Nipple Piercing Placement

This is an email exchange I had with a piercer who had some questions about his own nipple piercings:

Hi Elayne,

We spoke recently on facebook, I had just finished my piercing apprenticeship. I have a question regarding nipple piercing and since I'm not terribly experienced I figured I'd consult the greatest expert I know: you.

During my apprenticeship, I had my nipples pierced. I have larger nipples which are not very distinctive, ie my nipple blends into my areola creating the appearance of a very large nipple. Anyway, it's been 5 months and they are not completely healed- they still crust up and are a bit scabby at the fistula exit points. My new boss and I were discussing it and after examining them, he thinks that since the piercing goes slightly into my areola that they will never heal and that I might as well retire them.

I, naturally, having withstood the pain of having them pierced and dealing with healing for the past 5 months am not going to retire them without knowing for certain whether or not they are heal-able. After consulting your book and researching the issue a bit more, I disagree with my boss and I think I can heal the piercings. Perhaps this is just stubbornness/wishful thinking, but I really do not want to lose these piercings. As a trustworthy expert, I am asking for your advice. Thank you for your time.

My reply:

Thanks for writing. I've seen MANY, MANY nipple piercings in the areola that have healed perfectly fine. Sometimes it takes longer than the "average" healing time, but that is also a normal variation. Mine were pierced in the traditional placement at the base of the areola where it meets the nipple, and they still took about 9 months or so to heal fully! Though that was 1981 and the jewelry wasn't what it is today, nor was the care very gentle.

Please send photos and I'll evaluate the placement and let you know what I think of your anatomy in relation to your piercing placement.

He wrote:

Thank you so much for responding so quickly and for the reassurance. Enclosed are pictures of each of my piercings, I hope the quality is good enough for evaluation. Thanks again for taking the time to help and educate.

nipple piercing with too-small ring

My response:

Your placement is absolutely fine! There is no reason to abandon your piercings! Your nipple itself is way too small to support a piercing safely, so there was no choice but to pierce your areola.

Below are some relevant excerpts from The Piercing Bible:

If you have well-developed nipples, the piercing should be placed in the creases
at the base of the nipple where it rises from the areola. If your nipple is defined with
substantial height, the piercing can safely go in as little as 5/16 inch of tissue. If you have
flat nipples, the piercing should encompass a minimum of 3/8 inch of tissue when the
area is relaxed. If your nipples are relatively featureless, without an elevated tip, the
tissue in the visual center of the nipple should be pierced so that the jewelry will rest
evenly within your areola. (The piercing routinely extends into the areola, especially on
men, but this is still considered a nipple piercing.) If you have elliptical or odd-shaped
areolas, it is sometimes best to cheat one side of the piercing a little further from the tip
of your nipple in order to have the ring appear more centered in the pigmented area.

Your jewelry, whether ring or bar, must have some extra space for the tissue to
relax to its widest natural state, and to allow for swelling or tissue development
(see “Nipple Piercing: Post-Piercing Nipple Development,” page 131). To accommo-
date a piercing that measures just 3/8 inch across, a 1/2-inch diameter ring will be too
small if there is average development.

I do have a suggestion for you and I think you'll find it helpful in getting your piercings to heal: you need to put in either a ring of the next wider diameter, or change to a barbell I'd suggest internally threaded or with stepped threads and a taper to avoid contact with threads against the healing tissue. Make sure there is a little extra room--just 1/8"--or 1/16" on each side.

The ring that you have in is just a tad smaller than it should be for optimal healing, so it is curving a little at the entry and exit holes, which does not facilitate healing. I hope you find this helpful.


Elayne Angel, Author
The Piercing Bible--The Definitive Guide to Safe Body Piercing
Medical Liaison, Association of Professional Piercers

hola Elayne,


i have had my nipples pierced for 11 months now and my piercings have not healed. i have been tempted so many times to take them out, but i love them so much. i have barbells and they go right through my areole. i know it will take more time for my piercings to heal because i have larger breast but my areola is a different story. they are always itchy and very very very dry. i try to use cetaphil but it does not help much at all.summer time is coming and i am on the verge of taking them out again. please help with my areolas from hell!!! lol

Hi Elayne  I got my nipples pierced on saturday 11/10 and only the right side is hurting ever since the girl pierced them , the left i hardly feel it but the right nipple is tender to any touch especial to my bra , what should i do

Smanda Aukhram

Hi Elayne,

I got my nipples pierced about three weeks ago and they seem to be heeling fine. A week after getting them done I had to return to the piercing place to get longer bars because they were embeding. She said they were still very swollen. They still look the exact same, my left nipple piercing looks like I just have two balls sticking out, you cant see the bar at all. The left piercing starts in the middle of the areola on the one side but ends almost where my skin and areola meet. So I am not sure if I should go back and get them re done later on or if the way they are pierced is ok.

If you could get back and let me know I would greatly appreciate it.


Hi elayne i got my nipples pierced today one piercing went through the areola is it ok if i leave it in will it heal?

I just got both of my nipples pierced. My left one is slightly inverted and the piercer ended up piercing though my areola insted of my nipple, she also pierced it at an angle. I took the priecing out as soon as I saw how messed up it was. I know it's okay for guys to be pierced though the areola but I couldn't find any information related to this happening to girls. I want to get it redone corcetly but I don't know how long to wait and I'm nervice about it being done wrong again. 

I just got my nipple peirced and igoes in on my nipple butit comes out on my areola is this ok

i was recently wanting to pierce my own nipples and was wondering if i were going to put a 14g ring in it should i pierce with a 12g needle would that help more with the healing process?

Hi Elayne,

Please help me as I just got my nipple pierced yesterday and am very concerned it was pierced too deep.

Is it normal that it's pierced farther beyond the nipple? And not on the nipple at all? Both sides of the piercing are literally a tiny bit wider then my nipple.

The piercer told me it wouldn't hurt as badly because I have smaller nipples, and he was right. And it seems to be healing, it bled yesterday but not today. And it isn't sore at all. I am also able to turn it easily when cleaning.

Please let me know,