Nipple reconstruction is typically not a primary aspect of breast reconstruction after mastectomy. When a nipple-sparing mastectomy is not possible, women have several options they can consider. In recent years, nipple tattooing has become a popular choice.

What is nipple tattooing?

Traditional nipple tattoos had been performed by medical aestheticians as well as by some experienced tattoo artists with particular skill in shading for depth and realism. Today, these professionals are capable of achieving the 3-dimensional appearance of the natural nipple using sophisticated shading techniques. Nipple tattoos are created by depositing various shades of pigment just beneath the skin. The concept sounds simple enough, but it is one that must be approached with a great deal of care.

What You Might Expect Throughout Your Nipple Tattoo Process


The consultation is a vital aspect of getting the best nipple tattoo. When you meet with the medical tattoo artists in our Chicago Breast Center, you will discuss the pigment, placement size, and other aspects of your virtual nipples. Treatment is customized to your needs based on the thickness of your skin, amount of scar tissue that is present and other variables.

Treatment Day

Patients should arrive at their tattoo appointment with clean, dry skin. No moisturizer, lotion, or other products should be on the breast skin. This includes numbing cream.

A bra or camisole may be brought to wear after the tattoo is complete. This will help hold bandages in place if needed. It may be more comfortable to wear a loose shirt that opens in the front. A medical gown may also be available to wear during the tattoo.

Tattoos are performed in a comfortable private room that is equipped with an adjustable chair or bed to lie down on. Before beginning the tattoo, the artist will review pigment and placement options. Design markings may be made to review before pigment is applied. The entire visit can take a few hours, but actual tattoo-time is typically around 30 minutes per breast. Before leaving the office, patients receive aftercare instructions to care for their tattoo as it heals.

Does a breast tattoo hurt?

It’s natural to feel concerned that getting a nipple tattoo may hurt. The sensations of this tattooing treatment may vary from one patient to another. It is common for women to have some degree of breast numbness after a mastectomy, which limits or eliminates pain. If surgical nipple reconstruction has been performed, there will likely be no sensation at all. Finally, women whose reconstruction involved breast implants may have decreased nipple sensation that makes the tattoo more comfortable, if not painless.

Our team has a wealth of knowledge and clinical experience to see you through your breast reconstruction journey. To learn more about nipple tattooing, call (312) 266-6240 and schedule a consultation in our Chicago office.

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Northwestern Specialists
Plastic Surgery

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Chicago, IL 60611

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Northwestern Med Spa Streeterville

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Chicago, IL 60611

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