Like hand tattoos, belly button rings, septum clickers, nipple rings are quickly becoming more and more mainstream. With celebs like Kendall Jenner and Rhianna wearing their nipple piercings with pride, it’s clear that nipple rings are quickly becoming the hot new body jewelry trend.
Nipple jewelry looks great on both men and women. While guys have the ability to show off their jewelry more publicly, ladies’ nipple rings can still be seen through a tight tee or a thin-fabric top. Whether you’re looking for a new piercing, wanting to do something spontaneous, or you’re desiring something more exciting in the bedroom, a new nipple piercing could be for you!
Before you head to your piercer, nipple piercings have a few unique characteristics and aftercare procedures that you need to be aware of. We’ve put together a guide to help you through the nipple piercing process so that you can keep your ta-tas (and manly chests) healthy and beautiful.
What you should know before getting your nipple pierced
Nipple piercings take longer to heal than most other piercings, so you’ll want to take some things into consideration before making the commitment. You can expect to wait 9-12 months before it’s fully healed. We’ll go into more detail about the do’s and don’ts during healing later in this blog, but for now, know that this means staying away from bacteria-filled water (no pools, hot tubs, or baths), limited touching (sorry, no nipple play), and practicing a daily aftercare routine. If you have a tropical vacation coming up, you can’t abstain from touching, or you’re not so great at aftercare, then this might not be the piercing for you.
If you’re trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant, wait to get the nipple piercing until after you’re done breastfeeding. You can absolutely breastfeed with a fully healed nipple piercing, but breastfeeding on healing nipples can cause infection.
Timing is everything for women. Wait until you’re between menstrual cycles to get a piercing, especially if you experience tenderness or breast pain during your cycle. Getting your piercing during your cycle could mean additional discomfort.
Depending on what you wear, people will be able to see that you have a nipple piercing. For some people, this is a good thing—after all, why else would you get a piercing if people couldn’t see it?—but if you want to be more discrete, you might have to make some wardrobe changes.
It’s going to hurt. Piercing veterans describe it as one of the more painful piercings that you can get. If you have an aversion to pain, maybe rethink this piercing.
The nipple piercing process
As always, make sure that you research your piercer beforehand. Nipples are especially susceptible to infection, so you’ll want to set yourself up for success by finding a high-quality piercer, even if it’s more expensive.
Most piercers recommend getting a straight barbell nipple piece to begin with to avoid downward pulling on the new piercing. They will use an extra long barbell to allow for swelling, so if it’s initially bulkier than you were expecting, don’t worry. You’ll be able to get a smaller nipple barbell when your piercer says you’re ready (between 3-9 months).
Use high quality metals in any new piercing. Titanium is a commonly used metal, but if you have metal allergies or sensitive skin, you may want to stick with precious metals, like gold nipple rings.
Nipple piercing aftercare
You’ve been brave and gotten the nipple piercing. Congratulations! Now for the hard part: healing.
Nipple piercing aftercare doesn’t have to be a pain. If you diligently follow your aftercare regimen, you should experience few issues. For daily cleaning, use a sea salt spray. Salt is a natural antiseptic and is found in our bodies, so it’s the least invasive type of cleansing agent. Simply spray the sea salt solution on your piercing and dab completely dry with a clean gauze. Be careful not to snag the nipple jewelry lest you tear the nipple (ouch!). Make sure that the piercing is completely dry; moisture encourages hypergranulation. You should complete this at least three times daily.
During the first few months of healing, it’s a good idea to commit to two sea salt soaks per day. You can either buy a convenient H2Ocean Sea Salt Spray or make your own Sea Salt Soak:
- Mix your sea salt solution (1/8-1/4 tsp salt dissolved in 1 cup of warm water)
- Pour your sea salt solution in a small cup (like a shot glass)
- Bend over the glass, putting your nipple inside. Sit up with the glass against your skin, soaking your nipple piercing in the solution.
- Wait 5-10 minutes and do the same to the other nipple piercing (if you have one).
- Dry completely with a clean paper towel.
If you don’t have a small glass, you can also soak cotton balls or gauze in the sea salt solution and hold them to your piercing for 5-10 minutes. Be sure that the cotton ball remains soaked for the entire process, and change cotton balls if necessary.
Because an extra long nipple barbell will be used for the first few months of healing, you’ll need to protect your nipple piercing so that it doesn’t get caught and tear. Women, wear a sports bra to bed and a comfy, padded bra during the day. Men, wear a thick shirt under your clothing both day and night.
Nipple piercing no-nos
Since nipple piercings have such a long healing time, and they are on a sensitive part of the body, there are quite a few rules to follow during the healing process.
NO aspirin, alcohol, and limited caffeine and nicotine. These are all blood thinners that will make it difficult for your blood to clot should you start bleeding. Nicotine has also been shown to increase healing times.
NO touching (especially for the first month). Humans are riddled with bacteria. If you or your partner touch your piercing while it’s healing, you open yourself up to all sorts of infection. After the first month, you might be able to perform some nipple play, but be sure that hands are clean and you properly clean the area afterward using a sea salt spray.
NO twisting the jewelry. It’s tempting to twist the jewelry when natural crusties form around it, but this can cause undue irritation. Instead, gently soak the crust in a sea salt solution, and it should wash away.
NO lotion, soap, or any other chemical-laden products near the site. Lotion can clog your piercing and cause infection while the chemicals in soap and other products can dry out your skin, making you more susceptible to infection. If you experience dry skin in the area, use a diluted tea tree oil solution to moisturize.
NO late night parties. Your body views your piercing as a wound. Just like any wound, you need to get plenty of rest and take care of yourself so that your body can do its thang and heal properly.
NO changing your jewelry yourself until your piercer says it’s okay. If you think you’re ready for a smaller barbell after three months, visit your piercer, and they will either change it for you or send you home to wait a little longer. Once it’s fully healed, you can upgrade your nipple ring to a sexy nipple shield.
Nipple piercing infections
Infections are nothing to take lightly. Throughout the healing process, keep close tabs on how your nipple piercing is healing, and call your doctor if necessary (no need to feel embarrassed or shy; this is what they’re here for). If you catch an infection early, you might be able to head it off at home by upping your aftercare treatment and doing several sea salts soaks a day. You can also add tea tree oil to your soaks since it’s a natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. If you’re unsure, always err on the side of caution and go see your doctor.
Signs of infection:
- Thick, green or yellow discharge
- Odor coming from the piercing site
- The piercing site feels hot
- Excessive pain
Nipple piercings are nothing to be afraid of. Although infection, rejection, and other misadventures can happen in any piercing, diligent aftercare practices will alleviate the risks and help happy healing.