Thinking about getting your nipples pierced? Find below all the information you need to prepare yourself, including what to expect during the piercing process, the best recommended aftercare procedures, and much more. Click a question below to jump right to the answer, or read straight through for a full education on nipple piercings.
Frequently Asked Nipple Piercing Questions
Q. Where should I go to have my nipples pierced?
Q. How much pain can I expect from a nipple piercing?
Q. Can I have my nipples pierced if they're inverted or otherwise unusually shaped?
Q. What can I do to feel more comfortable during the nipple piercing process?
Q. What size needle and starter jewelry is ideal for nipple piercings?
Q. What's the best starter jewelry to wear in a new nipple piercing?
Q. What's the best nipple piercing aftercare regimen?
Q. How long does it take for nipple piercings to heal?
Q. When will it be safe to take my nipple piercings for a test drive in the bedroom?
Q. Why do my nipple piercings hurt so much during my menstrual cycle?
Q. Can I easily change my nipple jewelry on my own?
Q. What's the best method for stretching my nipple piercings?
Answers to Common Nipple Piercing Questions
A. Go to a professional piercing artist, preferably one who works for a reputable tattoo and piercing studio. You can research tattoo and piercing studios online (e.g. read online reviews/testimonials, look for shops with high numerical ratings, or browse piercing portfolios via Instagram or professional websites). You can also talk to friends with nipple piercings for their experienced input or join our forum and ask our community members for recommendations. Once you find a piercing artist you trust, set up an appointment for a consultation.
A. Most people assume that nipple piercings will be extremely painful, since nipples are sensitive enough as it is; but many people who have had it done claim the pain isn't bad at all. A lot of times, the anticipation is worse than the piercing itself. You could very well find that you got yourself psyched up only to say, "That was it?!" once the procedure is over.
Part of the reason there tends to be less pain than expected is the way our bodies release the stress hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into the bloodstream when we're afraid. When adrenaline starts coursing through your system, it can have somewhat of a numbing effect, which helps you bear whatever pain may come immediately after your body's fight-or-flight response kicks into high gear. Even if you're just mildly nervous when it's time to begin your nipple piercing(s), your body will likely release enough adrenaline and endorphins to help take the edge off the pain. Keep in mind that the process of putting a needle through the nipple is relatively fast — a mere second's pinch, really. Your nipples will likely be sore for a while afterwards, but any sharp pain you experience will be fleeting.
Like that momentary pinch of the needle going through your first nipple, the physiological reaction that fear triggers can also be fleeting, so it's best to decide ahead whether or not you want both nipples pierced at once. That way, your piercer can be prepared to do them in relatively quick succession. If your piercer is only prepped to do one nipple piercing and then you decide you want both done after the first one goes smoothly, you may find the second piercing to be a bit more painful than the first. It will still only be a momentary, sharp pain, but you'll feel it less if your stress hormones are still coursing strongly through your veins.
If you're really worried about the pain factor, ask your piercer to apply a topical anesthetic like Derma Numb 15 to 20 minutes before piercing you. Such products typically contain lidocaine, which numbs the surface of the skin to a degree and will further dull the sensation of a needle piercing your nipples. Derma Numb is an especially effective numbing spray, because it contains natural yarrow root and yucca glauca root in addition to lidocaine. The yarrow and yucca glauca roots have anti-inflammatory, numbing and skin rejuvenation properties. They've been used by Native Americans. When combined with lidocaine, they can significantly dull the brief, sharp pain associated with nipple piercings.
A. If you have any concerns about being a viable candidate for nipple piercings due to the shape of your nipples — say, because they're flat or inverted — then the best thing to do is set up a consultation with a reputable piercing artist and see what he or she advises. If your nipples stand out sufficiently when erect, then you may be able to have them pierced with some slight modifications to the straight-needle-and-barbell combo that's typically used for nipple piercings. For instance, sometimes a curved needle and bent barbell can be more successful when piercing an inverted nipple. A curved piercing needle allows the piercing artist more mobility and caution when working with inverted nipples. Additionally, the curve of the bent barbell inserted immediately after the piercing can help keep your nipples prominent during the healing process.
Note that you may be more prone to migration/rejection if your nipples are inverted, since the barbells will be constantly fighting against your body's natural tendency to retract your nipples when they aren't erect. Any prolonged pressure increases the chances of nipple jewelry migrating or being fully rejected. This includes the downward pressure of hanging jewelry like circular barbells and captive bead rings on delicate new fistulas (i.e. piercing holes) or the constant outward pull of barbells against nipples that are flat or inverted when the skin is in a relaxed state. Using curved barbells on flat or inverted nipples minimizes the chances of migration/rejection somewhat by decreasing outward pressure slightly, but it's still a potential outcome for which you should be prepared.
Tip: If your piercer believes your nipples can be pierced successfully even if they're flat or inverted, ask him or her to use a heavier gauge needle and barbell or CBR. 10g or 12g body jewelry is less likely to migrate or be rejected than 14g or 16g jewelry.
A. If you're nervous about baring your breasts to have your nipples pierced, try to think of your piercing artist like you would your doctor. A professional piercing artist should handle nipple piercing procedures just as a doctor would a breast or genital exam. Having your nipples pierced isn't a sexual act, and at no point should your piercer make you feel like it is. Of course, it's perfectly normal and understandable to be a little uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger seeing and touching your breasts.
So, what can you do to feel a little less exposed when having your nipples pierced? One thing you can do is wear clothing that will allow you to stay clothed, exposing only the breast being pierced. A button-up shirt will keep the majority of your chest, torso and back covered, which may help you feel a little less exposed during the process. Being conversational with your piercer and even joking around a bit can help you feel more at ease, too. However, if your piercer says or does something that you feel is inappropriate at any time during the nipple piercing process, put your top back on and walk out. There are plenty of professional piercers available who will do everything in their power to put a shy client at ease, particularly when performing a piercing in a more private part of the body. Don't settle for someone skeevy who makes your skin crawl! If you've interviewed your prospective piercer ahead of time, you should have a good idea of whether or not he or she will act like a true professional and treat you with respect during the nipple piercing process. Knowing that you're dealing with a courteous professional ahead of time can also help you feel more relaxed when it's time to take off your top.
A. Every experienced piercing artist should give you the same advice when it comes to the size of your starter nipple jewelry: Don't go smaller than 14g. You can go larger if you want and if your piercer says your nipples can support it. However, choosing anything smaller than 14g is unwise because it puts you at a higher risk for migration and rejection. Essentially, you’ll want to be pierced with a modest-sized to heavier gauge needle, start with heavier gauge body jewelry, and ensure your piercing is placed further back (closer to your areolas) for a better chance of a healthy healing process.
For those interested in starting out with larger-gauge jewelry, keep it reasonable and stay within the 8g to 10g range. Your nipples may be able to support jewelry that’s 6g or larger, but it's typically better to start out with a modest size. Then, you can slowly begin the stretching process after your nipples are fully healed and your fistulas are reinforced with tougher, more stable layers of skin. Stretching after the healing process also allows you to gradually increase the size until you feel like you've reached the maximum weight/gauge that's comfortable for your breasts and the most attractive-looking). This is a better alternative tor initially guessing at an ideal size and possibly coming to find that what you've chosen is just... “too much” for you.
It's also worth noting that going too large initially is just as risky as using 16g or smaller jewelry. Heavy, large-gauge jewelry can cause prolonged downward pressure that's unhealthy for delicate new fistulas that haven't yet been reinforced by layers of hardened skin.
A. Most people start with straight barbells. Straight barbells put the least amount of downward pressure on delicate, healing fistulas. Circular barbells and captive bead rings make attractive nipple piercing jewelry, but these popular styles are heavier and likely to put more downward pressure on the nipples. Therefore, they are better suited for fully healed nipple piercings that are no longer sensitive to pressure.
If you have flat or inverted nipples, then bent barbells may be a better option for starter nipple jewelry. Talk to your piercer about your options and see what he or she feels will work best for you after examining your breasts.
When it comes to choosing safe materials for your nipple jewelry, your best options are solid titanium and surgical stainless steel. Titanium is the most inert metal, and therefore the least likely to trigger any sort of allergic reaction. BioPlast is another good hypo-allergenic material option for those with sensitive skin.
A. It’s important to keep your nipple piercings clean and to protect them as much as possible during the healing process. Women should wear breathable cotton sports bras whenever possible. Traditional bras might smother and irritate new nipple piercings. Some women say that it's helpful to wear a sports bra at night, particularly during the first 6 to 12 weeks, when the pierced nipples are most sensitive. Others prefer a light cotton t-shirt, which is also a safe option for men to wear to bed after having their nipples pierced. You'll find the right clothing for you through a little trial and error, but anything cotton is usually a safe option. The key is just to keep your chest covered without wearing anything that's too tight and/or not made from a breathable material.
Now, let’s talk about aftercare products., Sea salt solution will be your best friend throughout the healing process. You can purchase a saline nipple piercing aftercare spray like Recovery Saline Spray for a natural and rejuvenating recovery. Just spritz it on every few hours throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated and your nipple piercings free of debris. You should also consider doing full-on sea salt soaks twice a day, particularly during the first few months of the nipple piercing healing process.
Use the Recovery Sea Salt and Tea Tree Oil Combo for moisturizing and antiseptic benefits. To apply the solution, fill a shot glass with it, lean forward, place the lip of the glass securely around your nipple, then sit up straight while holding the shot glass tightly against your skin. Let your nipple soak for 3 to 5 minutes, and then dump the solution, rinse the glass, refill it, and apply it to your other nipple for the same amount of time. You can also use store-bought solution for full soaks, too, or you can make your own solution by mixing 1/4 tsp. sea salt (aquarium salt from a pet store works well) into 1 cup of sterilized water (buy sterile water or boil tap water for 5+ minutes to sterilize it).
In addition to choosing the right aftercare products, it's important to keep up your health in general when you're waiting for any new piercing to heal. Eat lots of vitamin-rich fruits and veggies, get plenty of sleep each night, and practice good hygiene that will help you minimize contact with germs and bacteria. You should also minimize your alcohol and nicotine consumption to keep your immune system as healthy and strong as possible. Additionally, be sure to avoid aspirin during the first week or two to prevent excess bleeding from thinned blood.
Finally, try not to touch your nipple piercings too much during the healing process. You should never touch them unless your hands are freshly washed or gloved. New piercings will secrete lymph, a colorless fluid that the body naturally produces during the healing process. Lymph will eventually dry into what we know as "crusties." Do not try to break up or remove the crusties by unnecessarily handling or tugging at your new jewelry. Simply soak your nipples with sea salt solution and then gently wipe away softened crusties with a clean tissue. Also, avoid nipple play and changing nipple jewelry until your piercings are well healed, so that you don't further irritate the tender tissue around your nipple piercings.
A. On average, nipple piercings take 9 to 12 months to fully heal. Some people need more time, particularly if they've experienced any issues with irritation or infection during the healing process. At the first sign of infection, see a doctor right away. Signs of infection include red streaks or yellow-to-green, pus-like discharge. It can also be a sign of infection if the skin around the piercing site is hot to the touch. In addition to seeking medical attention, you should also ramp up your sea salt solution soaks to 3 times per day until you're clear of infection.
After a year to 15 months, your nipple piercing fistulas should be well-developed. The more time that passes without complication, the harder and more reinforced the tissue around your fistulas will become, which will lead to less soreness and make it easier for you to change your nipple jewelry.
A. Ideally, you should wait until your nipple piercings are fully healed before engaging in nipple play. There are a couple reasons why it's important to wait 9 to 12 months, even if your nipples feel fine sooner.
First, until you hit the 9-12 month mark, your fistulas aren't fully developed, which means you're at greater risk for tearing the delicate skin inside and around your piercings. Waiting to engage in nipple play will minimize the chances of your jewelry migrating or being torn out completely.
Second, nipple play can cause microscopic tearing. Even microscopic tears are bad for healing nipple piercings, because they make you more susceptible to infection. With or without any degree of tearing, you're at greater risk for infection until your fistulas are completely healed and well-reinforced, particularly if someone else's bodily fluids come into contact with your healing piercings. Saliva is wrought with bacteria that can infiltrate your body through the healing wounds in your nipples. Unwashed hands also pose a risk to your health and the longevity of your nipple piercings.
A. Women's bodies produce two hormones before and during menstruation that cause the breasts to swell: progesterone, which increases the size of the milk glands, and estrogen, which causes the breast ducts to enlarge. These hormones can make your breasts excessively tender during your menstrual cycle, whether or not they're pierced. Add healing nipple piercings to the equation, and you may have a recipe for utter misery at times, particularly in the first few months of the healing process.
Not all women experience a significant degree of swelling and tenderness during menstruation; it tends to be a greater issue for large-breasted women, but the problem isn't exclusive to them. If you've never encountered this problem, having your nipples pierced won't trigger it to start. However, if your breasts tend to be swollen and sore around your time of the month, then getting your nipples pierced could exacerbate your discomfort level. If you can tolerate it, just take the directed dose of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen before and during your menstrual cycle to reduce swelling and address any pain you may experience.
If you encounter swelling during your monthly cycle or at any other time after having your nipples pierced, keep an eye on how your jewelry fits. If at any point the ends of your jewelry begin to press into your nipples, see your piercer right away and ask him or her to insert longer barbells. You don't want your jewelry to be so long that you risk catching it on clothing and pulling/tearing your piercings, but it has to be long enough that it doesn't squeeze your nipples. Prolonged tension like that can cause necrosis (tissue death), which can lead to infection and/or permanent damage to the tissue around your nipple piercings.
A. The answer to this question depends largely on when you try to change your nipple jewelry for the first time. If you need to change your jewelry early in the healing process, you may have trouble doing it on your own. It's best to ask your piercer for help if you have to change your jewelry early on because of issues like swelling or a reaction to the jewelry material.
After 9 months to a year, your fistulas should be reinforced to the point that you can easily change your nipple jewelry yourself. There are a couple ways to make it easier, if you have trouble getting new nipple rings in on your own. You can add a small drop of a water-based lubricant like Astroglide to your nipples and/or barbells before swapping in new jewelry. Just don't apply too much, or you could turn the situation into a slippery, unmanageable mess! You can also use a threaded taper like the one shown to the left to pull a new barbell through each nipple piercing. Alternatively, hold the end of a new barbell against the uncapped end of the jewelry you're removing, and use the new barbell to push the old one out. Better yet, buy threaded jewelry in the same size, but with an opposing thread pattern (internally-threaded if your starter jewelry is externally-threaded or vice versa), screw the new barbell onto the end of the old one, push it through, unscrew the old jewelry from the exposed end of the new jewelry, and re-cap your new barbell.
A. When it comes to stretching, slow and steady wins the race. Ideally, you should put a minimum of one-and-a-half times as long as it took for your piercings to heal initially in between full-size stretches, which means waiting about 14 to 18 months if you're stretching from, say, 10g to 8g or 8g to 6g. You can reduce the time in between stretches if you're using stretching tape to add a very thin layer to your jewelry periodically rather than jumping a full size each time. It takes several layers of stretching tape to get the equivalent of a full-size stretch, so a few months in between each additional layer should be sufficient. Do what feels comfortable, erring on the side of more time rather than less.
If you have any trouble getting your new or tape-layered jewelry into your nipple piercings, don't force it through! You can add a drop of water-based lubricant to your skin and/or jewelry to help it slide in more easily, or you can use a threaded taper (preferably with lubricant) to ease your jewelry in more slowly.
Additional Nipple Piercing Information
If you'd like additional nipple piercing information before or after getting your nipples pierced, or if you're looking for new nipple jewelry and related products, check out the links below:
- Nipple Piercing History
- Basic Nipple Piercing Info
- Choosing the Best Nipple Jewelry
- Nipple Shield Options
- How to Put on a Nipple Shield
- Shop for Nipple Rings & Nipple Shields
- Nipple Piercings Forum Section
- Male Nipple Piercing Pictures
- Female Nipple Piercing Pictures*
- Other Nipple Piercing Resources
*Note that you must be 18 years or older and a registered gallery member to access nude photos like our female nipple piercing pictures. Learn how to register for and use our gallery here, and please read the Gallery Rules before you begin using the gallery.