| 17.9°C Dublin

My tattooed nipple is causing ripples

"TWENTY-FIRST century medicine is a wonderful thing," I said, pleased as punch with myself.

"Well, in fairness, you do deserve a nice nipple," said Patsy. Yes I do.

Having undergone breast reconstruction almost a year ago, it was time to finish off what I had started. Last October, I attended the Bon Secours Hospital where I was presented with a brand new nipple which was grafted on to my reconstructed breast, attached to my blood supply and left to settle.

The new nipple looked, for all intents and purposes, just like the old one with one exception. I had no areola.


I had never really thought about areolae before but now that I hadn't got one, I really missed it.

It was time to do something about it. I gave my breast-care nurse, Nadine, a call.

One of the many jobs that Nadine is trained in is nipple tattooing, which she conducts every Thursday morning in Beaumont Hospital.

I attended the hospital last week for my first session.

First up, Nadine measured my real nipple with a template and then applied the template to my reconstructed breast and drew a circle with a marker pen.

She then matched a pigment colour with my real nipple so that she could get as near to the colour as possible.

The tattooing takes about an hour. The pigment is applied using a hand-held pen-like device which works like a miniature sewing machine.

Nadine needs to move the device up and down really quickly to penetrate the epidermis and dermis of the skin as she deposits the coloured pigment in the dermal layer of the skin.

The colour is built up using dots, lines and a circular motion.

Luckily, Nadine has a steady and practised hand as if there is not enough penetration then the colour isn't applied properly. Too much and I could be left with some scarring.


As I have very little feeling in the reconstructed breast, the sensation was more of pressure than pain.

We chatted all through the procedure with me mostly marvelling at her skill and patience.

Afterward, I had a look in the mirror. The tattooed areola was a little darker than the real one but, as the pigment is semi-permanent, this will fade over the next few weeks (the colour fades to such a degree that it has to be topped up every year).

The nipple was bandaged and I was given an appointment in two weeks for a check-up.

The girls oohed and aahed over it. "It looks amazing," said Patsy. "It's a pity you can't show it off to everyone."

Hmmm... I could always take a picture of it and tag it on Facebook.