16 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Nipple Piercing

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.

1. 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.

3. 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.

9. 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.”

15. If you decide you don’t want your piercing anymore, you may need plastic surgery to close the holes. Zuckerman says while the hole of the piercing usually closes on its own without jewelry, “it will leave a palpable tract of scar tissue inside the nipple and often two visible nodules of scar at either end.”

16. …But the procedure doesn’t sound that bad, TBH. If you want to get rid of the scar tissue or nodules, Zuckerman says to seek a board-certified plastic surgeon with experience in the area, since it’s a very delicate procedure. The surgeon will excise the nodules at either end and core out the entire tract of scar tissue. Zuckerman, who performs the procedure in his office, says it takes about 15 minutes under local anesthetic and takes just one to two stitches at each end.

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