What is Areola Tattoing?
Areola Tattooing is a specialty area of medical tattooing that requires advanced education, training, and experience. These procedures help improve the appearance and self esteem of women who have undergone breast surgery. Areola tattooing techniques can “create” an areola after breast reconstruction, minimize the appearance of scars, or restore an areola to a more natural looking color and shape.
How Areola Tattoing helps People After Breast Surgery?
The areola is part of the human breast. It is a circular area of skin around the nipple that is often darker and thicker than the surrounding skin. The areola plays a key role in the aesthetic look of a breast. Since a woman’s self-image can depend on the appearance of her breasts, a missing areola can be psychologically devastating. A woman can survive breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy, and she can regain her figure with a breast reconstruction. However, she may not feel “complete” without an areola. A woman can become emotionally distressed from a scarred areola as well. Areola tattooing provides the “finishing touch” after breast surgery. Patients feel the tattooing process helps them during the last part of their recovery to look complete and feel “whole” and “normal” again.
What Causes Areola Scars?
Surgical procedures on the breast can create a scar if they require an incision at or around the edge of the areola. The scar that is left is called a peri-areolar scar. Some breast surgeries also create a vertical scar from the nipple through the lower portion of the breast that may need to be camouflaged. The following are breast surgical procedures that may create a scar: Breast Augmentation or Enlargement (Augmentation Mammoplasty); Breast Reduction (Reduction Mammoplasty); Breast Lift (Mastopexy); and Male Breast Reduction (Gynecomastia).
Post-Surgical Areola Tattoing Techniques
- Areola-Nipple Complex Simulation: This procedure is for patients who have had breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Cosmetic tattooing techniques and color pigments are used to create the appearance of an areola. For a unilateral mastectomy patient, this process helps the reconstructed breast to match the natural breast. For patients with bilateral breast reconstruction, both areolas are recreated. Areola complex simulation can be achieved with or without a nipple button created by the surgeon.
- Areola Scar Camouflage: Many breast operations require one or more incisions at or around the edge of the areola which may produce scarring. The most common peri-areolar scars are from breast augmentation or reduction surgeries. A scar’s appearance can be softened, blended, or reduced by tattooing the areola scar using corrective pigment camouflage techniques.
- Areola Size or Color Adjustment: The color of an areola can be darkened, balanced, or enhanced with tattooing. The process helps women who have discolored or lightened areolas after breastfeeding or patients who have had areola graft surgery. Patients with skin discoloration disorders (e.g. Vitiligo) can also benefit from areola tattooing. Also, individuals who have not had breast surgery but are self-conscious about their areola color or size (too light or too small) may choose this procedure to adjust their appearance.
Waiting an Preparing For Your Procedure
Areola simulation or scar camouflage can be performed when your physician approves it. Scar camouflage can usually be performed as soon as 6 months after surgery, but you should first ask your physician.
Design, Color, and Spot Testing
There is a complete assortment of hypo-allergenic areola pigment colors. We will work with you to select a color or colors that look the most natural for you. For scar camouflage or unilateral areola recreation, we recommend a spot color test before the actual procedure is performed. A patient’s skin tone and body chemistry will affect the healed color of their tattooed areas. Therefore, the spot test is the safest way to determine the formula for the closest color match to an existing areola. The color spot test is scheduled as an individual appointment. It should be completed 4 to 6 weeks before the actual tattooing procedure to allow for healing and color stabilization. Once the spot is healed and the color is evaluated, the areola tattooing sessions can begin. You should also keep in mind that a simulated or scarred areola will probably need more than one tattooing session to achieve the best looking result.