While it is sometimes noted that women of the Victorian Era indulged in this particular form of body modification, there is little credible evidence to support this. (More on this factoid here.) It’s more likely that nipple piercings are a modern invention. Popularized by men in the gay leather community in the 1970s, this piercing has gained popularity among all genders in the decades since. Despite what many people assume, nipple piercings do not tend to be especially painful, but they do take some time to heal and placement is crucial to ensure happy and healthy piercings.
The placement for nipple piercings is the same regardless of gender: the nipple should be pierced at its base, where the nipple meets the areola. If the piercing is done too deep, into the areola, healing times can be much longer (if the piercing heals at all) and often results in scarred and misshapen nipples. If the piercing is done too far forward, toward the tip of the nipple, there is a greater risk the piercing may migrate forward, sometimes resulting in the jewelry being removed and the piercing being abandoned. Placed properly, this piercing will usually give the wearer perky, slightly larger and much more sensitive nipples.
For women, the thinnest jewelry we use for initial piercings is 12 gauge. (10 gauge is also appropriate for larger nipples or for women interested in heavier play.) This is slightly thicker than jewelry for male nipple piercings, as women’s nipples are not only larger but are subject to more abuse from tight clothing, bras, etc. Rings can sometimes be worn after healing, but for initial piercings barbells are always recommended as they tend to be the most comfortable, least obtrusive, and most suitable for healing.
For men, the thinnest jewelry that should be considered is 14 gauge. Anything thinner has a higher risk of migration, tearing, or excessive scarring—especially jewelry that is subjected to any abuse. A 12 gauge (or thicker) piece of jewelry is suitable if the nipple is large enough, and this is sometimes recommended for the wearer who plans on heavier nipple play after healing. Though rings are sometimes worn in this piercing, barbells tend to be much easier for initial piercing and healing.
Men’s nipple piercings will usually heal in about four to six months; for women, nipple piercings can take anywhere from six months to one year to fully heal, as the piercing generally goes through more tissue. (Discharge is not uncommon for women anytime in the first twelve months, and is sometimes more common around their period—though both men and women may notice more discharge if they are stressed, getting sick, not getting enough sleep, etc.) As with other piercings, an aftercare regimen of salt water soaks works wonders to soothe sore nipples and speed healing. You will also want to avoid touching your piercings with dirty hands (and make sure your partner does the same) and, most importantly, make sure you avoid any oral contact on your new piercings until they are healed,a s this is the often fastest way to get them irritated and/or infected. As tempting—and tasty—as they look, leave them alone until they’re healed!
While this piercing does pass through thicker tissue than a few other piercings, most people—women especially—are surprised that it is not nearly as bad as they expected. Think of it as one really hard, quick bite. (Well, two actually, if you’re getting both nipples pierced.)
As far as healing and aftercare is concerned, it’s just as easy to take care of both as it is to care of one. You also save money if you do choose to get both nipples pierced during the same sitting, as we offer a discount for those getting two or more piercings at the same time. If you choose to get them done separately, however, you will still have one to play with while the other heals.
Your nipples will become more sensitive after being pierced, not less. Nerves in the nipple are spread out and not in one place that can be severed by being pierced. If it were a serious risk, there wouldn’t be as many people getting it done, and there certainly wouldn’t be as many hyper-sensitive pierced nipples out there under people’s clothes. Some people do describe a loss of sensation as they “get used to” their piercings; that their nipples are not as sensitive as they became after they were first pierced, and that they have become only as sensitive as they were before being pierced. For these clients, we often recommend inserting thicker jewelry and stretching the size of the piercing a bit to bring back a little of the initial “titillation.”
How likely your piercing is to show through clothing depends upon what type of clothing and what type of jewelry you are wearing. Barbells with small balls tend to be less noticeable than rings and nearly invisible under tight-fitting clothing. When it comes to women and their nipple piercings, padded bras hide most jewelry. But if you want to show off your jewelry—and many people do—go with slightly larger balls on barbells, and consider stretching to thicker and larger jewelry when your piercings are healed.
In almost all cases barbells are recommended for initial nipple piercings, as they tend to be the easiest to heal. For men that are physically active (working out or participating in sports), barbells are much less likely to get knocked around or caught. For women, barbells are simply easier for healing and managing under bras and other clothing.
After nipple piercings are healed, rings can sometimes be worn, but they must be large enough to not unnecessarily distort the piercing. For men, this usually means at least a 1/2″ minimum diameter. For women, this means 5/8″ or larger. However, it is important to note that for many women, rings can be problematic even after healing, as suitable jewelry depends on not only size of the nipple, but breast size and nipple location on the breast.
With any fresh piercing we generally recommend you avoid swimming for the first month. Ultimately, the risk to your piercing depends on where you’re swimming. Saltwater and chlorine may be okay for your piercing, however, other bacteria in the water may be problematic. You can never be sure how balanced the chemical levels are in anyone else’s pool—or what else may be in the water. Ocean water tends to be great for speeding healing, but the water on a beach in the tropics is not the same at the water at the Jersey Shore. If nothing else, definitely avoid hot tubs, quarries, or lakes, as here the water quality is even more questionable.
If you do go swimming during the healing process, the most important thing to do is to make sure that you clean your piercing afterward.
Almost any nipple can be pierced, including small and inverted ones. As long as your nipple stands erect when it is played with or becomes cold, it can be pierced. With smaller nipples you may need smaller initial jewelry, but nipples often grow once pierced so the piercing can usually be stretched after healing—increasing the size of the nipple as well. However, it is important to note that if your nipples are so flat or inverted they do not come up even when tweaked or cold, piercing the nipple is sometimes not recommended, as the jewelry is more likely to migrate forward or grow out over time.
Piercing a woman’s nipples does not affect her ability to breastfeed. The nipple is comprised of multiple milk ducts, not just one central channel. Your milk ducts have the ability to reroute themselves if faced with an impediment much in the same manner that blood capillaries divert around blockages. It has also been noted that women that have (or have had) their nipples pierced may even have a lower incidence of infections, irritation, or scar tissue from breastfeeding, probably from increased blood flow, hygiene, and simple “toughening up” of the skin.
That being said, you will want to avoid getting pierced if you are currently nursing or think you may be pregnant, as you want your piercings to be fully healed before the little one goes anywhere near them—and getting pierced while pregnant is never recommended.