For breast cancer survivors, it can sometimes be triggering, dysmorphic, or otherwise upsetting to have to undergo breast reconstruction surgery, also known as a mastectomy. To repair a sense of normalcy for those who want it, it’s possible to get an areola tattoo, which reconstructs the way your nipple looks by using tattooing techniques to pigment the area to make it appear more natural and realistic.

What is an Areola Tattoo?

An areola tattoo is a cosmetic procedure that is done on the area of the breast or chest where the areola is found. The idea of areola tattooing is that it alters the appearance of the nipple in some way, by adding one or changing the shape. Areola tattoos are done in the same manner as other tattoos by depositing ink under the skin to create a permanent image but tend to be particularly detailed in regards to blending and feathering, to ensure an extremely natural look.

Why Would You Get an Areola Tattoo?

An areola tattoo essentially creates a new nipple, and there is one particularly powerful reason the procedure is done: to help breast cancer survivors be comfortable in their bodies post-surgery. Many cancer survivors undergo breast reconstruction surgery (or a double mastectomy if both breasts are affected), but still don’t feel comfortable in their bodies after all they have to endure. That’s where areola tattoos come in: they’re a great way to help women construct the bodies they want to boost self-confidence and help them feel natural in their own skin.

It’s also a great alternative to nipple reconstruction surgery for those who want something a bit quicker and easier.

It’s important to note that areola tattoos aren’t just for survivors who have undergone breast reconstruction surgery and had their nipple affected. If you had surgery that left the nipple intact, you may have scars or misshapen areola. These issues can be easily visually improved by tattooing over them to even out the shape, size, and color of the nipple.

This type of tattooing offers so much healing for someone who has experienced a drastically altered appearance. Being able to reconnect with your previous self when you look in the mirror is a magical thing!

While areola tattoos are a fantastic resource for breast cancer survivors, it’s also totally appropriate to get the ink for other reasons. Some people like to change the shape or color of their nipples with ink, and it allows you to have full control over how a part of your body looks.

We 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.

Tattooing Process

Although there may not be much in common between eyebrows and nipples, areola tattoos are performed similarly to eyebrow tattooing. Our experienced medical tattoo artist will first work with you to design an areola tattoo that looks exactly how you want it, as each areola tattoo is completely customized to you.

During this consultation, we’ll discuss the client’s desired nipple size, placement, and pigment colors that complement their skin. We’ll also want to assess the client’s skin type and any scar patterns or scar tissue that may require more technical skill to achieve the end result.

When a design is agreed upon, the artist will then use an oscillated tattoo needle covered in non-toxic color pigment to insert the ink below the outer layer of the skin. While the actual nipple isn’t being reconstructed, the image of it will appear that way when done by an experienced medical tattoo artist. In most cases, skin can be quite thin, scarred, and delicate after surgery, so it’s important to find an artist who understands the gentle touch needed.

How long the entire tattooing process takes is up to a number of variables, including the demands of the new areola design, and the condition of the breast. Because a mastectomy often leaves scars and roughly-textured skin, the procedure would have to be crafted around keeping you and your actual skin safe. This means the entire process could take anywhere from 30 minutes to multiple hours per breast, during consultation we will provide you with an accurate estimate of how long to expect to be with us, although the process generally takes about two to two and a half hours.

Healing Time and Pain Level

Your areola tattoo will take, on average, 10-14 days to heal. This isn’t a set timeline, though, as the condition of your skin will ultimately affect it the most. A healing piece of areola ink will go through three stages in the weeks following getting tattooed: healing, peeling, and lightening.

In the healing stage of the aftercare process, your new tattoo will finely scab over to protect the area while it heals. Then comes peeling, which will cause those scabs to fall off once it heels. Do not pick the scabs! If you don’t let them naturally fall off, you could cause pigment loss and damage to your new tattoo. Finally, once all the scabs are fully gone from the tattoo area, you’ll notice the ink will appear lighter and more natural.

If you’re looking at getting an areola tattoo as a breast cancer survivor, pain may not be something you have to worry about. It’s extremely common for mastectomies to lead to breast numbness, as the procedure purposely causes nerve damage to reduce sensation. You may experience tingling or feel uncomfortable, and if you have an implant, you may feel it vibrate throughout the session.

The majority of our clients experience loss of feeling in the area after their mastectomy due to tissue removal and nerve damage. This actually works out well for tattooing an area that would normally be very sensitive!

If you go for an aesthetic areola tattoo, though, you can expect a lot of pain due to the typical sensitivity of the area. In these cases the use of numbing agents will help reduce discomfort.

How Long Will an Areola Tattoo Last?

Although areola tattoos are permanent, it’s technically a form of cosmetic tattooing, which is slightly different from traditional ink. Instead of creating a visual on your skin that stands out, the goal of cosmetic tattooing is to alter the body in some way to match your natural look and create an essentially unseen piece.

Cosmetic tattoos also tend to have less concentrated pigment than traditional ink, so your body will metabolize it quicker. This will ultimately lead to fading, though it will happen over time, not overnight. Expect to see noticeable fading years after first getting inked; however, this depends on your metabolism and skin condition, so there’s no way to give a true estimate of how long the tattoo will look fresh. Be sure to avoid irritants like chlorinated or salt water, harsh cleansers, aloe vera, Retin-A, or glycolic acid, as these could cause your areola tattoo to fade more quickly.

Side Effects of Areola Tattoos

It’s completely normal to experience slight swelling and redness after the tattoo, and you may feel like your skin is “tight” or pulled taut. Scabbing and flaking is also to be expected, so don’t be alarmed if your healing ink looks patchy or feels hard to the touch.

As with any tattoo, there is always the risk of side effects. The worst case scenario is your areola tattoo becoming infected, which could cause more swelling, prolonged redness, and pain. Keep an eye out for less common symptoms like fever and muscle aches as well, as these are signs that something is going wrong in the healing process.

And if you’re considering an areola tattoo as a survivor of breast cancer, you can rest easy knowing that the ink does not increase the risk of cancer reoccurrence (or occurrence, for that matter). If you’re undergoing radiation, however, it’s suggested that you refrain from getting inked until the process is complete.

Due to the ever changing nature of the procedure, in order to book a session we will first carry out a virtual or an in person consultation to ensure you are a good candidate and are ready to undergo procedure. Please submit your consultation through this portal or email us at

Virtual Consultation

To request a virtual evaluation, send us high quality pictures and complete the following information if you have existing permanent make up in the area to be treated