Nipple Piercings Beaten to Death
In this addition to my Blog series Beating Each Piercing to Death, I will be focusing on the Nipple piercings. In a number of ways, the subject of Nipple piercing is close to my heart. It was the desire to get my nipples pierced that began my odyssey to become a professional piercer. Something that is still a mystery to me, what caused me to want the piercings at an early age. Then again why wouldn't you want your nipples pierced? First off, they look really cool even though every time I've had displayed my piercings in public the common reaction from both females and males is to cross their arms protectively across their upper chest. The second reason is the increased sensitivity that healed nipple piercings tend to have. In fact, I have had a number of clients over the years that have gotten the piercing to return sensitivity lost during medical procedures and breastfeeding and some, like myself that had little or no sensitivity at all. Now like anything result vary but for me, it was like going from nothing to almost uncomfortable sensitivity. Still twenty years after getting my nipples pierced and piercing they are my favorite piercing to have and to do.
Nipple piercings have been easily one of the most iconic and popular piercings since the dawn of modern piercing. Due in part to their successful healing rate, easy concealment and the add sensation and pleasure that comes with a nipple piercing. Over the years I've encountered just about every walk of life either proudly wearing nipple jewelry or seeking to have them pierced with a wide range of motivations for the piercing. Motivation has ranged from those that find the piercing the ascetic pleasing to those seeking to add stimulation or wishing to give them something that nature failed to do.
History and Background:
Though it is commonly believed that nipple piercing dates back to the Roman Empire, there is no documentation to the fact. It may be that it is nothing more than another Urban Legend created by Doug Malloy. As the story goes, the Imperial Guard wore capes that were chained to their pierced nipples. Which had its roots in a photo of a baroque statue from Versailles that had a Roman Breastplate depicted chains from nipple rings to a cape. Whether this was simply an artistic license or based in reality is debatable. However, with my interest in history boarding on an obsession, chances are was my own first introduction to nipple piercings.
There is a number of examples of Nipple piercing throughout history including the North American Native People the Karankawa which were heavily tattooed and pierced their lips and nipples. Kabyle people of Algeria practiced nipple and continued into modern time as they immigrated into the Western world. In fact, the practice is still ongoing in their female population.
In western culture, the practice was carried on by American and British Sailors as a way to mark crossing certain areas of the ocean. Queen Isabeau of Bavaria during the 14th century was famed for her love of dresses that were open in the front and revealed her pierced nipples. There is also an often repeated case of a fade of female nipple piercing becoming in vogue during the latter part of the 19th century. However, this may have been more erotic fantasy than reality.
There is a number of cases including the Incredible Til that had his nipples pierced along with a number of other more erotic piercings as far back as the 1920s but outside of a few select individuals like Ethel Grange and those involved in underground activities it was rare. It wouldn't be until the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and Gay Liberation that we begin to see an increase of the act of nipple piercing in Western culture. Though still considered by mainstream culture as an extreme and underground activity.
Like with the history of most of the modern body piercing, the movement of Nipple Piercing from the underground of Gay and BDSM subcultures to the mainstream, we can give credit to Jim Ward, Doug Malloy, Fakir Musafar and Gauntlet for perfected the techniques and tools needed to popularize the piercing. By the mid-1990s nipple piercings gained a great deal of exposure thanks to the alternative and punk movement breaking into the mainstream.
Migration, Anatomy, Marking, and Placement:
Due largely to the fact that most males nipples are not developed or large enough to be pierced, the piercing is often pierced behind the nipple itself into the areola or darkened area around the nipple with the nipple in the center. This has a couple of advantage including adding room for the jewelry and also anchoring the piercing to reduce the risks of rejection and migration. The nipple then increases in size and protrude away from the body giving the appearance of the nipple being more erect.
However, if the nipple is developed and pronounced then the piercing should be placed at the base of the nipple. This will also cause the nipple to become more pronounced and appear to be erect once the piercing is healed.
Migration is not as big of a factor with male nipple piercing as it is with female nipples, however, if the placement is too shallow or the jewelry is too small, the piercing will migrate and possibly reject. Also if the placement is too shallow, there is an increased risk of the piercing tearing if there is trauma to the jewelry or the piercing.
Marking of the piercing should be done with the piercee standing at attention and marked in a way to give the impression that the piercing is centered and straight.
Female nipples are usually more pounced and larger than male nipples so there is no reason to piercing behind the nipple in the areola. In fact, piercing behind the nipple runs the risk of affecting the milk ducts or causing painful blocking of the ducts themselves. The proper placement is at the base of the nipple when it is fully erect.
In most cases, once the piercing has healed the nipple will increase in size and appear more erect. Often the piercing may migrate slightly. This is caused by a number of factors including the jewelry type, anatomy, breast size, length of the healing period, clothing worn during healing, etc... Sometimes however your body will just simply move the piercing to where it is comfortable. Since nipple tissue is soft it is and for that reason is more prone to migration than other tissue. That is why it is important that the nipple is well pronounced when erect to allow enough depth to the piercing to reduce rejection.
Nipple and breasts come in an extremely wide variety. When placing the jewelry and the jewelry is chosen anatomy should be considered. Those that are more endowed are at a higher risk for migration and rejection because of the added pressure on the nipple. Those with inverted nipples and underdeveloped nipples are also more at risk for migration and rejection. Though this will not always effect healing or mean that the piercing is going to migrate or reject, you should understand that it is a risk before getting the piercing. With inverted nipples and underdeveloped nipples often the goal is to make the nipple more pronounced or erect, understand that by piercing them you are in fact forcing and changing your anatomy by forcing your body to do something that is unnatural. Thus the risks of migration and rejection are increased. You should discuss this with your piercer beforehand and talk about the piercer's failures and successes with piercing this type of anatomy. I for one have had good success with piercing inverted nipples if when the nipple is erect it is large enough to piercing. Undeveloped female nipples are more of a crapshoot.
Another risk group for migration and rejection is those that have had breast augmentation, breast reduction or other surgery on the breast where the nipples were affected. Often during these type of procedures, the incisions are done in the areolas to reduce noticeable scarring. Often the nipples themselves are relocated on the breasts to make them appear more natural. This often will cause a loss in the sensitivity of the nipples and piercing them may bring some of the sensitivity back. However, there may not be the amount of blood flow to the nipple there once was which could greatly increase the time needed to heal the piercing and thus increase the risks of infection or other problem. The other issue is that there may be added pressure on the nipples themselves which could increase the risks of migration and rejection. The longer you wait to have the get the piercing, the great the chance of blood flow returning to the area. Like with anything when in doubt consult your doctor and your piercer. Both have experience dealing with the issue and can discuss the risks and advantages of getting the piercing. In fact. I have had a number of clients where their surgeon suggested piercing to either draw attention away from scarring or to increase sensitivity.
Marking of the piercings should be done with the piercee standing at attention. Clothing should either be away from the area or loose enough to allow the breast to be in their natural state. I always allow the client to decide how undressed they feel comfortable with. Clothing that offers even support is best, like a sports bra. If you are wearing a bra that is underwired or "Push Up" the bra will have to be removed for marking because the piercing will appear not to be straight unless you have that bra on. Also, you are more than likely going to find this type of bra uncomfortable after the piercing is done. In fact, I suggest wearing something with even support for the first two weeks of healing for comfort and to reduce movement. Since movement often causes discomfort, I would also not suggest not wearing a bra to get the piercing and for the first few weeks. I would suggest wearing something that is also easy to remove and if you are uncomfortable with nudity something that you can pull easily down or unbutton to expose only the area being pierced.
Vertical Nipple Piercing and Off Angle Nipple Piercings:
If the nipple can be pierced, then there is no reason with proper jewelry that the piercing cannot be done at a different angle than straight across. Often the piercing will require a straight barbell for the healing though to avoid the jewelry hanging straight out and getting caught on everything.
Double Nipple Piercings and Groupings:
It all comes down to anatomy and the size and shape of the nipple. With double nipple piercings, the nipple has to be pronounced enough to have room for the piercing and jewelry. With males sometimes the piercing can be done deeper or behind the existing piercing but with females often the piercing will need to be done in front of the existing piercing to avoid causing problems with the milk ducts.
The placement for the two piercings needs to be layered and not an intersection. Though there are cases where two piercing have been done that intersect, I wouldn't advise it. There are a number of issues that can come up including prolonged healing. I suggest getting one piercing for each nipple, healing the piercings completely and then getting the second piercing. It is best to discuss your desire for a second piercing with your piercer and plan out the two piercing beforehand.
If you have the correct anatomy the placement, angles, and groupings are only limited by your imagination and your piercer's skill. I've done combinations that were vertical and horizontal, right in front of each other and at angles that made an "X".
Keep in mind though that often if the second piercing is in front of the first piercing, there is much more of a risk for migration. This is simply because there is less tissue and often addition pressure and stress outward from the older piercing. In some cases, if there is not enough room between the two piercings, they will migrate together to form one piercing.
Jewelry Size and Types:
There are two issues that should be considered before choosing jewelry size and type:
- The first is that often nipple piercings are a very long piercing. Nipples can often be anywhere from 3/8 of an inch to as large as 5/8 of an inch. The jewelry that will be inside the piercing will need to be as flat as possible to allow the shortest piercing possible. With straight barbells, the only real concern is that the jewelry is long enough to be comfortable when the nipple is erect, has room for swelling and space for the discharge to collect. With straight barbells, this is usually between 1/2 and 3/4 of an inch with the most common being 1/2. With circular jewelry only roughly a third of the piercing width should take up the width of the jewelry. Meaning at least 5/8 to 3/4 wide. Circular jewelry that is not wide enough will cause:
- The jewelry to stick straight out and not lay flat against the body.
- Cause the body to migrate the piercing to make the piercing not as wide or cause the body to completely reject.
- Prolonged healing or the piercing to never heal completely.
- Cause scaring as the body protects itself against scarring.
- Cause discomfort when the nipple is erect.
- The second consideration is the thickness or gauge of the jewelry itself. Since nipple tissue is sponge tissue it is often softer and more prone to migration, tearing and rejection. So the jewelry needs to be thick enough to reduce the likelihood of these problems. Also, jewelry of a thicker size often is more comfortable when pulled on, is caught on clothing or experienced other forms of trauma. The size of the piercing area should also be considered. There needs to be enough room for the piercing jewelry. Also, weight can increase migration, rejection or other risks. I've found that a person with average anatomy will do well with jewelry that is at least 14g but not greater than 10g.
- Captive Bead or Beaded Ring - A circular ring with a fixed bead or ball or a bead or ball that is held captive by the tension of the ring. For piercing and healing, depending on anatomy, I have found that a ring is the best option. It is not only lighter than Threaded jewelry, is more secure than threaded jewelry(no worrying about balls coming unscrewed) and is more forgiving when the nipple is erect if there is swelling and endless room for discharge to collect.
- Standard or Straight Barbells - A straight post with threaded ball or end on each side. Another option is the threadless or pressure ends. Often the best choice, when there is a lot of pressure on the nipple outward or the nipple/piercing width, is larger than 3/8. Another advantage is often Barbells have a smaller profile to reduce how noticeable the piercing is under clothing, and contact with clothing and bedding. The main disadvantages are that the ball or ends will need to be check for tightness on a regular base and that the jewelry will need to be replaced with shorter jewelry once healing is completed. If the piercing is done at a vertical or any angle other than straight across, Standard Barbells maybe the only option.
- Circular Barbells - A circularly shaped horseshoe with two threaded ends. Can be used during healing and after the piercing is healed with one main concern, weight. Since the ends add additional weight to the jewelry it can increase the risks of migration. Has the advantages and disadvantages of a Captive Bead Ring but with the insecurity of threaded ends.
- Nipple Shields, Stirrups and other styles - A round shaped object that sits around the outside of the piercing behind or with the jewelry passing through it. They should never be considered for a fresh or healing piercing. Even with a healed piercing caution should be considered when wearing them. This is because they will often add outward pressure on the piercing and are often made of substandard or non-body friendly materials like Silver. Stirrups are a U shaped piece of metal with holes at the top for the jewelry(usually a barbell) to be inserted into. The material is the main concern because often they are made of cheaper materials. In most cases, these other types of jewelry are nothing more than an add on or novelty jewelry with little thought to quality or the materials used. Always consider the side effects and added weight that these styles may add and never consider piercing with them.
I always do the piercing with forceps. Do not be sold this idea that a freehand piercing is going to be less painful. The reality is that the forceps are needed to pull the tissue away from the body, support the tissue and ensure the angle of the piercing is correct. This is a huge factor with Nipple piercings because the tissue will need to be pulled from the body and folded to get a straight piercing. With freehand, there is a greater risk of the piercing being angled wrong with the piercing deeper on one side than the other or the piercing being crooked. In fact, because the forceps flatten out the tissue giving the needle a shorter distance to travel, the piercing is faster and less painful. The forceps should be tight but not painfully tight though often depending on how sensitive your nipples are, it can be rather uncomfortable.
- Consultation and paperwork
- Disinfecting the piercing area with a surgical scrub
- Marking the piercing while the piercee is standing at attention
- Reclining the piercee and attaching the forceps
- Lining up the needle and having the piercee do a deep breathing exercises.
- Injecting the piercing needle through the piercing area
- Removing the forceps, inserting the jewelry and closing the jewelry
- Stopping any bleeding and cleaning up the piercing area.
Hassles and Aftercare:
Nipple piercings are prone to bleeding, redness, and swelling. In most cases, this will fade after a few days and usually looks much worse than it is and often these after-effects will be slight and completely unnoticeable. The piercing will, however, be tender to the touch and can throb off and on right after the piercing is done.
Basic aftercare will involve hot soaks with warm water and sea salt twice a day and cleaning the piercing in the shower twice daily. Also, you will need to take steps to reduce the likelihood of cross-contamination. For more details go to Basic Aftercare Instructions. Due to the location of the piercing, you need to take precautions to avoid abuse including heavy or tight-fitting clothing, laying items against your chest and sleeping on the piercing. With females, I strongly suggest wearing a sports bra or something with even support for the first two weeks even when you are sleeping. This will reduce the discomfort caused by the jewelry moving. Everyone reacts differently and of course is shaped differently so experiment with different clothing to find what is comfortable for you. Since sweat tends to collect in the area, it is a good idea to clean the piercing after strenuous activity. When lifting heavy objects avoid using your upper chest to support the object. Also with shirts with pockets over the piercing avoid sticking heavy objects in the pocket.
It is important to avoid stress and abuse to the piercing during healing and after. Mainly avoid sleeping on your stomach and try to sleep on your side or back. If you must sleep on that stomach try to elevate the piercing off the bed using a donut shaped pillow, rolled up nest shaped towel or a pillow under your stomach. Also, avoid clothing and sports safety equipment like chest protectors and other heavy items that are tight in the piercing area. If you are required to wearing safety equipment for a job or sport that is tight fitting in the area, you may want to consider a different piercing.
One of the biggest issues with healing is the length of time it takes the piercing to heal. On average a nipple piercing will take six months to a year to finish the healing stage when it is no longer an open wound. This will require that you develop habits to reduce the risks of infection and abuse early on. Understand that it will not be in pain the whole healing time but nipples are prone to going through periods of "grumpiness" and tightening and loosening. They will be tender and off limits to your sexual partner and this may be something that you want to discuss with them before getting the piercing. Contact with a healing nipple piercing of any kind can lead to infection or other problems. It doesn't matter if they are tender or not.
Some clients have noted increased sensitivity or soreness during sickness and menstruation even in well-healed nipple piercings. Don't be surprised when you notice discomfort or tenderness during times when the area when it would be normal. It may be more noticeable after the piercing is healed because of the increased sensitivity that is common with nipple piercings.
Since a great deal of the milk ducts are in fact, located in the Aurora, breastfeeding shouldn't be affected by nipple piercing. Often even if the milk ducts in the nipple were cut or displaced, the body will reroute the ducts around the piercing in much the same way it will with blood vessels. Though it is possible to feed an infant with the jewelry in the piercing, there is a risk of the jewelry coming to lose and becoming a choking hazard for the infant. For this reason, I suggest removing the jewelry during healing. Though removing the jewelry for long periods of time may cause the piercing to close or shrink. Reinserting the jewelry after being out of the piercing for a long period of time can cause damage to even a healed piercing and could lead to infection. It's important that the jewelry not be left out for long and that it is stored in a clean container. Often clients have found removing the jewelry a hassle and choose to abandon the piercing and have them re-pierced after breastfeeding.
- Male Nipples - Everyone experiences different sensation during a piercing but male nipple piercings are often considered either the most painful or one of the most painful piercing one can have done. The reason for this is a majority of men do not have developed nipples and require that the piercing is done through the tougher tissue behind the nipple. Thus the piercing needle has more resistance causing the piercing to be more painful. Additionally, many men do not find pinching, pulling or other stimulation of the nipple as pleasurable but instead painful. It is one of the differences between men and women and add to that, the fact, that women do in fact have a higher pain threshold than men, men tend to find nipple piercing more uncomfortable. Understand though that the pain is quick and short term. Regardless of your fears, the advantage of having the piercing far outweigh the discomfort of getting the piercing.
- Female Nipples - Depending on the sensitivity of the nipple, most females do not find the piercing painful at all. In fact, a number of my female clients have found that the pain of the piercing was slight and quick. In some cases, some have even said that it was almost pleasurable. This is largely due to the softness of the tissue that the nipple is made of, the difference in the sensations of pain between men and women and the fact that women are rock stars and have a higher pain threshold. Nature gave you the added boost to endure childbirth and breastfeeding which will make the piercing seem less painful than it does for men.
One or Both?:
This is a question that comes up often and I should state that even the most die-hard, "I only want one nipple piercing." often will return to the studio to get the second. It's a balance thing. When it comes to doing one at a time there are a few advantages including giving your partner one nipple to enjoy and being able to sleep more comfortably on the side that isn't pierced. However, doing both at the same time means you will only have to go through the piercing procedure once, healing once and it is easier to get the piercing to appear to match if they are both done at the same time. You should consider your lifestyle, talk to your partner and consider if you will be happy with just one beforehand.
Often the issue is pain or the fear of pain. I found that it is extremely rare that a piercee ends up getting the first one and decides that the pain is too great to get the second. In fact often, mainly because we are all wired differently and both of our nipples are of a different size and shape, that they find the experience different from one nipple to the other. For this reason, I usually suggest starting with the more sensitive nipple first and getting it out of the way.
Risks & Concerns:
As with any piercing, the greatest risk is an infection. This is increased with the fact that often nipple piercings take a long time to heal and thus there is a higher risk to exposure of pathogens. This will mean a commitment to aftercare including 20 minutes a day of hot soaks, cleaning in the shower twice daily, controlling contact with and cleaning your environment around, good hygiene and developing habits to reduce abuse and cross contamination. Don't fool yourself it can be a commitment and a little life-changing. Know your facts beforehand and take steps to ensure your piercing heals without infection or other problems.
Since the human nipple is an erogenous area, if you are sexually active you will also have to get a commitment from your sexual partner to stay completely away from the area. A lot of the infection that I have seen in nipple piercings have come from a partner that in the heat of the moment had contact with the healing piercing. Like with any healthy relationship communication is important, talk to your partner beforehand and make them aware of the ban on contact of any kind, Also consider doing one at a time to give your partner one nipple to enjoy while the other heals.
The nipple will almost always increase in sensitivity and size to allow space for the jewelry. Some may find the stimulation to be too much or the larger nipple to be more noticeable under clothing. Jewelry too can make the fact that you have your nipple pierced more noticeable under tight fitting clothing. So, you may need to wear clothing that is more loose fitting for work or social function where you don't want others to know about your piercing.
Migration and rejection area always a concern with nipple piercings. Especially with women that are overly endowed or have inverted or underdeveloped nipples. You should always discuss the risks of migration and rejection with your piercer beforehand. This is not only to know the risks but to make an educated decision on jewelry style and size or whether getting the piercing is worth the risk. Usually, rejection is slow and frustrating, let's face it no one like abandoning a piercing but if you are at a high risk for rejection, you should be prepared to remove the jewelry if there is a risk of the body completely rejecting the piercing. Not removing the jewelry will cause splitting of the tissue and often will result in the nipple appearing to be split in half.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding is also a concern. If you are a woman who is considering starting a family, you may want to delay getting the piercing or at the least discuss how your piercing will be affected by the changes your body will go through. Of course, breastfeeding is an issue as I mentioned above but also the female body goes through a number of changes during pregnancy and this could affect how will the piercing heals and even cause a change or rejection of a well-healed piercing. I strongly advise waiting if you are planning on getting pregnant in the next year. The strain of pregnancy combined with the stress of healing a piercing is asking for problems and depending on where the birth takes place and the medical personnel involved they may require that you remove the jewelry during the birth.
Another concern is your work and play. If your work involves a lot of lifting you may have add discomfort in the upper chest with a newly pierced nipple. Employment that involves contact with the upper chest can cause stress, abuse, and discomfort. Also, if you are involved with sports or other physical activity that will involve contact or stress on the upper chest can prolong healing or at the least discomfort during healing.