Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be over, but for many women the struggle continues. It is estimated that one in every 26 women in South Africa will develop breast cancer.
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Treatment can require undergoing a mastectomy in order to remove all the cancer, sometimes leaving women with breasts that look different, and some women even lose their breasts and nipples completely.
Implants can help to re-create the look of a natural breast, but this can be trickier with nipples. Areola tattoos are emerging as a further reconstructive option for women who’ve had mastectomies. Industry professionals can create lifelike nipple tattoos that offer a sense of completion and normalcy to women.
Nicol Frank, intradermal and paramedical micro-pigment specialist and owner of Blush, says that women who have come to her for areola tattoos feel liberated again after the trauma they have experienced.
‘This is an absolutely amazing technique’, says Frank. ‘Areola and nipple tattoos look so real and, because of the 3D effect, it’s very hard to notice the difference. Even better, they are completely symmetrical and vibrant. It’s a game-changer and a confidence booster.’
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Nipple tattoos: What you need to know
Proper nipple and areola tattoos are not performed by regular tattoo artists, but by highly trained technicians who have undergone permanent makeup and paramedical training. Another major difference between them and decorative tattoos is that the process is not painful, as a numbing cream is administered to the area before a needle goes near the skin.
They are semipermanent and last for about 7 to 10 years, with recommended touchups every five years. They can be performed on any skin tone. As for the healing process, it takes three days for sensitivity to subside and about six weeks for the full colour to develop. After this a second procedure is required to touch up the nipples and to make sure that the client is happy with them.
‘Our paramedical procedures are done differently to all other techniques offered,’ explains Nicol. ‘We apply safe, medically approved, EU and FDA registered pigments with a painless, short micro-needling technique in the papillary layer of the skin. The tissue and skin also heal in a healthier condition due to our micro-needling technique.’
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What Frank loves most about performing this procedure is that it offers closure to women and helps them to feel more whole again. ‘After what is undoubtedly a traumatic ordeal, this is the light at the end of the tunnel for many survivors. And I am glad I can be there for it.’