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All about Nipple Piercings

Updated on May 29, 2014
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Raye has many body mods, SFSI training, former CFR-D creds, and a decade-long stint as BellaOnline's body art editor, under her belt.

Joined: 10 years agoFollowers: 4,000Articles: 104
A man's pierced nipple
A man's pierced nipple | Source

Rings and Things

If there's one thing that US Transportation Safety Administration/passenger conflict in Texas showed, it's that even 20 years after nipple piercing started to move into the mainstream, many people still don't know anything about them. In fact, the most the average person knows about nipple piercings is probably just a vague memory of something sparkling on Janet Jackson's breast during her unfortunate "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl a few years back. These are not a casual body modification, like having ears pierced. Pierced nipples take months to heal and removing the jewelry often requires the use of specialized pliers made for opening and closing the thick rings.

This hub describes the process of how nipples get pierced and answers some frequently asked questions about nipple piercings. There's also some discussion about flying, being scanned or put through a metal detector and piercings. If you have more questions, you can ask them in the comment capsule at the bottom of the hub.

Nipple Piercing Step-by-Step

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Marking where to pierceClamping the tissueLining up to pierceInserting the ringRing ready to be closed with a bead
Marking where to pierce
Marking where to pierce | Source
Clamping the tissue
Clamping the tissue | Source
Lining up to pierce
Lining up to pierce | Source
Inserting the ring
Inserting the ring | Source
Ring ready to be closed with a bead
Ring ready to be closed with a bead | Source

How Are Nipples Pierced?

Nipple piercing is a fairly straightforward and easy body modification procedure. No anesthetics are used, as their use is regulated and restricted to doctors, so it would actually be illegal for body piercers to use them. The piercing itself takes only a few seconds.

  • First the nipple area is cleaned and marked so that entry and exit holes for the ring are located and lined up properly. The piercings are most often set at the base of the nipple, where it joins the aureola.

  • Next a medical clamp called a Pennington forcep is applied to the nipple, holding the tissue firmly and lining up the two dots for the holes as closely together as possible.

  • Then holding a cork on one side to catch the needle, the piercer quickly does the actual piercing with a slant-tip hollow needle. Nipple piercings needs to be at least 14g in thickness to prevent tissue tearing.

  • The clamp is removed and the needle is almost all the way through the piercing. Then the ring is butted up against the end of the needle and is used to push the needle out, allowing the ring to slide smoothly into place.

  • The captured bead ring is then in place and is ready to have a bead inserted between the two end and be pinched closed.

A Shared Nipple Piercing Experience

Piercing Aftercare & Jewelry

When nipples are first pierced, the best jewelry to wear is a captured bead ring. This allows for the easiest aftercare and cleaning for the healing piercing. For men, a pierced nipple can take three to six months on average to heal. For women, it can take six months to a year. Everyone's body is different, so be sure to discuss any specific concerns with your piercer BEFORE you get pierced.

Nipple jewelry should be 14g to start as thinner wire may migrate out or risk getting caught and ripping the nipple tissue. If you wish to enlarge or "gauge" your nipple piercings, it's best done by going to a professional body piercer and having the piercings sized up one gauge at a time, with at least a month in-between enlargements. Go up too fast and you risk tearing the tissue and having to go through a prolonged re-healing period.

One healed the jewelry can be changed, and with nipples there are many options. The most popular options after captive bead rings are straight and circular barbells. Make sure with straight bars that the jewelry is about 1/16" longer than the nipple diameter for comfort, and so that the ball ends don't dig into the tissue. With barbells, dangles and nipple shields can be worn. Both of these are pieces of jewelry that hang from or or held on by the actual barbell, so you'll want a tad extra length if you have either of these in mind.

If you wear captive bead rings, be sure to get special ring spreaders (a form of pliers) and ball closure pliers so that you can change your jewelry yourself. These ensure the jewelry can be opened and closed safely for the wearer and keep the jewelry from being deformed or damaged by the removal process.

The recent controversy about nipple rings and airline security stemmed from an incident when TSA security screeners in Texas forced a woman to remove her nipple rings, telling her she would be barred from being allowed onto her flight if she didn't. No one is quite sure why just nipple piercings are suddenly an air safety threat when nose, navel or genital piercings aren't considered to be an issue. Body piercings aren't detectable by walk-thru doorway-style metal detectors, but will register if a person is scanned with a hand-held wand. What this means is that hundreds of nipple piercings a day fly without being detected but pierced people who get randomly selected for extra screening may have to endure having their pierced parts inspected. Remember, inspections should be done by same-sex security agents (guys check guys, women check women) and they are supposed to request that you disrobe enough to show the nipple piercings, and they shouldn't have to touch your body.


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    • relache profile image

      Raye 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      JJ, whether you wear ring or barbells is your choice. I recommend rings for initial healing as it allows you to clean them more easily but once healed, it's whatever you want.

    • JJ 4 years ago

      Does it matter what type of rings to wear? Is it better one type then other, like curved or straight?

    • Simplicity4All profile image

      Simplicity4All 4 years ago from Rhode Island, USA

      This is great! I have mine pierced and am glad to see some good information out on them. Also thanks for the links I would like to get some new ones soon and wasn't really sure where to order some, I think im going to order the key ones you put up although im nervous to do it myself and may go to a shop. I had them done originally two years ago and after a year one came out and I couldn't get it back in so when I got them done a second time about 9 months ago Ive been a little nervous because there is no way im getting stabbed a third time haha..

    • relache profile image

      Raye 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      tcmarie, no one can predict how another person will feel pain or intensity. I always say if you are scared about how much it's going to hurt, then just don't get that piercing.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      erin, using clamps is a means of steadying tissue and aligning the piercing. Sometimes it's a matter of anatomy, sometimes it's a matter of how the piercer is choosing to pierce. Why would you think use of clamps is a legal matter? Your best answer would come from asking the piercer why they did what they did.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      JadezHunter, yes it could take up to a year to heal. Yes, you could lose sensation, but you could also become overly-sensitive too, or everything could just be fine. I tell people who are really concerned to just wait, learn more and trust their instincts. After all, piercing isn't for everyone. A piercer who becomes offended by you asking questions about the process or their skills is the one not to patronize.

    • tcmarie 4 years ago

      Hi im going in to get my nips pierced excited but scared...pple have told me horror stories!! The pain cant be worse then getting a cristian?? RIGHT?? Or can it

    • erin 4 years ago

      i got my nipples pierced at a tattoo and piercing place and they didn't use the clamps to pierce them is it illegal for them to do that in michigan.

    • JadezHunter 5 years ago

      I have wanted to get pierced for years. But I'm concerned about the length of healing time. Can it really take up to one year to fully heal?? Also, I have been told that there is a chance that I could lose ALL sensation and possibly the ability to keep an erect nipple. Is this true or a fluke? Are there any questions that I should be asking the piercer about their skill or ability? Do you think they'll get offended?

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Sarah Sells, once you are all healed, you should have no problem changing your own jewelry. At least that's been my own experience.

    • Sarah Sells profile image

      Sarah Sells 5 years ago

      Can I change my own nipple rings? I was told by a friend that I had to go back to the piercer if I wanted to change them. Is that true? I only had them done a week ago, so I have no plans to change them anytime soo.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      akoulelo, I'd recommend you go see a piercer to find out if your piercings are even open anymore or not (chances are they've healed shut) and not just explore on your own.

    • akoulelo 5 years ago

      I got my nipples pierced in Febuary 2001 and i took them out in August 2001 due to a pregnancy,and now i would like to put hoops back in should i go get repierced by a proffessional or should i try to put the hoops in myself?

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      nick, I can only guess over the internet, it would be better for you to go back to your piercer and have them take a look in person.

    • nick 5 years ago

      i got my nipple done last week and now one side of the bar appears to be deeper in the skin and the other side looks fine.. i think it due to swelling but i am not entirely sure.

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Rebecca, as I'm not a professional piercer, I can't answer your question.

    • Rebecca 5 years ago

      If a nipple is pierced with a 14g needle should you put a 14g piercing in it? Or should it be pierced with a 12g and a 14g should be put in it?

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Melinda, never wear earrings in any body piercing except for ears. Earrings are too thin and the metal is often not good for body piercings. Chances are your piercings shrunk down from wearing improper jewelry which is what gave you trouble getting new jewelry in place. There's a chance you could tear the inside of the piercing so really you want to see a piercer for help.

    • Melinda 5 years ago

      I had my nipples pierced in 2003 but they were taken out during an emergency surgery in 2009. I have been able to insert regular ear rings without a problem as the holes are still completely open. I always wore rings but have new jewelry that are bars and as I attempted to insert the first one I was unable to insert without having to force it through. It was not a bad hurt, I just wasn't sure if I was going to hurt myself. Will I cause damage by forcing it through myself? Is there any way I can do this myself without having them re-pierced? I enjoyed having them pierced and so badly want to have my jewels back in. Your help is greatly appreciated...thanks

    • relache profile image

      Raye 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      new, nipple shields put tension on piercings and this is totally not recommended while healing as you might actually encourage the piercing to migrate out or reject.

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