Tattooing a nipple after breast cancer: “Clients are excited to see their finished nipple”


That fear of illness and a possible fatal outcome it is accompanied by changes that, in many cases, undermine their self-esteem. The image that a woman suffering from breast cancer visualizes at the end of her hard journey confronts her in a mirror in which she sees a person whom she her hair is missing, but above all, a woman who feels mutilated.

Mastectomy –surgical operation to remove the entire breast, in prevention or for the treatment of cancer– It is one of the most aggressive interventions from the physical and psychological point of view. Carries deprivation of one or both breasts, which are parts of the body culturally conceived as symbol of women, their femininity and their sexuality. Definitely, surgeries also leave scars on an identity, in part, snatched. Hence, mitigating these losses is essential for both a pathological and personal cure.

Scalpel reconstruction

The breasts can be reconstructed using silicone or saline implants, but you can also use tissue from other parts of the body; in some cases both options are combined. But the aesthetics of the chest, in addition to its volume, includes two elements whose presence is decisive: the nipple and areola. There are operations that preserve them, and it is the least intrusive option. It’s called a nipple-sparing mastectomy, which is prescribed depending on the size and location of the breast cancer, and its shape and size. When this is not the case, the surgeon can reconstruct those parts of the chest, and this intervention, which is usually performed three or four months after breast reconstruction, aims to make the breast more like the original in position, size, shape, texture, color and projection. But the result is not always satisfactory.

There is also a second option and this is to place a silicone prosthesis adhesive and removable.

This nipple, reconstructed in the operating room, had a poor evolution. / CARBON TATTOO


The prostheses to simulate nipples are adhesive.


3D tattoos

The middle solution between surgery and adhesive prosthesis goes through the skill of a tattoo artist, and in Vigo, Miguel Castro, “Miki”, became three years ago and inadvertently one of the great references in Galicia of this type of work.

Final result of a Miguel Castro tattoo on a “clean” chest. / CARBON TATTOO


At first glance, it might be easy for a tattoo specialist to draw a nipple and areola on a woman’s breast, however, Miki takes that extreme apart. And is that to achieve a nipple with a natural appearance should achieve a 3D effect. The illustrator cannot limit himself to creating a more or less pink circle on the chest, but with techniques such as shading or pointillism, very specialized details must be achieved, trying different shades and layers to achieve the desired reliefs, both of the areola itself, and of the nipple itself. You can even get to recreate the areolar glands or Montgomery glands, as well as creating shadows on the underside of the nipple. The goal is for the breast to appear as realistic as possible.

Process from an atrophied nipple to a tattooed one, with several layers of color of different shades. / CARBONNO TATTOO


This Vigo tattoo artist makes several sketches to achieve the right tonality before approaching the tattoo. / CARBONNO TATTOO


Miki opened her tattoo and piercing studio six years ago. This illustrator, who I worked in an advertising agency, decided to take the leap. So he prepared for this job, and opened his own business in Vigo, Carbon Tattoo. The originality of their designs, your imagination and your good work They soon reported a remarkable client base to him, but he had never considered performing therapeutic breast reconstructions. Until a woman, seeing her work, asked it earnestly.

Miguel, at work in his tattoo studio. / PABLO HERNÁNDEZ Pablo Hernandez


“Three years ago a client came to the study and asked me to do them. I did not dare since it was something too important, and she had never done any, but she insisted. Told me that I was not happy with the specialists that I had consulted, that I had seen my work and that I was convinced that I could do it well. ”Miki finally agreed to give it a try.

“She she had neither nipple; there were no references, so after searching, we found a model that he liked. And I started making paper sketches and drafts until I got to what I wanted. I took it very slowly, step by step and I practiced it a lot, before making them “, remember.

This was the first therapeutic reconstruction that Miguel Castro did in his study, a woman who was missing both nipples and areolas. / CARBON TATTOO


That was in 2018, and since then, word of mouth and social media led about ten more women through the door of his cabinet, in Álvaro Cunqueiro street, to undergo an artistic therapeutic reconstruction. “Now I already have an important breast image bank to be able to choose more precisely, but I keep investing a lot of time, and testing with sketches, just like I did with the first one. The responsibility is great “, Explain.

Match the color, the most complicated

Unlike any other tattoo, drawing a nipple and an areola on the skin means getting the color right, and specifically the tonality of the drawing. “I take the photo home and try layers and layers of color, until I find the most suitable one”, he comments.

The woman had part of one of her areolas discolored, so Miguel followed the usual process of testing colors and shades to get the best result. / CARBON TATTOO


“Ocher, brown, pink … to get the ideal color I have to do an average of ten layers“, he assures.” The problem is that the tonality of the ink varies a little when it is impregnated on the skin, and that is where the challenge lies, “says Miguel. Another one has been added, regarding the tattoo of his next client: “I have to emulate a very clear nipple, and in colors like this, the ink tends to fade over time, so I’m looking for a way to make it fit and it does not spoil. ”

When the reconstruction is only in one breast, and the other is healthy, having the reference, the work for the illustrator from Vigo is less complicated; but when there is neither, the client must choose everything: nipple shape, color, size, and where you want the shadow to cast for that optical effect.

“I feel like it helped”

Although client satisfaction is the common goal that Miguel seeks in any of his jobs, “for me these types of tattoos are different, I don’t feel them the same as other orders. In this case, I feel like I’m helping and it’s what makes me feel good. In the rest of the creations, satisfaction is more linked to me, when I finish and check if it has turned out well “. Miguel Castro it refers to that ego of the artist, who in no case feeds with the therapeutic reconstructions that he carries out.

“I try to talk about other things with them”

When a woman who have suffered or suffer from breast cancer He enters his studio to get a tattoo, Miki is aware that his journey has been or is being hard, so he tries to make the time he spends there as relaxed as possible. “From the outset, I stay on the sidelines, and focus on work. At no time do I ask them about their case, and I try to create a trusting and relaxed atmosphere, talking about other topics, such as cinema, for example, so that they are a little distracted. ” However, Miguel has also had clients who have shared their fears with him and “who want to tell you how they are taking it, or how their process has been,” he says.

One of these breasts was healthy, and that was the reference to be able to tattoo the other, which lacked a nipple and areola. / CARBON TATTOO


Now is the time to see the result, and “When they see it finished, the truth is they are happy. Some of them have gotten emotional and almost have tears in their eyes”, a situation that for him is a relief, taking into account what his work implies for them psychologically.

A job that is also cheaper than its rates. “A friend told me that those tattoos should be charged more expensively, because apparently they are highly valued, but I can’t do that. What’s more, I lower the price a bit. They are people who have suffered enough, and it is the least I can do, “concludes Miguel.

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