Currently, more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States alone. Chances are you or someone you know has gone through one of the hardest struggles in a woman’s life.
The war with breast cancer can have very serious physical and mental ramifications. Many breast cancer survivors struggle with a loss of identity and feeling incomplete after a mastectomy. Every day they are confronted with the fact that their nipples are missing, replaced with large scars.
3D nipple tattoos are growing in popularity as a solution for some of the mental and physical trauma experienced by survivors. The procedure is simple and non-invasive and can provide many women with confidence and a sense of completeness.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits and results of areola tattoos, as well as what to expect from the procedure, and how we our areola tattoo service might help you.
What Is Areola Tattooing?
Ultimately the reconstruction of the breast is part medical and part artistic. Doctors form the breast shape and size, while the artists tattoo on the final touches.
Frank Dellacroce, a founding partner of the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery at St. Charles Surgical Hospital, calls breast reconstruction a collaboration between “a painter and a sculptor, working in the same studio.” Following this metaphor, 3D nipple tattoos are the work of the painter.
Areola tattooing is an artistic solution to the aftermath of medical scaring. It’s the use of cosmetic tattooing to create a 3D, realistic nipple.
The artists use a tattoo gun to inject permanent pigment into the skin. They make use of careful shading to create realistic color and texture.
Essentially, they’re sketching a photorealistic picture of a nipple onto the breast tissue. This picture completes the look of the breast and can help cover some of the mastectomy scars.
This procedure is very similar to microblading. Microblading is the use of tattooing to add natural-looking thickness to eyebrows. These procedures are classified as cosmetic tattoos because they subtly enhance natural features.
Benefits of 3D Nipple Tattoos
After a mastectomy, patients have the option to follow it with surgical breast reconstruction. The mastectomy often removes the nipple, and the reconstruction focuses on the size and shape of the breast. After breast cancer, many women simply don’t have nipples.
Compared With Nipple Reconstruction Surgery
Nipple reconstruction is a surgical alternative to 3D nipple tattoos. However, nipple reconstructive surgery is intimidating to many breast cancer survivors. After a long battle with breast cancer and overcoming many surgeries and hospital stays, the prospect of another surgery is daunting.
Nipple reconstruction involves either skin grafts or folding the skin on the breast to form a new nipple. Although the procedure is typically outpatient, nipple reconstruction surgery is still invasive and more costly than 3D nipple tattoos. There can also be more risks to the procedure.
By comparison, getting a 3D nipple tattoo is quick, virtually painless, and far less risky. This makes it a more enticing option for the hospital-weary.
The greatest benefit to tattoos after a mastectomy is increased confidence. After the battle with cancer and breast reconstruction, the completion of the nipple tattoo marks the final phase of healing.
The tattoo can be likened to the period at the end of a sentence. It is the last stage in recovery and marks the completion of the fight and an end to the harrowing experience.
Without nipples, many breast cancer survivors feel incomplete and lack body confidence. It can result in feeling like less of a woman.
Rose Marie Beauchemin, a cosmetics expert and advocate for cancer survivors, reports that many patients have not allowed their husbands to see them naked for over five years. They refuse to get changed in public locker rooms, and some patients have even spent years avoiding looking at themselves in the mirror.
After getting a 3D tattoo, these same patients finally feel at home in their bodies, experiencing new feelings of femininity and completeness. They can look in the mirror and no longer see only scars. They finally began to see a complete woman.
You read more about Beauchemin and her experience with increased confidence after 3D tattoos in this article.
What Can You Expect From the Procedure?
Luckily, the 3D tattoo procedure is quite simple. Your doctor can confirm your timeline, but you can typically get the tattoos about 4-6 months after your surgery.
When you first meet your artist, they will first consult with you to determine your desired color, size, and placement. This is your opportunity to share with them any preferences or even show them photos of your desired result. They will create a temporary drawing on the area so you know what to expect.
The plan will depend on your scar placement and the thickness of the scar tissue. Some women also only need one nipple tattooed. In these cases, the artist will design a nipple that matches the existing nipple and restore symmetry.
When you come in for the procedure, wear a loose bra or camisole that can keep your bandages in place afterward.
The artist will confirm the plan once again, before beginning by disinfecting the area.
Breast numbness is common after mastectomy, but a topical anesthetic is still applied which will eliminate the rest of the pain. The process is generally not painful.
The tattoo can take about 1-3 hours from beginning to end, typically about 15-30 minutes per nipple. The artist will create dimension with color and shading, and the result will be a very realistic nipple and areola tattoo.
Aftercare and the Healing Process
The procedure is completed in one session. Depending on your healing process, you might want to come back in for a touch up to fill in the shading, but generally, the results are great after only one session.
You should be aware that the pigment often looks darker than anticipated in the first 10 days after the procedure. After 10 days to 2 weeks, the pigment will fade a bit and settle into the agreed-upon color.
After your appointment, you will be given dressings and clear aftercare instructions from your artist. Aftercare is very similar to standard tattoo aftercare. Typically the only care required is antibiotic cream to keep the area clean from infection.
The procedure is simple and requires no downtime afterward, although you might have to cover the area with a bandage for a week.
With any procedure, there are risks. However, the tattoo process is much less invasive and therefore less risky than surgical reconstructive procedures.
The greatest risk is infection or scarring, which can be avoided with proper care of the area.
There’s also the rare risk of an allergic reaction to the pigment.
Although the procedure is considered very safe, breast cancer survivors should always check with their doctor first, to make sure they are fully healed.
Finding a Good Shop
Before committing to a shop, you should make sure you find someone you’re completely comfortable with. They should also have extensive experience with 3D nipple tattoos.
There are a few things to consider when you’re exploring your options. You should visit the shop and make sure they have a commitment to cleanliness and a good atmosphere, as well as professional and friendly staff.
You should feel comfortable asking your artist about their sterilization practices, licensing, and experience.
You can even get the procedure done at a medical spa. Breast cancer survivors have spent more than enough time in clinical hospital environments. Treat yourself, and experience a more calming atmosphere. It will make you feel relaxed and comfortable when getting your tattoo.
Experience is the most important aspect of this type of procedure. Many tattoo shops are well versed in tattoos, but not specifically 3D nipple tattoos. Specialized experience is another benefit of getting the procedure done at a medical spa. With a dedicated areola tattoo service, they’re guaranteed to have experience with many different shapes and colors of nipples.
You can also check out your artist’s portfolio to see some of the results they’ve had and find some inspiration for yourself. This is also a great way to feel comfortable with your artist’s level of experience.
Start Your Healing Journey
If you have experienced the trauma of a mastectomy and are finally cancer-free, it’s time to heal. 3D nipple tattoos are the final phase of healing and can help make you feel complete and empowered.
At Love Your Body in New York City, we pride ourselves in using the art of tattooing to heal you. We take pride in our facilities and relaxing environment. We have experienced and professional artists who specialize in creating realistic nipple tattoos.
If you’re ready to heal with us or want to ask some questions about the process, please reach out!