Nipple Piercings: Important Things To Know First

With freeing the nipple being a thing, it’s easy to understand why so many women (and sometimes men) see a nipple piercing as something monumentally cool. 

Also some people have inverted and flat nipples and piercing their nipples can pushes the tissue up a little so they look more pronounced. Even if you have regular upward facing nipples, a body piercing there gives them more of a profile. 

But before you think so, these pointers might nip your interests in the bud or equip you with what you need to finally get the piercing: 

Healing

Initial Healing: On average, a nipple piercing needs about six months to heal. It can be quicker—say, four or five months if you care for it properly (don’t worry, those tips are coming next)—but healing is a natural body process that you can’t really rush.

Why so long? It is because your upper torso doesn’t get a ton of blood flow, and blood is what carries the oxygen and nutrients your cells need to repair trauma. “Your body builds a fistula, which is like a tunnel through the nipple that seals off both outer points so the area can heal inward,” Thompson a celebrity piercer explains. “It may seem like you’re healed after two months because things look fine from the outside, and then you might be a little less cautious or more rambunctious with it.” 

The result? You end up catching your jewelry on a top (ouch), which can cause swelling and irritation, or touching it with dirty hands, inviting infection. Since the body knows your nipples are (biologically speaking) for breastfeeding a child, your immune system can create issues. In some cases, your body could reject the piercing (it is a foreign object after all), which typically requires removing the nipple jewelry to avoid a serious infection. Expect some bleeding and some crust to form around your piercing as it heals—do not remove the jewelry to clean, because the hole can quickly close. Yellow discharge is normal and a sign of healing.

All that said, in most cases, when you’re pierced by a skilled, hygienic piercer and using high-grade metal jewelry (as in gold, platinum, or titanium), your nipples will bounce back just fine halfway through the year.

Long term healing: On average, nipple piercings take 9 to 12 months to fully heal but by now you can at least change your nipple piercing. Some people need more time for healing, particularly if they’ve experienced any issues with irritation or infection during the healing process. After a year to 15 months, your nipple piercing fistulas should be well-developed. The more time that passes without complication, the harder and more reinforced the tissue around your fistulas will become, which will lead to less soreness and make it easier for you to change your nipple jewelry.

At the first sign of infection, see a doctor right away. Signs of infection will show red streaks or yellow or green pus type discharge.  Any fluid that looks green, brown, or streaky red is a sign of infection. Also, if your lymph nodes on your chest or neck are swollen, or you feel like you’re getting sick (you have a fever or chills), see your doc ASAP.

It can also be a sign of infection if the skin around the piercing site is hot to the touch. In addition to seeking medical attention, you should also ramp up your sea salt solution soaks to 3 times per day until you’re clear of infection.

Risks

It’s rare but there is a chance your body is going to reject the piercing.  For that to happen, you have to visit a dirty and unskilled piercer, but it’s a possibility. If that happens, you’ll have to remove the piercing soon after you receive it.

A piercing punctures your skin, poking a hole in your immune system’s first line of defense. Wherever you get one, there will be risks. If you plan to get a nipple piercing, Jaliman says infection (bacterial or viral), bruising, and irritation are all possibilities. (These are the same with any body piercing, though.)

To avoid infection, since that is, by far, the most common issue: Make sure the tools used to pierce your nipples are completely sterile, Jaliman stresses. The area should be cleaned with a skin disinfectant or alcohol before you get started. 

If you have a metal allergy be sure the piercer uses stainless steel or better. After that, it’s up to you to take good care of your piercing.

Pain

Like any piercing, getting your nipples pierced will hurt. The pinch won’t last long, so if your pain tolerance is high, you have nothing to worry about.

But if you thought your ear piercings were bad AND your nipples happen to be extra sensitive, then you should really think about this. Many people who’ve endured this claim that nipple piercings are the most painful piercings since they are in such a delicate spot.

Tips Before the Piercing:

Pick a professional

Look, you have to lift your shirt to a complete stranger. It will be for a purely professional service and you’ve probably gotten your bikini area waxed before which is equally as exposing. But if you lean more toward the conservative side, you might not want to get undressed for someone you’ve just met.

Numbing cream

 If you tend to have a low pain threshold and are worried that having your nipples skewered by sharp needles could be the most excruciatingly-painful thing you’ll ever experience, relax. 

In fact, take a nice big, deep breath, too, and relax, because we have good news for you: You can numb your nips with topical anesthetic( Derma Numb Topical Anesthetic Spray) before you get pierced!

A wide variety of topical numbing creams and sprays are available that they all share roughly the same percentage of one common ingredient: lidocaine. When lidocaine numbs the surface of the skin,  you feel more pressure than pain when getting pierced through skin. 

Here’s what you do: Apply topical anesthetic such as Derma Numb topical anesthetic spray or Dr. Numb anesthetic cream safely to your nipples 20-45 minutes before you get pierced, so that your nipples are as numb as possible when you go for the piercing, Re-apply a new layer every 15 minutes or so leading up to getting pierced to get the most out of the topical anesthetic you choose.

Stress Hormones Help 

Before your actual nipple piercing(s), your body will start surging with stress hormones–namely, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). The release of those hormones is part of the body’s natural fight-or-flight response to fear. When we choose to get pierced rather than running away screaming at the sight of a needle coming towards us, those hormones can have a somewhat numbing effect on the body. Your stress hormones will desensitize you both mentally and physically to a degree, help you keep your cool, and make it so that you feel a little less pain in the process.

The trick is to use your stress hormones to your advantage. If you know you want to have both nipples pierced as long as the first one goes well, then ask your piercer to be prepared to do them in the closest succession possible. That way adrenaline is still coursing strongly through your veins.

What Piercing

Barbells are way more popular as they heal faster because they don’t move around as much. Barbells also allow for more room for swelling with at least an eighth of an inch on each side of the nipple, between the ball. This allows for the fluctuation. 

Celebrity piercer Brian Keith Thompson also says its easier to accidentally hit or pull a hoop than a barbell. Also go with an internally threaded barbell instead of an externally threaded one as the bar is smooth and won’t create irritation and tiny cuts while going in or out of the piercing.

Metal

Opt titanium if you want to save some dough because it’s hypoallergenic and rarely problematic. Gold ( rose, white or yellow) and platinum is great, too, if you want to splurge.

But be careful with stainless steel as not all stainless steel is safe. Cheap options (manufactured overseas) can be under $20, but they can have a good amount of nickel mixed in, which is a common culprit of allergic reactions. Stick to medical-grade or implant-grade stainless steel if you really love it.  Quality titanium and stainless steel barbell will run you about $50 or 60 bucks in most cities. Solid gold can be several hundreds with the piercing.

Tips for After the Piercing

It’s important to keep your nipple piercings clean and to protect them as much as possible during the healing process. 

  • Women should wear breathable cotton sports bras whenever possible or go braless. Traditional bras may irritate new nipple piercings. Some women say that it’s helpful to wear a sports bra at night, particularly during the first 6 to 12 weeks, when the pierced nipples are most sensitive. Others prefer a light cotton t-shirt, which is also a safe option for men to wear to bed after having their nipples pierced. You’ll find the right clothing for you through a little trial and error, but anything cotton is usually a safe option. The key is just to keep your chest covered without wearing anything that’s too tight and/or not made from a breathable material.
  • Sea salt solution will be your best friend throughout the healing process. A saline nipple piercing aftercare spray like Recovery Saline Spray is great for a natural and rejuvenating recovery.  Just spritz it on every few hours throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated and your nipple piercings free of debris. You should also consider doing full-on sea salt soaks twice a day, particularly during the first few months of the nipple piercing healing process.
  • Recovery Sea Salt and Tea Tree Oil Combo is great for moisturizing and antiseptic benefits. To apply the solution, fill a shot glass with it, lean forward, place the lip of the glass securely around your nipple, then sit up straight while holding the shot glass tightly against your skin. Allow your nipple to soak in this solution for 3 to 5 minutes, and then dump the solution, rinse the glass, refill it, and apply it to your other nipple for the same amount of time. You can also use store-bought solution for full soaks, too, or you can make your own solution by mixing 1/4 tsp. sea salt (aquarium salt from a pet store works well) into 1 cup of sterilized water (buy sterile water or boil tap water for 5+ minutes to sterilize it).
  • In addition to choosing the right aftercare products, it’s important to keep up your health in general when you’re waiting for any new piercing to heal. Eat lots of vitamin-rich fruits and veggies, get plenty of sleep each night, and practice good hygiene that will help you minimize contact with germs and bacteria.
  • Minimize your alcohol and nicotine consumption to keep your immune system as healthy and strong as possible. Additionally, be sure to avoid aspirin during the first week or two to prevent excess bleeding from thinned blood.
  • Avoid hot tubs, pools and ocean water.
  • Do not to touch your nipple piercings too much during the healing process. You should never touch them unless your hands are freshly washed or gloved. New piercings will secrete lymph, a colorless fluid that the body naturally produces during the healing process. Lymph will eventually dry into what we know as “crusties.” Do not try to break up or remove the crusties by unnecessarily handling or tugging at your new jewelry. As we mentioned before just soak your nipples with sea salt solution and then gently wipe away softened crusties with a clean tissue. Also, avoid nipple play and changing nipple jewelry until your piercings are well healed, so that you don’t further irritate the tender tissue around your nipple piercings.
  • Sex: Wait until your nipple piercings are fully healed before engaging in nipple play. There are a couple reasons for why it’s important to wait 9 to 12 months, even if your nipples feel fine sooner. First, until you hit the 9-12 month mark, your fistulas aren’t fully developed, which means you’re at greater risk for tearing the delicate skin inside and around your piercings. Waiting to engage in nipple play will minimize the chances of your jewelry migrating or being torn out completely.  Second, nipple play can cause microscopic tearing which is bad for healing nipple piercings, because they make you more susceptible to infection. With or without any degree of tearing, you’re at greater risk for infection until your fistulas are completely healed and well-reinforced, particularly if someone else’s bodily fluids come into contact with your healing piercings. Saliva is wrought with bacteria that can infiltrate your body through the healing wounds in your nipples. Unwashed hands from you or your partner also pose a risk to your health and the longevity of your nipple piercings.
  • Women’s bodies produce two hormones before and during menstruation that cause the breasts to swell: progesterone, which increases the size of the milk glands, and estrogen, which causes the breast ducts to enlarge. These hormones can make your breasts excessively tender during your menstrual cycle, whether or not they’re pierced. Add healing nipple piercings to the equation, and you may have a recipe for utter misery at times, particularly in the first few months of the healing process.

In the end the pain comes down to this: It’ll only hurt for a moment, and when it’s over, you’ll have an awesome new pair of piercings! True it can be sore and the healing process can be really long so you have to work around it and take good care of your new nipple piercings using aftercare. 

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