Tattooed Nipples – Can They Look Realistic?

By Emily M.| Last updated on July 14, 2022
realistic nipple tattoos
⏱️ 5 min read

Cosmetic tattooing is sometimes called paramedical micropigmentation, because the technique can be used to recreate certain natural features which are missing due to various causes. One of those cases is missing nipple and areola.

For people who’ve lost their natural nipples due to mastectomy or injury, or for people who were born without one or both nipples, having them reconstructed can be a huge relief and can improve the quality of their life.

But they may be anxious about how realistic the final results will turn out. So we’re looking into the process of nipple and areola reconstruction with micropigmentation and revealing how artists can make tattooed nipples look hyper-realistic.

How Are Tattooed Nipples Created?

In the past, nipples and areolas used to be tattooed only with the traditional, body art technique. But cosmetic micropigmentation techniques have emerged as an alternative many would consider more suitable, since it gives more natural results.

Areola micropigmentation can be done either with a traditional tattoo gun or with a permanent makeup device – a small hand-held machine which is somewhat similar to a tattoo gun, but it’s gentler on the skin and it provides a color saturation more similar to the look of natural features.

A PMU machine deposits colors into the skin with a thin needle, but it uses pigments instead of tattoo inks. The formula of these pigments is the biggest difference between traditional nipple tattooing and paramedical micropigmentation:

  • Pigments are formulated in such a way that allows them to fade after 3-5 years
  • They are meant to mimic the color of natural features, so they are more subtle (the idea is not for the color to look as bright as possible, but as natural as possible)
  • Their formulas are very clean.

For more information on nipple and areola tattoos, check out this guide.

areola tattoo for a post mastectomy patientImage source: Instagram @victoria_cosmetics_spmuclinic_

Do Tattooed Nipples Look Realistic?

Extensive research and development was done to make sure the color palette of the pigments mimics the colors of natural tissue as much as possible. They were formulated specifically to look natural, unlike inks used for body art, which are formulated so as to be as bright, intense and vivid as possible.

The pigments are available in pre-made shades, but they are also custom mixed for each client. When injected into the skin, they blend very nicely and don’t look artificial. This ensures the hue of tattooed nipples is as realistic as possible.

But how realistic tattooed nipples look also depends on:

Whether You’re Getting One or Both Nipples Tattooed

Some clients only need 1 nipple reconstructed. Maybe they’ve suffered an injury or they had a unilateral mastectomy.

These cases can be tricky, since the reconstructed nipple needs to look as similar as possible to the natural one. A skilled artist will get the color and texture right, but the 2 can never truly look identical, although they can get very close.

nipple tattoo before and afterImage source: Instagram @areolatattooscanada

Whether the Nipple Mound Was Reconstructed or Not

After a mastectomy, as part of breast reconstruction, the mound of the nipple can be reconstructed by manipulating the skin – taking a flap of the client’s skin and folding it into a mound that will be elevated from the skin. This way, the surface of the breast looks realistic.

The mound of skin will not have the color of the nipple and areola, though, so as the last step in the process, it’s colored with tattooing or micropigmentation, along with a circular area around it, to recreate the areola.

But not all patients get the mound reconstructed. Some retain a flat skin surface.

Tattooed nipples where the mound was recreated will inevitably look more realistic, since it will actually be 3D. But with skilled color implementation, a 3D illusion can be recreated if the surface remains flat.

3D Texture

How realistic tattooed nipples will look predominantly depends on how skilled the artist who creates them is.

It’s all about color placement here. A natural areola is not flat – it has folds and small bumps called Montgomery glands. The color is not identical in every spot, and some people even have freckles.

An experienced artist knows how to recreate all this with pigments. They will use several shades of pigment, play around with lighter and darker hues, taking into account the fact that pigments turn a bit lighter when they settle into the skin.

If there’s skin texture in the area as a result of scarring, the artist will work with that and camouflage it into the folds a natural nipple would have.


A natural nipple is not perfectly circular, so tattooed nipples won’t be done with geometrical accuracy, either.

The outline will be organic. The color of the nipple will blend into the surrounding skin naturally, so it will have some indentations and soft edges.

To see how incredibly realistic tattooed nipples can look, check out our gallery of Nipple Tattoo Before and After pics.

Note – You Can Also Play with the Shape

Some clients don’t want their tattooed nipples to look as realistic as possible, but rather get creative with it. So, a trend in nipple and areola tattooing has been doing a heart shape. The surface of the nipple is done in basic colors and with all or some of the 3D effects, but the outline is done in the shape of a heart. These can look really cute!

heart nipple tattoo design ideasImage source: Instagram @keeleyhearn_phiseller.spain

What Happens When the Colors Start Fading?

In the case of micropigmentation, tattooed nipples don’t last forever. After 3-5 years (depending on how fast your body breaks down the pigments), the nipples will visibly fade.

But you can get a quick color boost any time you feel the need to and build the intensity back up.

Here’s the thing – traditional tattoo ink fades too. While they definitely do last much longer, they will lose intensity over time, and there’s also the risk of the color turning due to external influences.

If you get your tattooed nipples done with pigments, they will look natural at every stage of the fading process, and that’s a definite advantage.

tattooed nipples done with pigments will look naturalImage source: Instagram @microblading.mallorca.luebeck

Final Note

In many cases, nipple and areola reconstruction is at least partially covered by health insurance, but you may not be able to choose an artist yourself. If you have a specific artist in mind and you want your nipples tattooed by them, contact your insurance and ask if it’s possible to work something out.

Cover image source: Pexels



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