Nipple Piercings and the Long Haul

September 6, 2009

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As I said in the last post, nipple piercings are great all around body piercings.  (Note:  this is “part 2”– see previous post for more general info.) True to the old piercing adage, “If It Protrudes, Pierce It,” they stick out, are conveniently located for admiration and play, enhance sensuality and sensation–what’s not to like? But:

  • Nipples are slow and fussy healers. They take a long time to heal, and are prone to flare ups and crusties,even years after being pierced.

Nipples, navels, and cartilage piercings are probably the ones that take longest to heal.  Out of these, nipple piercings  seem to be the ones that really act up for the longest time.  Nipples are constantly changing shape; swelling, erecting, and relaxing with changes in temperature and arousal. This puts stress on a fresh wound with a foreign object in it.   Nipples reflect what is going on in the body and react to hormones, menstrual cycles, and health.  So perhaps it’s no wonder that the healing process can seem to go on forever.

With nipple piercings, you may experience:

–Healing to take a year or more; with the third stage of healing (toughening) to take a few more years.  (Review the stages of healing here.)

–Crusties possibly throughout the life of your piercing, apparently healed or not.  (“Crusties” are dried lymph and dead skill cells exuded by a healing piercing, which dry sharp and crusty on your jewelry.)

–Regular flare ups with menstrual cycles; and flare ups related to stress or illness.

–Frustration because they shouldn’t be played with during healing; or even relationship problems.  (Whose boobs are they?)  Healing nipple piercings should not come into contact with bodily fluids, lest they become infected.  Review how to have safer sex with piercings here.

The Bling Problem

Here’s another tip:  Nipple piercings don’t really like jewelry changes. The flesh tube in a nipple seems to be especially delicate in comparison with some other piercings, and reacts negatively to rough handling, excessive movement, and removal and insertion of jewelry.  Externally threaded jewelry (which has sharp threads being pushed through the piercing) is never a good idea in nipples.  Furthermore, jewelry tends to sit tightly in the flesh tube, which can shrink rapidly upon removal.  If you are planning to change your own jewelry, an appropriate taper and lube are advised.

I cannot tell you how many sob stories I have heard about nipples rejecting, migrating, or simply being too sore and fussy for comfort.  It’s really a shame, because healed nipple piercings are a treasure.  An abandoned nipple piercing is a sad, sad thing! In my opinion, most of these problems can be traced to improper jewelry considerations:  Wrong size, wrong material, or simply changing too often or too soon.

I hear stories about guys who take jewelry out of their fresh nipple piercings daily for soccer practice, and then they wonder why they won’t heal.  I recently saw a post about  pretty new nipple jewelry, with a picture of some very small diameter rings with gems.  Pretty indeed, but these were only 6-week old piercings, the diameter of the ring looked too small to me for comfort, and the jewelry itself did not look like good quality.  I predict an unhappy experience for this lady who may have sacrificed her lovely piercings to impatience.  Therefore:

Clouds #1 tip for happy nipple piercings is:

Make sure you have a well-fitting, premium quality piece of body jewelry in your new nipple piercing, preferably a straight titanium barbell, and leave it there for at least a year!

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Although I wear premium stainless steel barbells in mine, many of my friends report that switching to titanium has eliminated crusties and helped calm their piercings down overall.   By well-fitting, I mean that a ring’s diameter should be large enough for the part that passes through the nipple to be almost straight; or that a barbell should fit with just a little bit clearance on either side of the nipple, and the balls should not be pushed into the flesh tunnel or otherwise create a problem.  Sometimes adjustments need to be made after being pierced, so a visit back to your piercer may be in order.  As always in piercing, one size does NOT fit all, so a good piercer can order individual bars or balls to suit your anatomy.  But once you have a nice piece in there, leave it alone!

Patience with this piercing is critical.  This does present a problem for those of us eyeing those cool nipple shields or  pretty dangly/sparkly  nipple jewelry.  As always we are tempted, but we must resist!  Do not change jewelry for at least one year, and maybe more if you continue to experience unhappy nipples.  Realize that most of this type of jewelry is not meant for long-term wear, only “special occasion” wear.  And refer to the above “nipples don’t like jewelry changes.”

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Some more details to consider:

Male nipples are smaller, and may take less time to heal than female nipples. Male nipples are usually pierced into the areola.

–There are a lot of variables in size and shape, particularly in female breasts (for which there are a lot of thankful people out there); but this needs to be considered.  There’s no reason that really big breasts or big nipples; or conversely, really small nipples can’t be pierced, as long as, as Elayne Angel says, they are pliable and can be pinched up.

–You can breastfeed with pierced nipples, although for safety’s sake, usually the jewelry must be removed. You must also remove all jewelry for a mammogram.

Sea salt soaks can be a boon to pissy nipples–long flesh tunnels can trap hair, dead skin, and other debris that can be drawn out with salt soaks.  Frequent crusties must be soaked and cleaned off–frequently!

–One of the more serious consequences of a piercing gone wrong is an infection in the tissue of the female breast.  If you suspect an infection which is not responding to soaks or lasts more than a week or two, see a medical professional immediately.

–Although not as prominent as you may think, the jewelry can show through clothing, especially with thin, light colored clothing and large jewelry.  If this is a concern, minimize the profile of your jewelry as much as you can without compromising fit or healing (e.g., choose smaller balls),  pad your clothing with layers or padded bras/inserts, and break up the effect by wearing dark clothing/patterns.  And if your boss is staring at your nipples at work, you need to get a new job anyway!

–Nipple piercings may not be compatible with active sports or some lifestyles.  We  piercees couldn’t much help the guy who had to wear body armor for work, for example.  Some women swear by tight-fitting sports bras for support during the healing period (although I prefer no bras and no pressure on the piercing).

–Pierced nipples can “develop,” that is, grow larger in response to being pierced.  Not only does the insertion of the jewelry raise the profile, but the nipple can actually grow.  Although it’s not true that pierced nipples are always erect, they can become more prominent permanently, but how much is impossible to predict.  This seems to be a concern especially for men.

–For technical details on placement and sizing of jewelry, consult a good piercer or the The Piercing Bible, by Elayne Angel, as always (and all this stuff is in there anyway, so where’s your copy?)

So, is all this worth it?

Oh, Yes!  Yes,  yes!,  . . . well, you get the idea.  A well healed, perfectly placed nipple piercing is a thing of beauty, a joy to touch, and a source of potentially life-long pleasure. Pierced in a suitably sturdy gauge and well-toughened, they can withstand a good deal of rough play.  It is discrete and a perfect piercing for older or professional piercees.  It is well worth the extra care and patience to heal!

If you are interested, my 8-month old  nipple piercing (described here) is still in the second stage of healing, I think.  Although it is doing well, it is still sore occasionally, and benefits from intermittent soaking. My vertical nipple piercing, which is about (thinks) 5 years old has never given me any problem, has toughened up nicely, and has made my nipple very happy!

What are  you waiting for? Find a good piercer and do it!

fin

The copper nipple pictured above is from Ctd 2005’s photostream at Flickr.

Stock jewelry pics are from Steel Navel, with permission.


Bigger balls and a longer shaft

January 2, 2009

. . . and Cloud’s a happy woman.

I mean . . . who wouldn’t be?  😉

Another whirlwind visit to Evolution Body Piercing in Duke City!  More details to follow.


Healing Update

December 28, 2008

One week later . . .

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The chest anchor (aka microdermal, cleavage single point piercing) is being very calm.  I hardly know it’s there. It’s crusting some, but not too bad–yet.   It’s kind of an odd place for a piece of jewelry, and I’m kind of getting used to it.  I’m still not sure whether I need to hide it for work, or just ignore it or pretend it’s a stick on gem or something.

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The nipple piercing, on the other hand–

BAR TOO SHORT!

I’ll have to return to ABQ to see Noah as soon as possible to get it changed out.  The balls are sinking in to the nipple, which is not good.  (In Noah’s words, “bummer.”) I was keeping an eye on it, because I thought it might just be swelling, but–it’s definitely too short.

Sometimes there’s a bit of trial and error involved in getting the right fit for jewelry, and you never know how your body will react, either.  So I’m concentrating on keeping it clean and happy until I can get it changed out.


Anti-Experience: Pt 2

December 23, 2008

Part one can be found here.

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Marking

I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to take your time about the marking.  This is the time to communicate lifestyle considerations such as plans for further piercing near to the new one, purpose of the piercing, or what style of jewelry you would like to ultimately wear.

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Communication is key! If you have doubts, always ask the piercer.  Often they have benefit of experience and will tell you why they want to place it a certain way.  Proper placement can mean a more stable and aesthetically pleasing piercing.

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Take the time with the marking and prep work until you are comfortable.  It can be hard to assess by yourself, so having a friend give a second opinion is valuable.

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Noah is doing cleaning and prep work on me, and we discuss placement.  I also asked for an unusually large starting gauge for my nipple, 8 gauge, and he had to carefully assess whether my anatomy was suited.  After looking at my other, long-healed 8 gauge nip, he agreed to do it.

Wonderful shop that had all the jewelry I needed! ‘tho the 8 g needle and jewelry had to be statim’d.

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The Piercings

BD#1 went first with her Monroe.  It was very quick.  She let out a subdued moan, but was very brave.

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Here’s BD#1 caught in that, “oh shit” moment, right before the piercing.  Noah is well into his aftercare speech, which he wants you to focus on instead of dwelling on the pain.

Right.

Noah asked me which piercing I wanted first.  I opted for the chest piercing–ouch with the needle + a hard painful push on my chest to get the anchor inserted. Then the nipple piercing.  That was pretty painful–it seemed to take forever, but he had to push that 8 gauge needle pretty hard to get it through.  It really only took a few seconds.

In my mind, piercing is a significant event, and should be treated as such.  Pain has been a part of human transformative rites forever. You walk out of a piercing experience a different person, transformed through ritual.

So, yeah, it hurts a bit, but it’s worth it.

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The Jewelry

Dazed and Confused. Again.  Immediately after piercing, you’re so high on endorphins and jazzed and relieved it’s hard to pin down the little details.  Like jewelry and aftercare.

Make sure you know what jewelry you just bought! This can become important if you need to replace part of it, plan to stretch, or just want to buy new jewelry.  Or maybe that piercing you just got is having problems and you suspect the jewelry.   Is it stainless steel? Titanium? Who is the manufacturer?

They gave me a receipt with all the jewelry spelled out, if in abbreviations.  So, uh . . . what are all these abbreviations again? “am-at-18”? “is-tbop4”? omgwtf?

The following pics are an experiment to document my jewelry purchases.

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the surface anchor

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the barbell

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BD#1’s labret jewelry

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Bye Bye, Evolution! We’re pierced, poorer, and pumped up! Why doesn’t my town have cool places like this? We’re so podunk! Next time I’d like to have a little more time to hang out in Albuquerque.

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About two hours down the road.  Badge of courage.

A great experience altogether, but I have to say that two intense piercings, plus an 8 hour drive makes for one tired Cloud and BD#1.  Now, I can concentrate on . . . the aftercare!

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See ya!

Thank you, of course, to Noah Babcock at Evolution Body Piercing who very graciously let me take the photos during the whole thing.

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The Anti-Experience: Pt. 1

December 22, 2008

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The Anti-Experience, by Cloud.

Featuring Beautiful Daughter No. 1 and a road trip to Albuquerque to visit Evolution Body Piercing and get a Monroe, nipple, and chest anchor piercings.

Tired of the same old “experience”?

I went to the shop . . . met the piercer . . . he was cool . . . got pierced . . . it hurt like a sonuvabitch! . . . ([or] it didn’t hurt at all!) . . . got new shinies . . . blah blah blah . . . am proud.

Me, too! so — here’s my “anti-experience.”  I like to use mind-maps sometimes–they’re great for note taking, learning, or articulating a concept. (Some delicious tags for mindmaps here.) Note: This is without a doubt the single dorkiest thing I have ever done.

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Road Trip with my Bodymod buddy!

Beautiful Daughter No. 1 is my bodymod buddy. [ETA: I know it’s not “boddy” mod buddy.  No, I can’t change it now–live with it!] She’s provided moral support countless times, designed 2 of my tattoos, and even inked a few lines in another of my tattoos. . It’s so nice to have someone to hold your hand and give you a second opinion; not to mention company for the road.  I’ve driven that trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe many times, but there’s a whole lot of Nothing out here! 4 hours up; get pierced (or tattooed); 4 hours down.

Woo.

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The Studio:

We went to see Noah Babcock at Evolution in Albuquerque. Beautiful place! I love going to piercing only shops.  Noah gave good directions and it was easy to find!

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Here’s Angela at the counter who patiently explained the information about my jewelry three times.

anti-b-100_0785Here’s the beautiful lobby.  Water, plants, fish.  Jewelry! Noah gave me a tour.  He showed me the piercing rooms, sterilization equipment, the decontamination room door–all the stuff.

No, I didn’t ask to see the spore tests. Maybe next time I’ll ask and get a pic.

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Here’s Jamie, another piercer, doing packaging. Work, work, work!

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The Piercer: Noah

Noah came highly recommended and is an APP Piercer who is actively involved in developing and refining piercing techniques and jewelry, and is an industry advocate.  It’s so nice to know that the person about to stick a needle in you is very experienced and skilled. Noah has a terrific client manner, is calm, reassuring and funny.  He made BD#1 and feel I very welcome, before he shoved sharp things in us!

Tune in for Part 2–there’s still the marking, piercing, jewelry, and aftercare to go!


Ouchy post-piercing update

December 21, 2008
Lavender flowers
Image via Wikipedia

Yep.  Just a little tender and sore today.

Re: new chest anchor piercing and nipple piercing

–>   indwelling day, resting and healing. No full write up today, sorry, but I’m working on a fun “anti-experience” for ya.

–>Taking showers, anti-inflammatories, vitaminsandminerals, and care

–>keeping an eye on my nipple; I’m inclined to say the barbell is too short, but nip is swollen

–>soaking and applying cool lavender tea compresses on nip

–>big stupid rectangular red mark from wearing bandaid overnight over anchor piercing.  grr.

Pics and stuff to follow soon, I promise!


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Chesty!

December 20, 2008
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Image by mugley via Flickr

Tonight I am the proud owner of a brand new 8 gauge horizontal nipple piercing;

AND

a pretty faux-opal chest surface anchor.  Woo!!

Beautiful Daughter No. 1 got a Monroe.

More details later–sorry, no profile this week.  I’m tired tonight, but tomorrow will have a full write up of the piercing.

That brings the total number of my current piercings to 13.

But who’s counting!