Nipple Reconstruction and 3D Nipple Tattoo

Nipple reconstruction is an optional aspect of the breast reconstruction process that aims to fully restore the appearance of the breasts after treatment for breast cancer. Women who lack one or both nipples or have inverted nipples due to injury or congenital defects can also benefit from this treatment. Many women choose to have breast reconstructive surgery in order to feel complete, regain their confidence, and comfortably wear clothing following breast cancer surgery. Nipple reconstruction and 3D tattoos are “the icing on the cake”.
Nipple reconstruction typically entails fashioning a protrusion of skin on the reconstructed breast to mimic a realistic anatomical nipple structure. This treatment is performed during a separate procedure following a flap or implant breast reconstruction surgery. Patients who undergo this treatment feel that they have a natural-looking breast that makes them feel complete again. At New Jersey Breast Reconstruction Center, our board-certified plastic surgeons specialize in breast reconstruction procedures – including nipple reconstruction. Our teams have successfully performed nipple reconstruction on countless breast cancer survivors from within and out of the state (NJ).

3D Nipple Tattooing

A 3D nipple tattoo is a final step during nipple rebuilding. However, some patients will choose to have a 3-D nipple tattoo in the place of nipple reconstructive surgery. This cosmetic treatment entails the use of tattoo equipment to create a natural-looking nipple that blends in with the patient’s skin tone and color. Our nipple and areola tattooing specialists at New Jersey Breast Reconstruction Center utilize a variety of pigments to achieve a real nipple appearance following this procedure. The methodology used during tattooing may vary from one patient to the other, or depending on where the initial skin graft came from. In some cases, a number of different treatment sessions may be necessary to achieve the color tone that looks best.

DIEP Flap New Jersey

Am I a Good Candidate for Nipple Reconstruction

The results of breast reconstruction can be very artificial in appearance. Nipple reconstruction surgery is the last piece of the puzzle that adds a finishing touch and gives the patient a visual and emotional response to their restorative breast surgery. Nearly every woman is a candidate, especially if:


  • You are in good physical and emotional health.
  • You have had a prior mastectomy or lumpectomy and are looking to enhance the aesthetic outcome.
  • You have completed cancer treatment and have waited until the initial breast reconstruction surgery is fully healed.

During your nipple rebuilding consultation in New Jersey, our plastic surgeons will discuss your concerns and come up with an individualized treatment plan to yield the outcome that you are looking for.

Surgical Techniques

Nipple reconstruction surgery aims to give the nipple mound a natural anatomical pigmentation for an all-rounded natural breast look and feel. Plastic surgeons typically use various techniques to achieve the desired outcome.

  • Graft Reconstruction – Our plastic surgeons will take a flap of skin from a donor site and re-attach it to the newly constructed breast. The donor site may come from the other breast in the case of a single mastectomy, or from the labia (vaginal folds) or earlobes if a double mastectomy is performed. The tissue that creates the areola (circular pigmented skin surrounding the nipple) may come from various areas, including the inner thigh and the crease of the buttocks.
  • Flap Reconstruction – This technique entails creating the nipple shape using a flap of tissue extracted directly from the area beside where the new nipple is being placed. This method utilizes the original nipple blood supply, which can make the procedure more successful. It also results in less scarring around the reconstructed nipple-areola complex since a donor site is not required. The technique is typically performed within 3 – 6 months following the initial stage of breast reconstruction, but this may vary from one patient to the other.

At New Jersey Breast Reconstruction Center, our plastic surgeons are uniquely placed to determine which of these two nipple rebuilding techniques is ideal for you.

Recovery After Nipple Reconstruction Procedure

Nipple rebuilding is an outpatient surgical procedure that is typically performed under local anesthesia and sedation. Patients are allowed to go home a few hours following this treatment. Your breast will be covered in gauze dressings. Most patients are able to walk right away following this treatment. You may experience soreness in the treatment area but this usually goes away after about two weeks. There may also be some swelling and discoloration. Pain is not a typical side effect due to the lack of nerves on the reconstructed breast. You’ll be asked to avoid engaging in strenuous activities for at last a week. Dressings are usually removed within days. It is absolutely important that you adhere to the post-operative instructions provided by your plastic surgeon in order to ensure a smooth recovery. Once healing is complete, you may opt to have your nipple and areola tattooed to achieve a more natural look.

3D Nipple Reconst. FAQ


What is a nipple-sparing mastectomy?

It may be possible for breast cancer patients to avoid nipple reconstruction altogether by taking advantage of a nipple-sparing technique. This is a conservative approach that leaves the areola and nipple protrusion intact during the removal of the breast tissue. Women who are yet to undergo a mastectomy may discuss this option with their plastic surgeon.

Nipple reconstruction vs 3D Tattoo

Nipple reconstruction surgery uses a flap of donor skin to form a new nipple. Later, medical tattooing of the nipple-areola complex is completed in order to enhance the outcome of the reconstruction. In some cases, patients will choose to forego reconstruction altogether and instead get a 3D nipple or areola tattoo instead. Keep in mind though that cosmetic tattooing may only look realistic from a distance. If you are keen to have a more authentic feel and appearance, full nipple reconstruction is the way to go.

What results can I expect?

The result of your nipple rebuilding procedure is evident right after the surgery. You may notice that the nipple projection is a little harder to start with but usually softens over time (with healing). It is possible that the nipple may lose some of its color and projection over time. This can be addressed by having a tattoo artist refine the definition and shading of the areola.