FAQs for Areola and 3D Nipple Tattoo

** Sasha is happy to announce that she has partnered with SF General and the Plastic Surgery Foundation to offer FREE Areola/3d tattooing for SF General patients. Please contact her for more  info.

Areola and 3-Dimensional Nipple Tattoos: Frequently Asked Questions

What is 3D nipple and areola tattooing/repigmentation?

This procedure is a highly specialized practice of tattooing that restores the natural looking color and shape of an areola after breast reconstruction. This can be done in conjunction with surgical nipple reconstruction. If there is no nipple, a 3 dimensional nipple can be created with light and shadow, to give the “illusion of protrusion”.

What is the process?

Pigment is implanted into the skin between the epidermis and the dermis, generally using the same equipment used for body art tattoos. The skin heals over the pigment and a soft natural areola/nipple is created.

Each client will have an in depth discussion with her artist to find the best color, size and shape of the new areola and nipple. The actual tattoo will take about 30-60 minutes. A topical anesthetic can minimize any discomfort during the procedure.

The area will have minor redness and feel a bit like a sunburn for 2-3 days following the procedure.  The color will look more bright than the final result immediately after. It will start to mellow in the a week and a half after the procedure. A second session is often needed to fine tune the color and shape for the most natural appearance of the areola and nipple.

Why areola or 3D nipple tattooing?

Most women who chose to areola restoration or nipple tattooing do so because they do not want anymore surgeries. Other find the nipple reconstruction they had done, has flattened out and is no longer dimensional. Many find it helps to return a sense of normalcy and femininity to her body and sense of self.

Is it areola and 3D nipple tattooing safe?

Yes, areola/nipple tattooing is very safe. Single-use disposable needles and pigments, along with regular hand washing and glove changing are part of high standards of clean protocols. Post procedural instructions, if followed carefully, also ensure a safe procedure.

An experienced artist will understand the special considerations of skin that has been radiated and/or stretched and will be able to safely tattoo this skin.

Why have a tattoo artist do the areola/3D nipple rather than my doctor?

Some doctors do fine tattoo work. However, while surgeons are specially trained to surgically create breasts, most are not trained in tattoo procedures, color theory, and how to create a 3 dimensional illusion on a 2 dimensional surface.  A tattoo artist generally has an art back round and training, as well as experience in 3D work.

Can I get an MRI after this procedure?

Yes, even people with large body tattoos have little to no problems from MRIs. In the very rare instance where MRI discomfort resulted, it was localized and very temporary.

Does health insurance cover areola and nipple tattoos?

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires insurance to cover post mastectomy reconstruction, including areola/nipple tattooing. Insurance will often reimburse some of the cost of procedures done by a tattoo artist. Dragonfly Ink can assist with forms to do this.

Does it hurt?

Most clients are surprised to find tattooing quite tolerable. It is a superficial process, and afterward it is just a bit sore, like a minor sunburn for 2-3 days. Ask about easy ways to minimize discomfort.

How do I take care of my new nipple tattoo?

There is very little down time for tattoo healing. Aftercare is primarily a matter of keeping the area clean, avoiding direct sun, and not letting it soak or dry out. There will be some itching and flaking of the skin for the first week or two. It takes about 3-4 weeks to really see the soft, natural results of your areola and nipple tattoo.

Can I bring my friends or husband to the appointment?

Definitely, friends and family are welcome to come to the studio.

How do I choose the right artist or doctor to do this work?

  • Always look at healed pictures of the areola and 3D tattoos (photos taken directly after will be a bit bright and darker then healed).
  • Make sure the areola color looks natural and that it isn’t perfectly round with hard edges
  • Does the nipple appear dimensional?
  • The artist should have good experience and specialized training, particularly in color theory and areola/3D nipple tattooing. An arts background is especially helpful
  • Ask all your questions, and be sure you are comfortable with the artist’s ability to answer your questions
  • Of course, be sure anyone tattooing follows all protocols and safety standards for a clean and safe procedure

Is there anything I need to do before my appointment?

  • avoid alcohol for at least 2 days before your appt
  • have a good breakfast and minimize the caffeine the day of procedure
  • wear a comfortable clothing including a shirt, sweater, or hoodie that opens in the front and that is ok if pigment gets on it
  • do not stop regular meds without consulting your doc, but avoid any aspirin or other blood thinning meds
  • if your doc will prescribe, you can use a topical anesthetic before you come in (let your artist know  for direction in using or the name of an over the counter cream) There is topical for use during the procedure so this isn’t necessary

How do I make an appointment at Dragonfly Ink?

The best way to make a consult or areola/3D tattoo appointment is to call the studio at 415.550.1445



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