Nipple and areola tattoos are usually the final step of breast reconstruction for people who’ve had unilateral or bilateral mastectomy, those who’ve suffered some sort of injury that resulted in the loss or damage of 1 or both nipples, people getting gender affirmation surgeries, or people suffering from congenital athelia.
Nipple and areola tattoos can look incredibly realistic. There are super talented artists out there who can create nipples with such incredible detail they look 3D.
But just like it’s the case with any form of tattooing, pain is a factor to be taken into consideration. Let’s try to answer the question of do areola tattoos hurt.
How Much Do Areola Tattoos Hurt?
In the majority of cases, clients claim that they felt no pain, or mild to moderate discomfort.
Although the treatment implies having a needle poke the skin over and over again, tattooing on the skin where a mastectomy was performed doesn’t hurt as much as other body art tattoos on non-compromised skin.
This is because a mastectomy affects the intensity of sensations. Of course, each case is unique, so the areola tattoo pain level varies from client to client.
Image source: Instagram @3dtepeltattoo
Different Areola Tattoo Pain Levels
The pain level of nipple and areola tattooing can be compared to that of any cosmetic tattoo if there were no additional factors to consider. However, since the tattooed area is more often than not affected by surgery, how much do areola tattoos hurt depends on the state of the skin.
Most of the clients who come in for nipple and areola tattoos are breast cancer survivors who’ve gone through mastectomy, so the skin of their breasts isn’t as sensitive. Breast reconstruction surgery often causes nerve damage in the area, which results in partial or total loss of sensations.
In the case of transplanted skin, the sensations sometimes come back, but this can take months.
Since clients usually want to get their areola tattoos as soon as possible, which is at least 4 months after breast reconstruction or nipple reconstruction, there’s a very high chance they feel few sensations, and those at low intensity.
So, they may not feel the tattooing at all, or they hardly feel anything. A small portion of such clients report just occasional sharp pain, like a sting.
Of course, sometimes nipple and areola tattoos are done on untouched skin, like for those suffering from athelia. If that’s the case, it will feel just like any tattoo – there will be some pain.
Luckily, for clients who would feel pain, topical anesthetics can be used to minimize it as much as possible.
Note – Nipple Tattoos Are Sometimes Combined with Scar Camouflage
The aftermath of each mastectomy is different, and there can be more or less scarring in the area. So, a nipple and areola tattoo is often partially done on scar tissue.
The sensations you feel when having a scar tattooed is different from that of tattooing on healthy skin. But it can go either way.
Tattooing on scar tissue is usually less painful than tattooing healthy skin, especially on older scars. But fresher scars can actually hurt more than healthy skin. It all depends on the state of the nerves within the tissue. If they’re undamaged, it’ll hurt; if they’re dead, you’ll feel nothing.
But there are also borderline cases where they get sort of jumbled up and act unpredictably, so the pain level can be quite high.
In any case, if scar tissue is also tattooed, it plays a role in how bad do areola tattoos hurt. Luckily, numbing cream is always an option.
What Does Nipple and Areola Tattooing Feel Like?
If the sensations in the area were not affected by surgery and there’s no scarring, the areola tattoo pain will be along the lines of any body art tattoo. It’s individual, and some people find it totally bearable, while others have a hard time sitting through it.
Numbing can be used to minimize the discomfort, but the following sensations may still be present:
- The sensation of repeated mosquito bites
- The sensation of scratching
If the skin was affected by surgery and there are no living nerve endings in the skin, you may just feel the pressure, without any form of pain. Or, you may feel occasional prickling in spots where the nerves weren’t severely damaged, if at all.
Do Areola Tattoos Hurt Afterwards?
In general, if you still feel sensations in the tattooed area, there might be some minor tenderness for the rest of the day after your appointment.
For a few days after that, you shouldn’t feel it anymore, but a common sensation is an unpleasant tightness, like that of a sunburn. This can be relieved by moisturizing the tattoo with the prescribed aftercare ointment.
No form of tattooing is pleasant, but the good news is that sessions don’t last long. An average nipple and areola tattooing session usually takes between 1 and 2 hours, so it’s a relatively short period to muscle through, and the results are definitely worth it!
Cover image source: Freepik