You’ve probably taken a torn-out magazine page to your hairstylist to ask for the latest celebrity cut or color trend. But would you ever do the same for your nipples? Apparently, women are doing just that at plastic surgeons' offices—and headlight-bearing stars like Kendall Jenner are being cited as their inspiration.
According to a report from the New York Post, doctors have noticed an increase in requests for protruding nipples in recent years. Norman Rowe, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City, has even coined the term “designer nipples” to describe what’s become his specialty. (In addition to nipple projection, Dr. Rowe also helps patients who want to change the size or color of their nipples and areolas, as well.)
“They see these celebrities wearing these sheer dresses, and they would like to emulate and mimic that type of clothing,” Dr. Rowe says in the Post's video. “And they want their nipple and the areola to be presentable.” Another NYC plastic surgeon told Hello Giggles that the demand for nipple-projection procedures has risen about 20% in the last few years.
Kendall Jenner, infrequent bra-wearer and champion of the #freethenipple movement, is often cited as an inspiration for these requests. In the video, one woman says of Jenner: “You can see the pointiness, and I think there’s something really sexy and feminine about it.” Nipple-bearing snaps of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston are also included in the video.
So how exactly does one get such standout nipples—and is it safe? Health spoke with Anne Taylor, MD, an adjunct professor of plastic surgery at Ohio State University, about what these procedures involve.
In most cases, says Dr. Taylor, greater nipple projection can be achieved with an injection of cosmetic fillers, similar to Botox or lip injections. Most doctors use hyaluronic acid fillers, she says, “because they’re soft and squishy and they do the job quite nicely.” Her favorite filler for nipple injections is Juvaderm Voluma, because it produces the longest lasting results: Nipples stay firm and perky for about two years, no cold weather required.
These procedures can be done quickly, in just a few minutes, and they’re generally very safe. “Any time a patient has any injection, there are risks involved,” says Dr. Taylor. “But for this, the risks are very low.”
The most serious risk, she says, is a vascular occlusion, which can happen when a filler is accidentally injected into a blood vessel. “If that happens, the blood supply is blocked and the tissue that’s being supplied by the artery can die,” says Dr. Taylor. “Those are serious complications, but they’re also very rare and very unlikely if the procedure is done by a skilled, experienced plastic surgeon who’s board-certified.”
Less serious complications may include some temporary discomfort or irritation with newly always-erect nipples, says Dr. Taylor. “But usually the skin on the nipples accommodates for these changes and gets thicker, so it’s unlikely to be an ongoing problem,” she adds.
And of course, there’s the chance that a patient won’t be happy with her new pointy nipples, or that the trend of prominent “high beams” will fade as quickly as it began. But in most cases, says Dr. Taylor, nipple injections are reversible: An injection of another enzyme can dissolve the filler and bring breast tissue back to its previous state.
There is, however, a hefty price tag associated with these types of nipple perk-ups: Dr. Rowe charges his patients $700 and up for fillers. More long-term solutions, like fat grafts, can run even higher.
And, in case you were wondering, there’s pretty much no time when a procedure like this is ever a medical necessity. Even women born with inverted nipples don’t need to “fix” them unless they’re bothered by their appearance, says Dr. Taylor.
“For patients who truly have inverted nipples, there actually is a surgical procedure involved—you can’t make them come out with fillers, because the milk ducts are tethered and they need to be cut,” she says. “For cosmetic reasons, patients can choose to do this, but we always council them to wait until they’re done having children and breastfeeding.”
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Dr. Taylor also points out that the protruding-nipple trend may be limited to big cities like New York and Los Angeles, at least so far.
“Here in Ohio I’m not really seeing it—and it’s so interesting because my generation has spent our whole lives trying not to have our headlights on,” she says. “I’ve definitely treated women whose nipple projection was less than they desired, or who want a little more projection after breast reconstruction. But most of them are still going to wear a bra that smooths it out when they’re out in public.”
The most important thing, she says, is that anyone thinking about this procedure should see a board-certified plastic surgeon. “We see a lot of patients going to providers who aren’t experienced, maybe aren’t even physicians,” she says, “and even though we’re only talking about injections, the complications are real.”