Unfortunately, many breast cancer survivors will need to face the removal of their areolas and nipples when undergoing a breast reconstruction or mastectomy. However, a 3D and natural-looking nipple can be achieved through the areola tattooing process. Areola tattoos are tattooed onto the breast to replicate the appearance of a nipple and the surrounding skin known as the areola. They are often very realistic and an important step in the process of recovery from breast cancer. But this poses the question, are areola tattoos permanent?
How Do Areola Tattoos Differ From Regular Tattoos?
Although they are similar, areola tattooing has some differences compared to traditional tattoos, since these typically contain metal fragments and might prohibit future necessary MRI scans for cancer. However, the process itself is very similar to getting a regular tattoo. They work by tattooing the skin with pigments that are custom-mixed to realistically resemble the natural skin tone of the person. The artist will work with light and shadows in order to create the appearance of a realistic tattoo where there is none. The hyper-realistic results are often very impressive, with a nipple that appears to protrude and the areola having a natural-looking gradient effect, when done by a trained and experienced professional.
What Does the Procedure Involve?
First, you will have a consultation with the artist who will be completing your areola and nipple tattoo. You can show them photos of your breasts pre-mastectomy if you want the results to look as close to this as possible, or reference photos for what you would like your new nipples and areolas to look like. The tattoo will be completely customised to you as the client based on a range of factors including the results that you want and other considerations such as scar patterns. You will then undergo the tattooing procedure which is done with a medical-grade cosmetic tattooing machine or an oscillated tattoo needle. You may experience some slight swelling and redness following the procedure and it’s normal for the skin to feel tight. This will usually begin to subside within a week, depending on the sensitivity of your skin.
Are Areola Tattoos Permanent?
Areola tattoos can fade over time, and you will usually have a follow-up appointment within six to eight weeks after the initial procedure to ensure that the tattoos have healed well and to determine if any further pigment is necessary. It is quite common to need two treatments since the colour may fade over time, so further procedures might be necessary to achieve and maintain your desired colour.
The recovery time for an areola tattoo is quite short and you should be able to resume the majority of normal activities immediately afterwards. However, there are certain things that you should avoid for at least two weeks after, including swimming and using a jacuzzi or sauna, since the chlorine can alter the appearance of the tattoo during the healing stage. Use cream that will be provided to you by your artist when exercising during the first two weeks following the tattoo, to limit friction, and make sure to keep the area clean and dry.
It’s very rare for complications to arise after an areola tattoo. Infections can occur, but they are not frequent as long as you follow the aftercare instructions and keep the area clean and dry while healing. You should contact your artist and seek medical help if you experience any redness spreading from the tattoo that worsens over a few days or any swelling and heat that does not resolve by itself within two days of the procedure.
Areola tattoos can be an ideal option for people who have undergone breast surgery due to cancer. Get in touch with us today to find out more about how we can help to restore your natural breasts with areola tattooing.