I love a good Urban Legend. Mothman, the jersey devil, Nessie. Bring it on. But in body piercing, urban legends are often more harm then good. Let’s address a big one today- piercing nipples into the areola. Yes, you heard me right, and yes you did just shudder down your spine. Scarier then el chupacabra and big foot combined, this urban legend is still in practice in studios around the country and around the world. This practice is most often done to nipples on chests, but occasionally on smaller nipples on breasts as well. There was a belief in the 80’s and 90’s that if a nipple was very small, you needed to pierce some of the areola as well to have enough tissue for a piercing to be stable. And this was the solution for clients with smaller nipples. It’s also highly inaccurate, and has led to years of clients being harmed and even permanently scarred by bad piercing practices.
There is NEVER any reason to pierce the areola.
Let’s get that out of the way first. Full stop, there is no reason anyone should pierce you into your areola. Now, let’s look at why. Lets start with some simple anatomy. The areola is the term for the soft, different colored tissue around the nipple. Most folks just refer to the whole thing as their “nipple” but the nipple is in fact just the tip. On nipples on breasts the areola contains glands that lubricate the nipple during breast feeding, and under the Areola are pathways of milk ducts and glands that assist in the breast feeding process. Meaning there are important structures under there that when pierced through can cause issues (check my article about nipple piercings and breastfeeding to learn more about that)
Beyond that, are you aware that areolas twist? Thats right! If If you’ve noticed how your areola wrinkles up when it gets hard, and relaxes back flat when its soft. Nipples and areolas twist up to get hard, that’s where that wrinkly tissue is coming from. Kind of like an accordion. When someone pierced beyond the nipple and into the areola, you are pinning this tissue that needs to be allowed to move naturally. This tissue is going to continue to try to twist and turn, even when its pinned by a barbell. That means constant pressure and movement irritation for these piercings.
When folks get pierced through the areola on nipples on chests, it often leads to something called the hammerhead effect. This is large, big irritations that easily become permanent scarring on either side of the nipple. It kind of looks like a hammerhead shark, hence the nickname. This scaring is often permanent, and can cause long term issues with stretching, wearing different styles of jewelry, sensitivity and play. Definitely something to be avoided at all costs.
The piercing industry, like any industry, is always growing. We learn more and become better every day, week, and year. This piece of advice was touted as ideal a few decades ago, but we know much better now, and we’ve unfortunately seen many folks who now have permanent scars from learning this lesson. As always, its crucial to go to an experienced piercer who keeps up with current information and education, and is going to give you the correct piercings you deserve.
*A Footnote: Some reputable piercers very very rarely for nipples on chests some piercers will pierce into the areola because of very specific kink and play desires. These are the exception, and these piercings still carry incredibly high risk. They should only be undertaken by an experienced piercer, and a client willing to take on all these risks for their kink preferences. This should never be done on nipple piercings on breasts.