Heart-Shaped Nipples: What You Should Know
Heart-shaped nipples are a newly popular trend in body modification. This modification doesn’t make your actual nipples heart-shaped, but instead impacts the slightly darker skin tissue around your nipple, called the areola.
If this body modification appeals to you, there’s some information you should have before you decide to get it done. Keep reading to have your questions about heart-shaped nipples answered.
How is this procedure performed?
This procedure can be performed as a nipple graft or as a tattoo.
Nipple graft surgery can be performed by a plastic surgeon. However, many board-certified plastic surgeons will discourage you or refuse to perform this procedure.
If you do find a surgeon who’s willing to perform a nipple graft to make your areola appear heart-shaped, the procedure will need to be performed in a sterile and certified medical facility. As your areola heals, it will contract and distort, leaving scarring and a heart shape that’s not symmetrical.
The outer layer of your areola will be removed, and the skin underneath will be shaped the way that you desire. Skin from another part of your body may need to be grafted over your nipple skin to create the heart shape.
A certified tattoo artist can also give you heart-shaped nipples. This procedure carries less risk, is less costly, and maybe less permanent than a nipple graft.
Some tattoo artists specialize in body modifications and are certified as “medical” tattoo artists. This kind of tattoo artist may be more knowledgeable about your breast, areola, and nipple structures.
Temporary tattoos may also be an option to see if you actually like the outcome before making these changes more permanent.
Tattoo artists can darken your areola, make it appear more pink or brown, or create shapes on your breast tissue and around your nipples. Medical-grade ink will be used to match or blend with your natural nipple color. The procedure takes about two hours.
Are there any risks to this procedure?
Complications from getting body modification procedures like heart-shaped nipples are not uncommon, and they can be severe and permanent. Any kind of body modification procedure comes with a risk of scarring and infection.
During healing, your areola may bleed slightly or have a clear discharge. Signs of an infection requiring medical attention include:
- a fever
- yellow or white discharge
- pain and bleeding that won’t stop
People who have nipple graft procedures often have difficulty breastfeeding, even if they heal properly from the procedure. A procedure like a permanent or semi-permanent tattoo is unlikely to affect future breastfeeding.
In many cases, a nipple graft can result in reduced sensitivity on your nipples. The appearance of the nipple itself can change with surgery, too.
There’s also the chance that the “heart shape” will not come out the exact way that you envision it. As with any body-modification procedure, results will depend on the level of skill, experience, and attention of your practitioner. Your own skin texture, pigment, immune system, scarring, and the healing process can also affect the outcome.
Even in a best-case scenario, there’s a chance that your nipples will heal in a way that you don’t like. As time passes and your breasts change shape, the appearance of your nipple modification may shift as well.
How do you prepare for this procedure?
If you decide to have this procedure, you should have a consultation appointment prior to the actual procedure. During this conversation, bring photographs of your desired result.
Be prepared with any questions that you have about taking care of your nipples after the procedure and what the healing process will be like. You may also want to ask if your surgeon or tattoo artist has done a similar procedure in the past and if you can see examples of their work.
Prior to having your nipples modified to a heart shape, you may need to take out any piercings at the site of your nipples. All piercings will need to be removed before a nipple graft or other plastic surgery procedure. If you’re getting a nipple tattoo, speak to your tattoo artist about if your piercings are going to be a concern.
What to expect after the procedure
After a nipple graft surgery, you’ll need to keep the area of your incision clean, dry, and covered. Closely follow all aftercare instructions on cleansing and bandage changes. While you may be able to return to work within a day or two, you may be in pain or prescribed a painkiller. You may be advised not to exercise for the first-week post-surgery.
Once the nipple graft has time to attach to the rest of the skin on your breast (usually about seven days after surgery), your surgeon will have you return for a follow-up and check on how you’re healing.
By six weeks after the surgery, you should be able to see the healed result of your nipple graft and resume all your normal activities. The appearance may continue to change over the next several months.
After getting a nipple tattoo, you need to keep the area as clean and dry as possible while you heal. While you can go to work, you may want to avoid aerobic activity or any exercise that would cause excessive movement of your breast tissue.
For some people, it may be recommended to wear or avoid certain types of bras during the recovery process. Most complications from tattoos develop from taking improper care of it. The area may become covered in dead skin that later flakes off as you heal.
For 3 to 5 days, you’ll need to avoid getting your tattoo wet. Once five days have passed, you can usually resume normal activities.
How much does this procedure cost?
Heart-shaped nipple procedures are considered elective body modification. These body modifications aren’t covered by insurance.
Nipple graft surgery is a more expensive option. If you can find a surgeon to perform this surgery, the cost could be anywhere from $600 to over $5,000. The cost will depend on your practitioner’s experience, whether it’s performed in their office or out of a hospital, the method of anesthesia, and the cost of living in your area.
The cost of nipple tattoos will vary according to how much your tattoo artist charges per hour. To get a nipple tattoo over both of your nipples, it may cost up to $1,000. Nipple tattoos often need “touching up,” or shape and color restoration every two years or so. This will be an additional cost.
The bottom line
Having your nipple area tattooed or grafted into the shape of a heart is seldom reversible. Even if you use semi-permanent tattoo ink designed to fade over time, there’s no guarantee that the pigment will completely disappear.
Consider this choice carefully and evaluate all your options before you make the choice to modify your nipples.