Everything you need to know about nipple piercings before getting one of your own

By Francesca Johnson

Published Feb 26, 2022 at 09:16 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

As a person who usually prefers getting pierced instead of dealing with emotional problems, one type in particular has been calling my name since I turned 14: nipple piercings. That’s right, just like any other piece of anatomy, metal bars (or rings) can go in your boobs for fashion, and I think it’s one of the few things I’d wager the ‘pain is beauty’ plight for. Nipple piercings are the undefeated fashion accessory but you’ve probably already asked yourself, do they hurt? Do they ever heal? Will they fall off if they get infected? Allow me to give you the lowdown.

Better safe than sorry

While you may have seen many celebrities—from the forever icon Rihanna to the mysterious muse Bella Hadid—flaunt their pierced prized possessions, how does it work exactly and are they safe to get? Well, a nipple piercing is just that: a piercing in your nipples. More specifically, piercing the sensitive tissue connected to milk ducts, or your areola, the darker ring around it.

WebMD lists a number of possible problems you could encounter if you get your nipples pierced hastily and without research. In both the UK and the US, the legal age to get nipple piercings is 18, with ID being required. Studios jumping at the chance to pierce you at a younger age or without proof of age are a big red flag since it’s quite literally illegal. Among the risks of rampant infections that hurt like hell with all poorly healed piercings—I should know, I’m currently praying for my salt water to miraculously fix my keloids, fat chance—there are other issues that you may run into getting the girls pierced.

First things first, go to a professional. That means any sign of unsanitary practice is your green light to get out, immediately. WebMD advises finding a reputable piercer through the Association of Professional Piercers (APP), which is a worldwide network of trusted and safe piercers. Through its portal, you will find ‘Business Members’—those who work full time as piercers, with more than one year of professional experience—and ‘Associate Members’ who are also working as professional piercers but have less than one year of experience (like apprentices, for example).

Also, being aware of what your body can handle when it comes to piercings is probably going to help you out a lot when enquiring about them. Knowing if you have a certain allergy to metals that are used in bars is a must because the last thing you want is the already painful process to be drawn out by infection.

How do I get them done?

In an interview with Allure, professional body piercer and owner of Studio 28, a piercing studio in New York, TJ Cantwell described the process to the outlet. “Your piercer will wash up, put on gloves, and have sterile materials ready. Any reputable piercer will also act sort of like a meditation teacher, helping you keep calm and instructing you to breathe as they pierce you. The actual piercing happens very quickly.”

Cantwell stressed that if there’s one thing to look out for, it’s that all tools are pre-sterilised and opened in front of you before use.

To hoop or not to hoop?

Generally speaking, a straight barbell for the piercing is your best bet. Curved barbells are usually reserved for inverted nipples. Rings and hoops often move around too much and can majorly disrupt the healing process. Not fun.

And don’t forget, always, always go with implant-grade metal, folks.

Double trouble or one and done?

Some opt to have one of their nipples pierced to get a feel for the pain level before having their second one pierced. Initially, that was my game plan. According to Grazia, many studios offer a two-for-one price on nipple piercings anyway, so there’s a bigger incentive to get them done together. They can cost anywhere between £25 to £50. On average, the price to get your nipples pierced is around £40, but that can change depending on the jewellery picked on top. While I am a person with multiple holes in my ears and everything from a surface tragus to belly bars in my body, I do think I’d still need my piercer to get me to pay up beforehand just in case I chicken out.

TMI bits

Before we get to the cons, let me answer the last few questions you may have. First of all, do they make your nipples hard all the time? Well, getting your nips pierced can make them appear slightly more pronounced, but, fear not, it won’t stay that way long term. Do they scab? As with any piercing (aka, a wound in your body) they can produce scabs, yes, but if you fear it’s looking abnormal or it’s too painful, consider speaking to your GP or doctor. If I take the ring out will there be scarring? Unfortunately, that probably will be the case, especially if taken out before properly healing, and it could be left looking a little different to its pre-pierced state, according to Grazia. Will I be able to breastfeed? Yes, but it’s not A-okay for everyone. You might need to ditch hoops for some bars and take them out when it’s the little one’s dinner time. And before you ask, no, they probably won’t go off in an airport metal detector, Grazia noted that many metal body jewellery is non-ferromagnetic—the scientific term that basically means if your jewellery is made from gold, silver or platinum, it won’t go off. Thank goodness.

Another thing to note is that many women report their piercings increasing their nipple sensitivity dramatically—having healed correctly, that is.

The dreaded cons

Aside from being very pretty and adding a little razzle-dazzle to a braless look, nipple piercings do come with a lot of aftercare upkeep. And it makes sense since they have a longer healing time compared to other piercings.

Among the bad, nipple piercings can cause a number of issues: abscesses (really painful pus-filled lumps, yuck), rejection (where the piercing is literally pushed out by your body) and localised infection—though one study suggests the chances of systemic infections are very low.

Nipple piercings typically take up to six months to fully heal, which can really put a roadblock in your plans. If you want to show off your new studs at the beach, now is the time to get them done, people. At first, your priority should be to keep them covered at all times—at least for the first two weeks. You may also be advised to not poke around or touch them, except for cleaning off the pus and goopy goo, and avoid soaking them in water when you wash too. Cleaning twice a day is also an absolute must and the safest and most recommended way to do it is with a saline solution. Trust me, skipping out on this is not worth the headache—think of it as sleeping drunk with makeup on but then waking up with a horrible leaking hole in your body, no thanks.

So, with all the pros and cons of getting your nipples pierced safely in your back pocket, will you decide to get them done?

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