Areola Tattoos for Cancer Survivors

Areola tattoos for cancer survivors

Cancer patients are heroes for fighting the battles that face them every day. In many cases, the physical appearance of the patients is a constant reminder of their battle for survival.  That is certainly the case with the survivors of breast cancer. After mastectomy, a surgery whereby the breast is removed for treatment, the nipples become insensate and the survivors have to get them removed.

Fortunately, breast cancer survivors now have a choice. If one or both of their nipples have been removed after a mastectomy, they can either leave it as it is, or they can get 3D nipple tattoos as the last step of their breast reconstruction process.

If you or someone you love is going through the struggles of mastectomy, here’s all you need to know about 3D nipple tattoos:

3D Nipple Tattoos After a Mastectomy: Our Guide

Breast cancer is a challenging disease and the aftermaths are often traumatic for the survivors. Regrettably, it is widely common, and in the USA, alone, there are more than 3 million breast cancer survivors. 

A disease like cancer impacts the survivors mentally and physically. In various cases, patients have had to go through a single or double mastectomy.  As a result, they struggle with the loss of identity and self-acceptance. Every survivor deals with this struggle differently, some work towards embracing their new body and identity as it is, others decide to replace their scarred and missing nipples and areola, with tattoos.

Amongst these tattoos, 3D nipples are fast gaining popularity. The top reason behind their wide acceptance is their hyperreal appearance. 3D nipples also stand out because of their non-invasive technique. Most patients prefer it because they are reluctant to go through any other surgery right after their mastectomy.

Let’s learn more about nipple and areola 3D tattoos and what the procedure involves: 

What Is Areola Tattooing?

The breast reconstruction process is part medical and part artistic. It is the doctors who reconstruct the shape and size of the breast, but it is the artists who restore them to their original appearance. 3D nipple tattoo and areola tattooing are the work of an artist.

A tattoo artist carefully uses a blend of shades and textures to create a tattoo, which mimics the natural appearance of the nipples and areola. They then give it a 3D effect, to bring it even closer to reality.

Like all tattoos, this one also involves a tattoo gun, which is used to inject pigment under the skin. The 3D effect of the tattoo makes it appear real and it also helps hide some of the scar tissues from the mastectomy.  

Benefits Of 3D Nipple Tattoos   

One of the biggest advantages of a 3D nipple tattoo is that it appears very close to natural nipples and areola. It also allows the patients to complete their breast reconstruction process, as the doctors only give shape and size to the breast, without nipples and the areola.

What To Expect During the Consultation?

In 3D nipple tattoo, the patients’ preference is kept at the forefront of the entire process. Before the procedure, the patient has a detailed consultation with the artist and the two discuss the preferred size, shape, and pigments. The artist also assists in choosing shades that would best suit the skin tone of the patient.

Once all is decided, the artist will create a drawing based on the deciding factors as well as the scar tissues, scar patterns, skin thickness, and other variables. The candidate will then be briefed on how to prepare for the tattoo and the next appointment.

The Day of Procedure

On the day of the appointment, the candidate needs to come to the studio, showered and with clean skin. It should be free of any moisturizer, makeup, medicine, or skincare product. After the procedure, you’d be bandaged, so make sure you bring an undershirt or a camisole to hold it in place. To keep things comfortable for yourself, wear a loose-fitting shirt that easily opens up at the front.

During The Procedure

Before starting the procedure, the artist would reiterate the plan with you, make the design markings, and after the candidate’s approval, start applying the tattoo. The duration of the tattoo placement differs with different patients, and it can last from 15 to 30 minutes on one 3D nipple tattoo.  In the case of a double mastectomy, the process can last for an hour.


The tattoo artist will bandage the area and provide aftercare instructions. Aftercare mostly involves keeping the tattooed area clean and applying an antibacterial ointment several times a day, or the application of a Tegaderm film that keeps the treated area protected. It can take about 7-10 days for the tattoo to heal completely. During that time, some scabbing and flaking might be experienced.   


Like with any procedure, 3D nipple tattoos also involve risks. However, since the procedure is non-invasive, the risks are fewer and less intense than that of breast reconstructive surgery. Like all tattoos, this one too poses a risk of infection or scarring if proper care is not taken. Although rare, there’s also the risk of allergic reaction to the pigment for some people.

It is impertinent that you inform your permanent tattoo artist if you have sensitive skin and are susceptible to allergies. Infections are also preventable if the artist takes proper care to disinfect all surfaces before the procedure, and the patient follows the aftercare instructions.


How Long Will an Areola Tattoo Last?

While traditional tattoos are permanent, cosmetic tattoos are semi-permanent, and 3D nipples fall into the latter category. The reason why cosmetic tattoos do not last permanently is that the ink is different, and leans more towards safety than permanency.

The techniques used in cosmetic tattoos are also different as the goal is to use natural features and to alter them slightly, using tattoos. The result is an enhanced version of your natural beauty. For that purpose, the ink is lighter and less concentrated than your traditional tattoo ink. As a result, it metabolizes faster as the natural skin cells renew and lasts only temporarily. That said, the tattoo lasts for years and begins to gradually fade over time.

3D nipple tattoos last longer for people who don’t swim in chlorinated water or saltwater too often. Chemicals like Retin-A and glycolic acid also cause skin peeling and can lead to rapid fading of the 3D tattoo.