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Nipple Piercing Facts and FAQs
Here, explain everything you need to know about nipple piercings, including how to decide which side to get pierced.
16 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Nipple Piercing
Plus, how to decide which side to get pierced.
by CARINA HSIEH JUL 17, 2017
Nipple piercings have gone from "Please don't tell my mom" to commonplace now that, like, every celebrity has one. From Rihanna to Kendall Jenner, nipple piercings are basically the new nose ring. But what should you know before getting one? Joshua Zuckerman, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Manhattan who specializes in breast reconstruction, and professional piercer Maria Tash of Venus by Maria Tash explain everything you need to know about nipple piercings.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW1. The solo nipple piercing is just as popular — if not more popular — than getting both nipples pierced. Maria Tash says, "Most people elect to do one nipple piercing." Although she adds that some come back at a later date to do the second, perhaps out of anxiety of getting them both done at once.2. If you're choosing to get just one nipple pierced, think about it practically. Tash says there's no one side that's more popular than the other, nor is there any social significance to each side, but if someone is a guitar or bass player, for example, she would suggest piercing the side that has the least interaction with the straps.
more from cosmopolitan3. Nipple piercings have higher rates of infection than ear piercings. Zuckerman says there's a native bacteria called staph epidermidis that lives in the milk ducts, which might increase your risk of infection.4. Your nipple piercing could also make your nipples less sensitive. Although people commonly assume getting a nipple piercing could make your nipples more sensitive (and some report anecdotally it's true for them), Zuckerman says there's a chance it could actually end up making your nipples less sensitive. This could be because of the potential for nerve damage.5. Go into it knowing the warning signs of infection. Zuckerman says it's not uncommon for infections to only happen on one side of the piercing. If a piercing is red, painful, swollen, or oozing cloudy material that looks like puss, it may be infected.6. Some discharge is normal after a piercing. "A few drops of clear, pinkish, or bloody-tinged fluid is normal for the first 24 to 48 hours after piercing," Zuckerman explains. "The piercing creates a small wound that, like all wounds, will produce a small amount of drainage in the initial phase of healing." However, if your piercing continues to have discharge after that initial healing phase, you should see a doctor.7. Wearing tight clothing can actually help after a piercing. Tash says wearing clean, tight cotton T-shirts while you sleep can help hold the jewelry down and keep it from moving around while you sleep.8. Be prepared for a long healing time. Tash says nipples take about as long as navel piercings to heal, generally, but healing time can also be affected depending on the type of jewelry used. "Rings, for example, are subject to more rotation and torquing, so there's a chance they can take longer to heal than a barbell. On average, it takes between six and 12 months to fully heal a nipple piercing, as opposed to an earlobe piercing at six to eight weeks. Healing time does not mean that the piercing is tender for that long, just that it is not fully healed internally and needs to be cleaned." During this time you should be mindful about what touches the piercing.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW9. Keep in mind healing times also vary from person to person. Tash says the amount of skin pierced will affect healing time as well, and since everyone's nipples are different shapes and sizes, it can vary from person to person.10. Since the piercing tract could potentially interrupt milk ducts, there is a chance you may have trouble breastfeeding down the line. While many women don't have trouble breastfeeding, Zuckerman says there is a chance breastfeeding will not be possible after a piercing. Scar tissue, for example, may block a duct.11. Larger jewelry may stretch your nipple. While Zuckerman says that the standard barbells or hoop piercings don't overly deform the nipple, a piercing that is significantly larger or heavier than standard could do so.12. How much your piercing hurts could depend on the skill of the piercer. Tash says the pain depends on a variety of factors including the skill of the piercer, the quality of the needles, and how sensitive the client's nipple is relative to other tissue. "An adept piercer can pierce a nipple in one second and the intensity of the hard pinch varies. It hurts more than an earlobe and less than certain genital piercings."13. You can pierce inverted nipples. "As long as the nipple can be induced out of the surrounding skin," Tash explains, it's possible. "Clients are usually thrilled with the result, as the barbell keeps the nipple slightly out of the surrounding areola and does not recess back into the skin."14. The initial jewelry you're pierced with is more important than you think. Tash says their stores recommend a barbell over a ring since barbells are easier to heal. "Rings can torque with body motion and that extra surface of a ring sticking out from the body can interact with clothing. Barbells need to be properly measured and fit to the wearer's nipple and depth of piercing. When a nipple piercing is well healed, rings or barbells can be worn."
Nipple Piercing Aftercare: Best Practices and Cautions
Getting your nipples pierced is a big commitment, so you want to make sure you take care of the piercing properly. We'll discuss what to do.
The Best Aftercare for a Nipple Piercing
Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP — Written by Tim Jewell on December 19, 2019
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Like any piercing, nipple piercings need some TLC so they heal and settle in properly.
While other commonly pierced areas like your ears are tissue-dense and heal without much detailed care, your nipple tissue is delicate and adjacent to a number of important ducts and blood vessels.
Piercings go through your skin — your main defense against infections.
Having a foreign object like a metal piercing under the skin can increase your chances of getting an infection.
Nipple piercings also take a long time to fully heal. The average piercing takes about 9 to 12 months to heal. Healing time depends on your body and how well you take care of the piercing.
Let’s get into the best practices for taking care of a nipple piercing — some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind, what kind of pain to expect, and when symptoms should alert you to seek medical help.
The first few days and weeks after a nipple piercing are crucial for aftercare. The piercing’s fresh and may stay open for some time, making the area susceptible to infectious bacteria introduced through the air or through contact with skin or other objects.
Your piercer will give you detailed aftercare instructions after you get your piercing. Follow all of these instructions as closely as you can.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to taking care of your nipple piercing to help prevent any infections and complications:
Rinse your piercing a few times every day. Use warm, clean water, a gentle unscented soap, and a clean, dry towel or paper towel, especially if you still notice bleeding. Try to rinse the piercing every time you bathe or shower.Soak the piercing in a sea salt soak at least twice daily. Do this for a few months after the piercing. Put a tiny bit of non-iodized sea salt or a saline solution in a small glass (think shot glass). Then, press the glass against your nipple to immerse it in the solution. Hold the glass there for 5 minutes, then drain the solution. Repeat this process for the other nipple. You can also dip clean cotton balls in the solution and dab them on the nipples.Wear loose cotton clothing for the first few months. Tight clothes can prevent the piercing from getting fresh air, which can make bacteria buildup more likely. Tight clothes can also rub against and irritate the piercing, which can be painful and damage the piercing.Wear thick cotton clothes or sports/padded bras at night or during physical activity. This can help keep the piercing still and protect it from snagging on blankets or fabrics in bed. This also protects it when you’re doing activities like working out or playing sports, when the piercing can get hit or move around vigorously.Be careful when you’re getting dressed. Fabric can catch on the piercing, pulling on it or ripping the jewelry out. This can be painful and increase your risk of infection.
Don’tsDon’t use any medications or substances that can thin your blood for the first weeks after the piercing. This includes, aspirin, alcohol, or a lot of caffeine. These can all make it harder for the piercing to clot and heal, making bleeding more likely.Don’t smoke. Nicotine can slow down the healing process. Cut back on smoking or try using a nicotine patch or an e-cigarette with less nicotine if you’re not ready to quit.Don’t immerse your piercing in pools, spas, or baths. These bodies of water can breed large amounts of bacteria.Don’t use bar soap or harsh cleaning fluids. These can damage your piercing or cause your skin to become cracked and dry. This makes an infection more likely. This includes rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and any kind of antibacterial soap.Don’t touch the piercing with your hands. Your hands carry a lot of bacteria from the various objects you touch throughout the day. This is especially true when you use devices like your phone or computer frequently. In fact, a 2017 study
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found that nearly half of all mobile phones carry colonies of infectious bacteria.Don’t fidget or mess with the jewelry while it’s healing. This can result in tiny tears in the skin that can damage the area and make infection more likely.Don’t move the jewelry around in the piercing to break off any crusting. Instead, use water and saline solution to soften the crusts and wipe them away.Don’t use any over-the-counter creams or ointments before you ask your doctor. These can trap bacteria in the piercing and make it more likely to become infected.
A nipple piercing can take up to a year to fully heal.
For the first few weeks and months, you can expect to see the following:Bleeding. Your nipple skin is thin, so bleeding is a common sight for the first few days. Rinse and dry the piercing regularly to wipe away any blood and keep the area clean. See your piercer if bleeding continues after the first few weeks with no apparent cause.
Nipple Piercing: Health Risks and Safety Tips
Find out more about nipple piercing, from health risks and breastfeeding with a pierced nipple to safety tips and aftercare.
Healthy Beauty Reference
By Susan Bernstein
Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on June 13, 2021
IN THIS ARTICLE
Safe Nipple Piercing
Managing the Pain
How to Care for Your Nipple Piercing
What to Expect
Will the Piercing Close Up?
Cost and Safe Types of Jewelry
Do you plan to get your nipple pierced? Make sure the procedure is done safely and that you know how to care for your nipple after it’s pierced.
Nipple piercing has some health risks. If you have a health condition or take medication that makes you more likely to get an infection or bleed a lot, nipple piercing could be riskier for you.Longer healing time. Nipple tissue takes longer to heal than most other pierced areas of your body. It may take up to 6 months for yours to heal.Lactation and breastfeeding. Nipple piercing could cause problems if you want to breastfeed. Scar tissue around the pierce or your nipple ring could block your milk ducts. Piercings that damage the nerves in your nipple may make it hard for milk to come out. Nipple jewelry can make it harder for your baby to latch on. Your baby might even swallow or choke on a loose nipple ring. Don’t get your nipple pierced if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Wait a few months after you complete breastfeeding.Abscesses. A pierced nipple is more likely to form an abscess. That’s a painful, pus-filled lump under the nipple or in your breast. You’ll need to see the doctor for treatment.Infection. Nipples are sensitive tissue and connected to milk ducts. A nipple pierce is more likely to get infected than some other types of piercings. Infections can happen well after you get your nipple or areola, the darker ring around the nipple, pierced. Like any other body piercing, unsterilized equipment can put you at risk for infection with blood-borne diseases like HIV, hepatitis B or C, or tetanus.Torn skin. If your nipple ring gets caught on your clothes and rips loose, it can tear your skin and require stitches.
Safe Nipple Piercing
Make sure you get your nipple piercing done by a licensed professional in a clean studio. Never pierce your own nipple or let a friend do it.
When you choose a place to get pierced, make sure:
The studio is clean.
They do piercings and tattoos in separate areas.
A staff member asks you if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and refuses to pierce you if you say yes.
Nipple piercing equipment and rings are sterilized in a machine called an autoclave.
Piercings are done with sterile, single-use needles sealed in a packet that’s opened in front of you.
They don’t use piercing guns. These can’t be properly sterilized.
The staff member washes their hands before and after the piercing.
They wear a new pair of disposable latex gloves while they pierce you.
They give you detailed instructions on how to care for your nipple after it’s pierced.
Your jewelry is the right size for your nipple.
Managing the Pain
There will be some pain when you get your nipple pierced. It’ll typically be sore for a week after the piercing. You may also bleed, itch, or see swelling or discharge from the wound. Your nipple may feel sore or irritated as it heals over the next few months.
How to Care for Your Nipple Piercing
While it’s healing, keep your pierced nipple clean to prevent infection:
Wash your hands with antimicrobial soap and warm water before you touch or wash your nipple.
If you see any crusty stuff around your nipple ring, gently rinse it off with warm water.
After you wash your nipple, pat it dry with a clean paper towel.
You can also soak your nipple in a saltwater solution made of a half-teaspoon of sea salt and warm water. You can let it air dry or pat it dry.
Try not to let your nipple ring snag on your clothes, towels, or sheets. This could tear your skin and lead to an infection.
You can wear a padded bra, thick sports bra, or cotton T-shirt to protect your newly pierced nipple.
What to Expect
As your nipple heals, you may see some white crust. Your nipple may be sore, irritated, or itchy at times. Even after it heals, you may notice some waxy ooze or crust.
If you notice these signs of an infected nipple, see your doctor:
Hot, sensitive, or painful nipple
Nipple oozes yellow, green, or brown discharge, or smells bad
Swelling Fever Body aches Rash Fatigue
Redness that spreads out from the piercing
Will the Piercing Close Up?
Some women remove their nipple rings to breastfeed. Milk can leak out of the piercing. The hole may get smaller or close up after a few weeks. But you’ll probably be able to put your nipple ring in again after you’re done breastfeeding.
If your piercing closes up for any reason, go to a professional studio to have it redone. Don’t try to re-pierce it yourself.
Cost and Safe Types of Jewelry
Nipple piercing costs vary, so shop around. It may cost more than ear piercing. The studio will charge you for the piercing and nipple jewelry separately.