What is Areola Repigmentation?
Areola Repigmentation is a specialty area of medical tattooing that requires advanced education, training, and experience. These procedures help improve the appearance and self esteem of both women and men who have undergone breast surgery. Areola Repigmentation techniques can “create” an areola after breast reconstruction, minimize the appearance of scars, or restore an areola to a more natural looking color and shape. Areola Repigmentation may also be called Areola Tattooing, Areola Micropigmentation, Areola Pigmentation, Areola Recoloring, Areola Restoration, or Areola Simulation.
How Areola Repigmentation Helps People After Breast Surgery
The areola is part of the human breast in both women and men. It is a circular area of skin around the nipple that is often darker and thicker than the surrounding skin. The areola plays a key role in the aesthetic look of a breast. Since a woman’s self-image can depend on the appearance of her breasts, a missing areola can be psychologically devastating. A woman can survive breast cancer after undergoing a mastectomy, and she can regain her figure with a breast reconstruction. However, she may not feel “complete” without an areola. women can become emotionally distressed from a scarred areola as well. A man’s self-esteem can also be lowered by the appearance of his chest and breasts. Areola tattooing provides the “finishing touch” after breast surgery. Patients feel the tattooing process helps them during the last part of their recovery to look complete and feel “whole” and “normal” again.
What Causes Areola Scars?
Surgical procedures on the breast can create a scar if they require an incision at or around the edge of the areola. The scar that is left is called a peri-areolar scar. Some breast surgeries also create a vertical scar from the nipple through the lower portion of the breast that may need to be camouflaged. The following are breast surgical procedures that may create a scar: Breast Augmentation or Enlargement (Augmentation Mammoplasty); Breast Reduction (Reduction Mammoplasty); Breast Lift (Mastopexy); and Male Breast Reduction (Gynecomastia).
Post-Surgical Areola Tattooing Techniques
Areola-Nipple Complex Simulation: This procedure is for patients who have had breast reconstruction after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Cosmetic tattooing techniques and color pigments are used to create the appearance of an areola. For a unilateral mastectomy patient, this process helps the reconstructed breast to match the natural breast. For patients with bilateral breast reconstruction, both areolas are recreated. Areola complex simulation can be achieved with or without a nipple button created by the surgeon.
Areola Scar Camouflage: Many breast operations require one or more incisions at or around the edge of the areola which may produce scarring. The most common peri-areolar scars are from breast augmentation or reduction surgeries. A scar’s appearance can be softened, blended, or reduced by tattooing the areola scar using corrective pigment camouflage techniques.
Areola Size or Color Adjustment: The color of an areola can be darkened, balanced, or enhanced with tattooing. The process helps women who have discolored or lightened areolas after breastfeeding or patients who have had areola graft surgery. Patients with skin discoloration disorders (e.g. Vitiligo) can also benefit from areola tattooing. Also, individuals who have not had breast surgery but are self-conscious about their areola color or size (too light or too small) may choose this procedure to adjust their appearance.
Waiting and Preparing For Your Procedure
Areola simulation or scar camouflage can be performed when your physician approves it. Scar camouflage can usually be performed as soon as six months after surgery, but you should first ask your physician. Once you have been cleared for areola tattooing, you can schedule your consultation. During your consultation, we will discuss your concerns and recommend a treatment plan that she feels will provide optimum results. We will also provide you with specific guidelines to prepare for your procedure.
Design, Color, and Spot Testing
We will work with you to select a color or colors that look the most natural for you. For scar camouflage or unilateral areola recreation, we recommend a spot color test before the actual procedure is performed. A patient’s skin tone and body chemistry will affect the healed color of their tattooed areas. Therefore, the spot test is the safest way to determine the formula for the closest color match to an existing areola. The color spot test is scheduled as an individual appointment. It should be completed four to six weeks before the actual tattooing procedure to allow for healing and color stabilization. Once the spot is healed and the color is evaluated, the areola tattooing sessions can begin. You should also keep in mind that a simulated or scarred areola will probably need more than one tattooing session to achieve the best looking result.
After Your Procedure
You will need to follow specific steps for one week after each areola tattooing session. Although you will not need to take time off from work, you should keep your recovery period and after care in mind when scheduling your procedure appointments around work, social, or travel plans.
Will I Have to go Under Anesthesia When Applying an Areola Tattoo?
Anesthesia is not necessary when undergoing the Areola Tattoo procedure.
How Long Does Applying an Areola Tattoo take?
In most cases, to apply an Areola Tattoo takes just over two hours.