If you’re considering pierced nipples, check out our Nipple Piercing Guide for all the information you need before diving into the process!
Nipple piercings have become much more mainstream in the last few years, thanks to celebrities like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner. If you’re considering nipple piercings, know that they are slightly more complicated and potentially painful than many other piercings. It’s important that do a little bit of research before diving into the process. Luckily, we’re here to provide all the information you need.
THE STEP BY STEP PROCESS OF GETTING YOUR NIPPLES PIERCED
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 nipple 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 piercing jewelry you select, you should expect to pay between $30-$50 per nipple for the piercing itself.
You should let your piercer know if you are not comfortable removing all clothing from your upper body during the consultation or piercing. Be sure to wear clothes you can easily pull up, down, or unbutton to access your 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.
The piercer will prep the nipple by cleaning the area with alcohol and making guide marks on either side of the nipple to ensure the piercing is straight and level. To ensure your nipples are in their natural position, they should do this while you are standing or sitting up. The markings and piercings should be placed above the areola and near the base of the nipple, not near the tip.
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 many exciting nipple jewelry options to choose from, but until your piercing has completely healed, you should stick with straight barbells.
NIPPLE PIERCING HEALING AND AFTERCARE
You are probably wondering: “how long do nipple piercings take to heal”? Most nipple piercings will heal within six to twelve months. The recovery time for this piercing is considerably longer than other piercings, so be sure you are fully committed to your piercing aftercare routine before getting your nipples pierced. It is normal to experience some soreness, swelling, or slight bleeding for a few weeks after getting your nipples pierced, but these symptoms should subside.
Follow these aftercare guidelines for best-healed nipple piercing results:
- 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 can prolong your healing time. Be careful when removing clothing and wear thick cotton shirts. For females, a padded bra will help protect your piercing while it heals.
- If you experience any signs of infection, see a doctor immediately. Signs of infection can include: red streaks around the piercing, discharge of a yellow-green pus-like substance, swelling, fever, and the skin around the piercing feeling hot to the touch.
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 gently wipe them away with a cotton ball or facial tissue.
- Applying balms, creams, cosmetics, or ointments to your piercing while it’s 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 could increase the risk of damage and infection.
See our entire nipple piercing guide for even more detailed information about healing and taking care of your nipple piercings as well as the best nipple piercing healing signs
TYPES OF NIPPLE PIERCINGS AND DIFFERENT NIPPLE PIERCING JEWELRY
Nipple piercings are particularly fun because they can accommodate many different sizes and types of jewelry. The most common starter jewelry for nipple piercing is 14g or 12g straight barbells. This medium-gauge ensures minimal migration and rejection risks, and straight barbells aid healing because they exert less downward pressure on healing fistulas than other types of jewelry. You may be able to begin with larger jewelry depending on your anatomy, but you should always follow the guidance of your piercer.
Suppose you’re interested in stretching your nipple piercings. In that case, it’s best to start with a smaller gauge and begin stretching once the initial piercing has fully healed to install jewelry in the 6g or larger range.
Once your piercing is healed, you can begin experimenting with the wide range of nipple jewelry options available:
- Captive, segment, and seamless rings: These options are an alternative to straight barbells, but they’re more likely to show through clothing. Captive rings, segment rings, and seamless rings are not ideal for new nipple piercings that are still healing. They can put downward pressure on the healing fistulas, increasing the risk of migration or rejection.
- Pinchers and circular barbells: Pinchers and circular barbells are U-shaped and hang with the center of the U through the nipple and the arms of the U facing downward. There are tons of unique styles and options within this category of jewelry. They’re also not ideal for new nipple piercings, as their shape creates significant downward pressure.
- Bent barbells: Because bent barbells can be positioned to align with the natural curvature of the chest, many people find that they are more comfortable in their nipple piercings than straight barbells. Like straight barbells, they’re good starter options because they minimal pressure on healing tissues.
- Nipple shields: Nipple shields are a type of body jewelry made specifically for nipple piercings. They consist of a straight barbell that passes through the nipple piercing and a decorative shield that could be almost any shape, size, style, or design you can imagine.
- Nipple piercing retainers: For people who need to make their pierced nipples more discreet or need a non-metal alternative to keep their nipple piercings open while undergoing surgery or medical testing, nipple piercing retainers are the perfect solution. Retainers come in a variety of materials and are designed to preserve your piercing until you’re ready to install jewelry again.
WHEN CAN I CHANGE MY NIPPLE PIERCING
You should generally avoid changing your nipple rings until your piercing has fully healed to reduce the risk of tissue damage or infection. If you need to change your jewelry sooner due to dangerous swelling, irritation, or an allergic reaction, you should ask your piercer for help.
CHANGING YOUR NIPPLE PIERCING JEWELRY
Once your piercings are fully healed, it is much easier to change your nipple jewelry on your own. However, if you’re having trouble, there are a few common tricks to make the process easier.
- Apply a small drop of water-based lubricant to your nipples or your jewelry before installing them to reduce friction and pulling.
- Use a threaded piercing taper to pull your new jewelry through your piercings.
- Hold the end of the new jewelry against the uncapped end of the jewelry you’re removing, and use the new jewelry to push the old one out.
- Buy threaded jewelry of the same size but with the opposing thread pattern (internally threaded if your starter jewelry is externally threaded, or vice versa). Screw the new jewelry 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.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT NIPPLE PIERCINGS
In addition to the above information about nipple piercings, many people ask more specific questions about nipple piercing pain, nipple anatomies and piercing, and how nipple piercings affect people of different genders. Read on for more information about these and other common nipple piercing questions.
DO NIPPLE PIERCINGS HURT?
As with any body piercing, you can expect some sharp pain as the needle pierces your nipple. Because nipples contain more nerve endings than many other piercing areas, they are generally more sensitive and painful to pierce, but piercing pain is a relative and subjective experience. If you’re interested in a nipple piercing but worried about the pain, there are a few things you should know:
- Topical anesthetics can help: If you have particularly sensitive nipples or a low pain threshold, ask your piercer to apply a topical anesthetic before the piercing. There are many different anesthetic sprays and creams available. The majority of them contain the active ingredient lidocaine, which numbs sensation in the area where it is applied. The piercer should apply one of these piercing anesthetics to your nipples 20-45 minutes before the procedure so that you feel dull pressure rather than sharp pain.
- Stress hormones take the edge off: If you’re anxious about getting your nipples pierced, your body will respond by producing the stress hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) as you approach the moment of piercing. These hormones are part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response and help reduce physical pain sensation for a short time. If you’re planning on getting both nipples pierced at once, you should try to get them done in succession to take advantage of this natural anesthetic.
- Consensus says it’s not so bad: Many people who get their nipples pierced say that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as they expected. Thanks to the body’s hormonal response described above, the hours and minutes of psychological anxiety leading up to the piercing are often much worse than the momentary physical pain of the actual piercing.
CAN I PIERCE MY FLAT OR INVERTED NIPPLES?
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 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.
However, it is important to let your nipple piercings heal completely — typically between 6-12 months — before taking them for a spin in the bedroom. Before that point, your fistulas aren’t fully developed and are susceptible to internal tearing and tissue damage. Hands, saliva, and other objects carry bacteria that can significantly increase the risk of infection.
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PIERCING MALE AND FEMALE NIPPLES?
Men generally have smaller nipples than women, affecting the needle gauge and precise location a piercer uses when piercing their nipples. There are no other significant differences in the piercing process itself, but due to differences in anatomy and changes in body chemistry during menstruation, men and women have relatively different experiences during the healing process.
WHY DO MY NIPPLE PIERCINGS HURT DURING MY MENSTRUAL CYCLE?
During menstruation, the body releases estrogen and progesterone, hormones that cause milk glands and ducts in the breasts to enlarge, possibly exacerbating the discomfort of a new nipple piercing. If you usually experience increased tenderness and swelling during your period, you can anticipate some additional discomfort with a new nipple piercing. However, if you’ve never had that experience during menstruation, getting your nipples pierced will not cause it to start. If you do experience mild swelling and discomfort as your nipple piercings heal, you can take a regular dose of Ibuprofen or another non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug to help manage the pain.
If you experience swelling, keep a close eye on the fit of your jewelry during the healing process. If the ends of your jewelry begin to press into your nipples, see your piercer right away and ask them to insert longer barbells. You don’t want your jewelry to be so long that it gets caught on clothing, but it has to be long enough that it doesn’t squeeze your nipples. Prolonged pressure can cause necrosis (tissue death), infection, or other permanent damage to the tissue around your nipple piercings.
CAN YOU BREASTFEED WITH NIPPLE PIERCINGS
Nipple piercings should not interfere with breastfeeding or milk production. To avoid infection and complications, you should let your piercing heal completely before starting to nurse or returning to nursing.
Be sure to remove any nipple jewelry before nursing to ensure that the infant can latch properly and to avoid any pain from biting or pulling your jewelry. Learn more about breastfeeding and nipple piercings here.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO STRETCH MY NIPPLE PIERCINGS?
When it comes to stretching, slow and steady is the best approach. Ideally, a full-size stretch should take at least 1.5 times as long as it took for your piercings to heal initially. That means to go from 10g to 8g, or from 8g to 6g, for example, should take about 14 to 18 months. You can reduce the stretching time by using stretching tape to gradually adding thin layers to your jewelry rather than jumping a full size all at once. It takes several layers of stretching tape to get the equivalent of a full-size stretch, so a few months between each additional layer should be sufficient. If you have any difficulty getting new or tape-layered jewelry into your piercing, do not force it. Use a drop of water-based lubricant to help it slide in more easily, or use a threaded taper (along with lubricant) to ease your jewelry in slowly.
WHAT IS THE CORRECT NIPPLE PIERCING PLACEMENT?
Nipple piercings should always be placed near the base of the nipple where it meets the areola, not at the tip or in the middle of the nipple itself. Piercings are usually placed horizontally but can be done vertically or diagonally as well.
HOW MUCH ARE NIPPLE PIERCINGS?
The exact cost varies depending on your piercer, your geographic area, and your own requests, but you can typically expect to pay $30-50 per nipple, plus extra for premium jewelry. Titanium jewelry is an affordable, biocompatible option and won’t cause allergic reactions. Gold and platinum are also great options but will cost you more. Don’t try to save money by opting for cheaper metals (like nickel) or going with an inexperienced piercer. You might save money in the short run, but you could pay for it in pain, irritation, and a more complicated healing process.
WHAT IS NIPPLE PIERCING REJECTION?
Piercing rejection occurs when the tissues of your body push a piercing out instead of healing around the piercing. You might be experiencing nipple piercing rejection if you notice these signs:
- There is a decrease in distance between the entry and exit holes.
- You see more of the barbell exposed than before. (Note that swelling in the early days is normal, and once it subsides, it’s perfectly okay to see slightly more of the barbell than you did when swelling was at its peak. However, if the barbell gradually continues to become more exposed even after swelling has subsided, this could be a sign of rejection.)
- It appears that the piercing is being pushed towards the skin’s surface or the tip of the nipple.
- The skin around the jewelry appears thinner. You may even be able to see the jewelry through the skin, though this is less likely with nipple piercing than a dermal or other piercing since the jewelry would have to travel through more tissue.
Piercing migration is a similar issue. It’s the body’s way of trying to move the foreign object, but it doesn’t always result in the jewelry being forced out or towards the surface. Contact your piercer immediately if you suspect your nipple piercing is rejecting or migrating. In some cases, you may be able to stop the process. Many times, the jewelry will need to be removed. It’s always best to remove the jewelry before it rejects completely and pushes through the skin, as this will only cause more scarring and damage.
WHAT IS THE BUMP ON MY NIPPLE PIERCING?
Small bumps are common with any piercing and are caused by the body’s inflammatory response as it attempts to heal the wound. These “piercing bumps” are harmless and usually subside once healing is complete. You can help them disappear faster by following proper piercing aftercare and avoiding harsh cleansers like alcohol.
More rarely, bumps may be due to keloid scarring or an infection. Keloid scars are hard, raised areas of scar tissue. Unlike piercing bumps, they appear on top of the skin’s surface instead of underneath, are unlikely to go away on their own, and may actually grow over time. If you think you’re experiencing a keloid scar, talk to your piercer or a dermatologist for tips on preventing further scarring. Finally, your bump may actually be an infection if it is painful, red, warm to the touch, or contains yellow or greenish pus. Contact your piercer immediately if you suspect infection.