Nipple reconstruction and tattooing

Nipple Reconstruction

There are several different ways of making an artificial nipple. The main options are:

Having a nipple made from the skin over your breast / breast reconstruction

This can often be done at the same operation as the breast reconstruction. It involves a short scar that can usually be hidden within the tattoo. The main drawback is that they tend to flatten a bit with time.

If separate from the main reconstruction, the operation to make a nipple like this is usually performed under local anaesthetic and takes about 20 minutes. Recovery time is very quick. There is a small risk that part of the skin used to make the nipple with not survive and form a scab. Very occasionally the entire nipple reconstruction will fail and need to be re-done.

Using part of your other nipple as a graft (Nipple Sharing)

This can often produce the most realistic looking nipple, as it matches the other side. Women most suitable for this usually have quite a prominent nipple on the other side. The procedure is normally performed under local anaesthetic and takes about 20 minutes. Part of the areola (pigmented skin around the nipple) can sometimes also be grafted. 


This is a simple procedure that can make a very big difference to the appearance of a breast reconstruction out of clothes. Many women report that tattooing has made a big difference to their confidence in situations like: Swimming pool changing rooms "Heads don't turn any more"

Looking in a mirror "It completely fools the eye"

"It makes my scars much less noticeable"

It is usually performed in conjunction with nipple reconstruction but this is not always necessary and many women will have a good result from just a tattoo alone.

Local anaesthetic is used in the form of a cream that you apply to the area yourself about an hour before the procedure. Most women are only aware of a little vibration during the tattooing. Because the colours used are often quite subtle skin tones (most tattoos, on arms etc, will use very bold colours) it is sometimes necessary to have 2 or 3 short sessions of tattooing to get the best, most durable result.

All tattoos will fade a little with time and over the years it may be necessary to have a top-up tattoo. Aftercare involves applying an ointment that will be given to you for a couple of days afterwards and avoid soaking the tattoo in bath for the first week (showers are OK).

Dry tattooing, without any colour pigment, can be used to improve scars.

In women with very pale nipples, tattooing both sides can sometimes give the best result.

Mr Macmillan was trained in tattooing by specialists from the School of Dermograhic Art.

See examples