Nipple Piercing Information

Updated February 21, 2017

Nipple piercing is one of the most popular body piercings for both women and men. Commonly considered to be one of the most painful spots to pierce, many individuals use nipple piercings as a form of initiation, commemoration or reclamation. Many individuals with pierced nipples report that the sensation in their nipple increases after a piercing, although a small percentage of those with pierced nips say their nipple sensation has decreased.


One early nipple piercing fad occurred in the court of Queen Isabella of Bavaria (1385 to 1417), who started the trend of wearing gowns with fronts opened down to the navel. Because the breasts were bared, women began piercing their nipples and stringing diamond-studded gold chains through the holes. The late 1890s saw wealthy European women embrace a similar "bosom ring" fad. While female piercing practices have been historically popular with fashion-conscious, upper class ladies, male nipple piercing practices were typically undergone by the working-class fringe, particularly carnies and sailors. Both British and American sailors have legends of nipple piercings being performed to commemorate crossing certain longitudes or latitudes.

Placement and Procedure

A nipple piercing is typically placed at the base of the erect part of the nipple. The piercing can be placed vertically, horizontally or at any angle in between. Proper piercing procedure includes marking the points of entry and exit onto the nipple, wiping the area clean with antiseptic and tightly clamping the nipple. The piercer generally has the client take three deep breaths, and on the third exhale, the piercer pushes the needle through the nipple using the entry and exit marks as guides. The needle is attached to a thin, sharp tube that cores out the skin and tissue. Jewellery is attached to this tube and just follows the needle through.


A nipple piercing generally takes two to six months to completely heal. During this healing period, clients should follow the aftercare procedures outlined by their piercers. Most professional piercers suggest soaking the piercing in a saline solution and cleaning the piercing once a day with either a mild anti-bacterial soap or a diluted betadine solution. The jewellery and piercing should never be touched except during the cleaning process. A new piercing is an open wound that can easily allow bacteria to penetrate and cause an infection. The nipple piercing should be totally healed before the jewellery is changed.

Possible Complications

The most common complication of a nipple piercing is infection. Individuals with infected piercings should call their piercers to find out what treatment plan they recommend. On very rare occasions, an improperly placed nipple piercing can block a milk duct and trap an infection inside of the breast. Individuals who develop this condition, which is medically referred to as mastitis, should call their physicians immediately. To avoid serious complications, people taking anticoagulant drugs or immunosuppressive medications shouldn't get any type of piercings. Those undergoing chemotherapy also have reduced immunity, which makes them more susceptible to infection.


The most common starter jewellery styles for new nipple piercings are rings and barbells. Barbells tend to heal faster because they don't generally shift around inside of the piercing. Barbells need to be just a little longer than the piercing to accommodate any swelling and to make cleaning easier. Only 14 gauge or heavier jewellery should be used, because smaller gauges are more uncomfortable and tend to migrate out through the nipple. Surgical stainless steel (SSS) is the most popular choice of jewellery for new piercings because there is little chance of this material causing an infection. Other popular materials for post-healing jewellery include 18-carat gold, titanium and niobium.

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