The final step in breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is the nipple tattoo. There are many tattoo and micropigmentation experts out there who can give mastectomy patients nipple tattoos so realistic they’re indistinguishable from natural nipples at first glance.
But there are also creative solutions that make the best of the situation and offer clients heart nipple tattoos, cute little symbols of strength and bravery for survivors of the vicious battle against breast cancer.
Here’s everything you need to know about the heart nipple tattoo, or the decorative areola – a common term artists use.
How Is the Heart Nipple Tattoo Done?
Nipple tattoos can be done in either traditional permanent tattoo ink, or semi-permanent pigments, in which case the treatment is called micropigmentation, or paramedical tattooing. In either case, the areola can be created in the shape of a heart.
Image source: Instagram @terraderma
Which One Is Better – Traditional Tattooing or Micropigmentation?
Well, both options have their pros and cons.
Getting the heart nipple tattoo in permanent ink will last you decades, but recreating nipples and areolas through micropigmentation looks more natural. The pigments used are formulated to look as natural as possible and blend into the skin much better, but they are broken down by the body much faster than tattoo ink, so they fade over the course of a few years.
Whichever option you choose, you will need color boosts, since even tattoo ink fades over time. A long time, but still. The choice is down to you, just make sure you find an expert who has experience doing the heart nipple tattoo.
Who Should Get a Heart Nipple Tattoo?
The heart nipple tattoo is usually chosen by clients who’ve had a bilateral mastectomy, so they need both of their nipples reconstructed. Patients who only need one side tattooed usually want the result to match the natural nipple on the other side as much as possible, so they go for the traditional, circular tattoo.
A heart nipple tattoo is an expression of creativity and invincible strength of spirit. Whether you’ve lost your nipple due to breast cancer treatment, gender affirmation surgery or injury, accepting your new body can be challenging.
So more and more clients are getting heart nipple tattoos in order to own their story and reclaim control over their bodies.
It’s the perfect way to mark the victory and the end of a long and challenging journey. It’s like a well-deserved medal, really.
Image source: Instagram @victoriadiaconu22_pmu
NOTE: You can get a heart nipple tattoo even if you have your natural nipples and want to give them a new shape. In that case, the tattooing is done around the natural nipple. But this is really only possible for clients who have very small nipples, and color matching can be a problem. As the tattoo fades, it’ll eventually stop matching the natural areola.
What Styles of the Heart Nipple Tattoo Are Available?
First, we should note that the type of tattoo you get depends on whether you’ve had the mound of the nipple reconstructed or not. If the texture is there, it’s a much simpler treatment, but if it’s not, you can get the so-called 3D nipple tattoo that recreates dimension through the use of multiple shades and clever color placement.
If you’re doing bilateral nipple and areola recreation through tattooing, you have the freedom to choose the color, size, and shape of your nipples.
While most clients decide on the color that matches the shade of the natural nipples they’ve lost, some take the opportunity to get creative and customize it. So you can choose whichever shade of pink, reddish or purplish you like most, just make sure it suits your skin tone and undertone.
When it comes to style, you can get a heart nipple tattoo that imitates the texture of a natural nipple, with all its bumps and crevices. That style is usually done through micropigmentation, with PMU pigments, because they look more like natural tissue.
Or, you can get a block-of-color-styled, solid color heart that doesn’t look like natural tissue, but rather like a work of art.
Image source: Instagram @on.point.permanent
How Much Does a Heart Nipple Tattoo Cost?
If you’ve decided on a permanent nipple tattoo done with ink by a tattoo artist, the price is most likely determined by the size of the tattoo – that’s how tattoo artists charge. The price can vary significantly from artist to artist, from $500 to over $1000.
The price of nipple and areola micropigmentation is hard to pinpoint, as most experts do not have one standard price, but rather determine the price upon consults. So the price can vary depending on style, but it primarily depends on the state of the breast. If there’s a lot of scar tissue, the micropigmentation may be more challenging and thus cost more.
But to give you a general picture, a heart-shaped nipple tattoo is priced at around $1000.
Micropigmentation is usually done in several sessions, as the pigment needs to be built up gradually. The initial session price usually includes 1 extra appointment, and any further sessions are charged additionally.
Image source: Instagram @the.areola.tattooist
Is a Heart Nipple Tattoo Covered by Insurance?
It should be, at least partially.
The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) is a federal law that requires group health plans and health insurance companies that offer mastectomy coverage to also pay for reconstructive surgery after mastectomy. The coverage should include all stages of reconstruction.
You can find more information about WHCRA at the U.S. Department of Labor and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
But in case your nipple tattoo is not covered for whatever reason, you can do some research and find an artist who offers free or discounted treatments. There are many lovely artists who do, especially in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
PMUHub Tip: Insurance coverage and criteria vary by state, so it is best to check with your insurance provider first. Your tattoo artist will give you a receipt that you could submit to your insurance company.
Deciding on an artist who will perform your nipple tattooing or micropigmentation should be a carefully thought-out call. The best way to go about it is to study their portfolio, either on their social media or website.
But whatever you do, never go to an uncertified, self-taught artist. They could potentially endanger your health, give you a botched job, plus the treatment won’t be covered by insurance. Do your research!
To find out more about areola and nipple tattoos, visit our comprehensive guide through the treatment.