Nipple Piercing

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on July 23, 2023
4 min read

Do you plan to get your nipple pierced? Make sure the procedure is done safely and that you know how to care for your nipple after it’s pierced.

Nipple piercing has some health risks. If you have a health condition or take medication that makes you more likely to get an infection or bleed a lot, nipple piercing could be riskier for you.

Longer healing time. Nipple tissue takes longer to heal than most other pierced areas of your body. It may take up to 6 months for yours to heal.

Lactation and breastfeeding. Nipple piercing could cause problems if you want to breastfeed. Scar tissue around the pierce or your nipple ring could block your milk ducts. Piercings that damage the nerves in your nipple may make it hard for milk to come out. Nipple jewelry can make it harder for your baby to latch on. Your baby might even swallow or choke on a loose nipple ring. Don’t get your nipple pierced if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Wait a few months after you complete breastfeeding.

Abscesses. A pierced nipple is more likely to form an abscess. That’s a painful, pus-filled lump under the nipple or in your breast. You’ll need to see the doctor for treatment.

Infection. Nipples are sensitive tissue and connected to milk ducts. A nipple pierce is more likely to get infected than some other types of piercings. Infections can happen well after you get your nipple or areola, the darker ring around the nipple, pierced. Like any other body piercing, unsterilized equipment can put you at risk for infection with blood-borne diseases like HIV, hepatitis B or C, or tetanus.

Torn skin. If your nipple ring gets caught on your clothes and rips loose, it can tear your skin and require stitches.

Make sure you get your nipple piercing done by a licensed professional in a clean studio. Never pierce your own nipple or let a friend do it.

When you choose a place to get pierced, make sure:

  • The studio is clean.
  • They do piercings and tattoos in separate areas.
  • A staff member asks you if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and refuses to pierce you if you say yes.
  • Nipple piercing equipment and rings are sterilized in a machine called an autoclave.
  • Piercings are done with sterile, single-use needles sealed in a packet that’s opened in front of you.
  • They don’t use piercing guns. These can’t be properly sterilized.
  • The staff member washes their hands before and after the piercing.
  • They wear a new pair of disposable latex gloves while they pierce you.
  • They give you detailed instructions on how to care for your nipple after it’s pierced.
  • Your jewelry is the right size for your nipple.

There will be some pain when you get your nipple pierced. It’ll typically be sore for a week after the piercing. You may also bleed, itch, or see swelling or discharge from the wound. Your nipple may feel sore or irritated as it heals over the next few months.

While it’s healing, keep your pierced nipple clean to prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands with antimicrobial soap and warm water before you touch or wash your nipple.
  • If you see any crusty stuff around your nipple ring, gently rinse it off with warm water.
  • After you wash your nipple, pat it dry with a clean paper towel.
  • You can also soak your nipple in a saltwater solution made of a half-teaspoon of sea salt and warm water. You can let it air dry or pat it dry.
  • Try not to let your nipple ring snag on your clothes, towels, or sheets. This could tear your skin and lead to an infection.
  • You can wear a padded bra, thick sports bra, or cotton T-shirt to protect your newly pierced nipple.

As your nipple heals, you may see some white crust. Your nipple may be sore, irritated, or itchy at times. Even after it heals, you may notice some waxy ooze or crust.

If you notice these signs of an infected nipple, see your doctor:

  • Hot, sensitive, or painful nipple
  • Nipple oozes yellow, green, or brown discharge, or smells bad
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Redness that spreads out from the piercing

Some women remove their nipple rings to breastfeed. Milk can leak out of the piercing. The hole may get smaller or close up after a few weeks. But you’ll probably be able to put your nipple ring in again after you’re done breastfeeding.

If your piercing closes up for any reason, go to a professional studio to have it redone. Don’t try to re-pierce it yourself.

Nipple piercing costs vary, so shop around. It may cost more than ear piercing. The studio will charge you for the piercing and nipple jewelry separately.

Only use nipple jewelry that’s less likely to cause an allergy. This includes metals like gold, stainless steel, titanium, platinum, and niobium. Nickel jewelry is cheaper, but it’s more likely to cause skin reactions.