understand how vulnerable you can feel and how traumatising medical settings can become. When I set up my studio space I wanted to create somewhere which would not feel medical, although operating to the highest hygiene standards. Secret Garden is warm, welcoming and private. As the name implies it opens onto a little garden which adds its own healing magic. 

The studio is fully licensed and checked by Kirklees Council to the highest hygiene standards. 

I am fully trained in the application of Universal Precautions to prevent cross-contamination and ensure client safety. I use the fully disposable Cheyenne Hawk needle system, which ensures new sterilised needles for each client.

I am located just out of the centre of Holmfirth, West Yorkshire HD91UA UK. Holmfirth is well placed for access from cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Bradford and Leeds as well as areas such as Lincolnshire, The Midlands, Wales, Cheshire and Cumbria. We are near the M62 and can be easily reached from the M1. 

Holmfirth is the famously picturesque location for the long-running sitcom, “Last of the Summer Wine” and has a wide variety of great restaurants and character pubs and shops. Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Salts Mill in Saltaire are well worth a visit. Some clients, visiting from further afield stay and explore the area. I am always happy to advise on the local area if you are staying overnight. 

FREE Consultation

I am always happy to chat through any questions that you may have about Nipple Tattoos, either by phone or email. I also offer a Free no obligation consultation service. You can come into the studio or, if you live further away, we can do this via email or over the phone.

Just get in touch using the contact details below.

Get in touch for a FREE CONSULTATION…

Please contact me with any questions you may have about 3D Nipple Tattoos or to book a FREE Consultation.

Email me direct at Hello{at} or via the contact form.

For enquiries and appointments you can call the studio on 01484 680 104.

You can also message me via my  3D Nipple Tattoo Facebook page here


I have written an E-Book to answer questions about 3D Nipple Tattoos.

Completing Your Journey – The Power of 3D Nipple Tattoos and How They Can Help Your Recovery From Breast Cancer covers topics I get asked most frequently and outlines the process and its benefits. You can easily download the E-Book to your laptop or tablet to read at your leisure.

Simply add your email below to receive your copy which will be sent to your mail address. I Hope you find the book helpful and informative.

3D Nipple Tattoo e-book
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