Nipple piercings have become much more mainstream in the last few years, largely due to the growing number of celebrities who proudly display them, like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner. But if you’re considering nipple piercings, know that they are slightly more complicated and potentially painful than many other piercings; you should do a little bit of research before diving into the process. Luckily, we’re here to provide all the information you need. First, let’s address some of the most common questions people have about nipple piercings.
As with any body piercing, you can expect some sharp pain as the needle pierces your skin, but the level of pain will vary from person to person. Nipples contain more nerve endings than many other piercing areas, so they are generally more sensitive and painful to pierce, but many people report that the pain is less than they anticipated. If you know you have particularly sensitive nipples, you can also ask your piercer to apply a topical anesthetic spray before the procedure.
Yes, but there are some things to know. Though flat and inverted nipples are common and pierceable, you’ll want to consult with your piercer beforehand to see if they have any concerns. In some cases, your piercer may recommend using a curved needle and bent barbell on an inverted or flat nipple in order to reduce the pressure of the jewelry pulling the nipple outward while it heals. They may also want to use a slightly larger gauge needle and jewelry — 10 or 12 gauge instead of 14 — since they’re less likely to move and cause complications in flat or inverted nipples.
Do nipple piercings affect sensitivity and sexual stimulation?
Nipple piercings can increase sensitivity by making the nipple more pronounced, but it does not make the nipple permanently erect. Rather, the piercing prevents the nipple from laying flat or retracting into the chest. The main factors here, however, are psychological and aesthetic; if you and your partner(s) liked nipple play already and find the look of your nipple piercing erotic, then it’s likely to increase your sexual stimulation.
Is there any difference between piercing male and female nipples?
There’s no difference in the piercing process, though men generally have smaller nipples than women. However, there may be some differences in recovery, as menstruation can exacerbate the discomfort of a new nipple piercing. During menstruation, the body releases estrogen and progesterone, hormones that cause milk glands and ducts to enlarge. If you normally experience increased tenderness and swelling during your period, you can anticipate some additional discomfort with a new nipple piercing.
Nipple piercings should not interfere with breastfeeding or milk production, but to avoid infection and complications they should be entirely healed before starting to nurse or returning to nursing. Also be sure to remove any nipple jewelry before nursing, both to ensure that the infant can latch properly and to avoid any pain from them biting or pulling your jewelry.
Getting Your Nipple Piercing
As with any body piercing, make sure you find a reputable and trusted piercer whose shop is clean and welcoming. Online tools like Google and Yelp make finding a trustworthy shop easier than ever; you can also ask friends with piercings for recommendations. Once you find a piercer you like, set up a consultation to discuss what you’re looking for. Although total costs will vary depending on the style of jewelry you select, you should expect to pay between $30-$50 per nipple for the piercing itself.
If you aren’t comfortable completely removing the clothes from your upper body during the consultation or piercing, let your piercer know and be sure to wear clothes that you can easily pull up, down, or unbutton to access the nipples. Your piercer should honor any requests you make about this and treat you professionally. If they say or do something that feels unprofessional or inappropriate, don’t hesitate to take your business elsewhere.
To prepare the nipple for piercing, the piercer will clean the area with alcohol and make guide marks on either side of the nipple to ensure the piercing is straight and level. They should do this while you are standing or sitting up to ensure your nipples are in their natural position. The marks and the piercing should be above the areola and near the base of the nipple, not near the tip of the nipple.
For your first nipple jewelry, your piercer will likely recommend a long, 14-gauge straight barbell. Straight barbells do not pull as much on new piercings and a longer bar gives the nipple space to swell during the healing process, which is normal. There are lots of exciting nipple jewelry options, but until your piercing is fully healed, long straight barbells are best.
The average healing time for most nipple piercings is 6-12 months. This is significantly longer than many other piercings, so make sure you’re fully committed to your aftercare routine before you get your nipples pierced. It is normal to experience some soreness, swelling, or light bleeding for a few weeks after you get your nipples pierced, but these symptoms should subside.
Follow these aftercare guidelines to make sure your nipple piercing heals as well and quickly as possible.
- Soak your piercing with sea salt solution (SSS) for five minutes twice per day for the first few months, and once per day after. You can do this with moistened cotton balls or by holding a shot glass full of SSS to your nipple. You should also cleanse your piercing 4-6 times per day between SSS soaks with piercing aftercare spray. Be sure to wash your hands any time you clean your piercing or handle your jewelry.
- Avoid wearing clothing that could catch and pull on your jewelry, injuring your piercing and prolonging your healing time. Be careful when removing clothing and wear thick cotton shirts or for females, a padded bra to protect your piercing while it heals.
- Get good rest, hydration, and nutrition to allow your body to devote as much energy as possible to healing.
Also, be sure to avoid the following:
- Unnecessarily handling your piercing or jewelry, or touching them with unwashed hands.
- Moving your jewelry to break up dried lymph fluids, or “crusties,” which the body secretes as a natural part of the healing process. Instead, use SSS or aftercare spray to soften the crusties and then gently wipe them away with a cotton ball or facial tissue.
- Applying balms, creams, cosmetics, or ointments to your piercing while it is healing, as they may trap bacteria and increase the risk of infection.
- Completely submerging the piercing in water, which can carry bacteria that may lead to infection.
- Washing your piercing with regular soap, unless your piercer strongly recommends it.
- Engaging in manual or oral nipple play before your piercing is completely healed, which could increase the risk of damage and infection.
See our full nipple piercing aftercare article for even more detailed information about healing and taking care of your nipple piercings. When you’re done there, be sure to check out our selection of nipple jewelry to try when you’re fully healed.