Sexy citrus

If the phrase “living your best life” conjures up images of bedazzled nips, then you’ve come to the right place. And you’re certainly not alone: Nipple piercings have some hearty celebrity endorsements—areola style icons include Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Kristen Stewart.

But yeah, it’s totally normal if you have some questions before signing on for a nipple piercing of your own, like…

Is it going to hurt?

While nipple piercings may feel great afterward—or, eventually—the actual moment when a needle goes through your nipple feels, well, exactly as you’d imagine it to. “Nipples are packed with nerve endings, so be ready for the pain,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist.

“The pain was sharp and searing, but in the grand scheme of things, it was still manageable.”

After the fact, there’s also the potential for it to catch on something and come out (ouch!). Jaliman recommends embracing cotton bras, which should be less irritating and less subject to snag than your nylon lace collection.

Also, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be forever: “It’s not like a tattoo,” Jaliman says. “If you don’t like it, you can just take the piercing out and the whole will eventually close. There is no lifelong commitment.”

Are there any risks associated with nipple piercings?

A piercing punctures your skin, poking a hole in your immune system’s first line of defense: Wherever you get one, there will be risks. If you plan to get a nipple piercing, Jaliman says infection—whether bacterial or viral—bruising, and irritation are all possibilities.

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To avoid infection: Make sure the the tools used to pierce your nipples are completely sterile, Jaliman stresses. The area should be cleaned with a skin disinfectant or alcohol before you get started.

If you have a metal allergy, especially—looking at you, nickel—be sure the piercer uses stainless steel.

How do I find the right piercer?

Most of the prep comes down to finding a piercer who will do a good job, and with whom you feel comfortable—you’re going to be baring your breasts to this stranger, after all.

Here’s how to find the perfect piercer, as recommended by the Association of Professional Piercers (APP):

How do I take care of my piercing?

Again, your piercer should offer you detailed aftercare instructions, but you definitely want to make sure they clean the area before things get started. Jaliman recommends using “an antibiotic ointment right after the piercing and throughout the healing process.”

“Make sure to keep up with your nipple piercing aftercare,” she emphasized. For at least four (but typically four to six) weeks, Jaliman recommends using a special spray on the piercings: The APP suggests an additive-free, pre-mixed saline spray formulated for piercings, or making your own with iodine-free salt and distilled water.

As a rule, you want to avoid cleaning the area with harsh soaps, or soaps with dyes or fragrances (although if some of your body wash gets on the piercings while you shower, no need to freak out about it) for a couple months post-piercing. Instead, soak the piercing in saline solution for five to 10 minutes at least once per day.

During the first couple months, you’ll also want to skip hot baths, pools, lakes, and hot tubs (giant teeming petri dishes that they are), and cover the piercing with a waterproof bandage if you do partake, suggests the APP. Also, consider a tight cotton shirt or a sports bra for sleeping. (Again, you don’t want the jewelry getting pulled out.) For itching, Jaliman suggests an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

Expect some bleeding and some crust to form around your piercing as it heals—do not remove the jewelry to clean, because the hole can quickly close. Wait a minimum of seven to nine months before changing a nipple piercing, Jaliman says, unless you find you’re allergic to the metal in the jewelry. In that case, see your piercer to swap it out, but see a doctor if you think it’s infected. Whenever you handle your piercing, make sure your hands are washed.

What kind of jewelry should I use in my nipple piercing?

Some people have metal allergies: Avoid attaching anything made of nickel to your body, and instead opt for surgical stainless steel, Jaliman says. Titanium, platinum, gold, niobium, or certain polymers and glass are all solid options, too.

If you are getting a nipple piercing, you’re probably looking at one of three styles: A ring, a barbell, or a bent barbell.

What will my nipple look like if I take it out?

As mentioned, removing your jewelry might mean the hole closes quickly, so avoid taking it off for long stretches. If you do and it begins to heal, Jaliman says there could be a keloid (or a fleshy, raised bump—some people are genetically prone to keloid formation) or a scar.

“I accidentally ripped it out with my bracelet about a year ago—a story I hear is pretty common.”

“[It] depends on the size of the piercing one chooses,” she explains. “If someone chooses a thicker piercing, the hole will obviously be bigger and more noticeable once piercing is out.”

Can you get a nipple piercing and breastfeed?

Weed While Breastfeeding

You can, although you probably shouldn’t get a nipple piercing and immediately return to breastfeeding. Allow the piercing to fully heal beforehand, and “if one decides to nurse,” Jaliman says, “just remove the piercing before child nurses. Having had a nipple pierced does not affect the child breastfeeding or milk production.”

You do need to be hypervigilant about infection, though. Contact a doctor if you notice pain, redness, swelling, or discharge.

Okay, but what is it actually like?

Still not sure if it’s for you? These five women spill all the juicy details about their nipple piercings—from whether the pain was hellish to, yes, how the unexpected metal accessories affected their sex lives.

“I love surprising people with it.”

“I got my piercing about four years ago, during the summer after my sophomore year at college. I had wanted it for a minute, but didn’t know I would actually go through with it until I was checking in at a piercing shop about the price and logistical stuff. Before I knew it, I was topless and flat on my back as my piercer, Zoe, poked a pretty long needle through my nipple and left it there while she prepared my jewelry. That was weird.

“It hurt a lot, and honestly, if I had known what it would feel like, I may have skipped it. I am really glad I have it, though, and I love surprising people with it. It makes my nip much more sensitive, which I like, because I didn’t really have much sensitivity before. I’ve heard most women with larger breasts have less sensitive nipples. Not sure if its true, but it was for me.” —Mara W.

“The piercing definitely made me more aware of my nipples.”

“I got a nipple piercing when I was 20 and kept it in for probably eight years before I removed it. The piercing itself was not what I thought it was going to be. I’d had friends who got them and told me, ‘It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as you think it will.’ This was unhelpful; I waltzed in thinking it wouldn’t really hurt, so the pain actually caught me off guard.

“But it wasn’t just the pain—it was the whole experience. I was told an apprentice would be doing the piercing. I was like, ‘Okay. I can deal with this.’ They told me to take off my shirt and bra, so I was sitting there shirtless with my least favorite, most modest roommate and six strangers crowding around me. The apprentice picked up a needle to prep it, and his hand was literally shaking to the point where the main piercer was like, ‘Whoa. Set it down. Calm down. This is no big deal.’ Really instilling confidence in me, guys. When he picked the needle back up and was about to jam it through my nipple, the other piercer yelled, ‘STOP!’ The other piercer grabbed the needle and was like, ‘Look, it’s barbed. You do not want to use this one for the piercing.’ Finally, the deed was done. It was much more painful than I thought it was going to be because I had expected it not to hurt. The pain was sharp and searing, but in the grand scheme of things, it was still manageable.

“At the time, I was dating my now-husband, and he just rolled his eyes at the whole thing. He didn’t care one way or another if I had one, so from an ‘exotic’ standpoint, it didn’t make a bit of difference. The piercing definitely made me more aware of my nipples, and that awareness probably made me more sexually aware as well. Once it healed up, I will say it added some spice to our sex life. It made my nipple more sensitive and tingly. He could tug on it with his teeth, massage it, or flick it, and it would elicit greater arousal.”—Laura W.

“I don’t remember even deciding to get a nipple piercing.”

“I imagine it was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. I do, however, remember getting it done. The piercer was a much older man. It felt strange whipping out my breast for him, but he took it like a day of work. Now, I have an average amount of piercings—ears, nose, tongue—but, my god, the pain of a needle sliding slowly through my nipple is one that I never want to experience again.

“To be honest, I’ve found that nipple piercings only ever changed my sex life if my partner was into it. My ex would find it interesting, but my current boyfriend thought if he played around with it too much it would hurt, bless him. I actually found that it was less sensitive than my non-pierced nipple, but I guess the fact that it was there to play with made it more erotic. It seemed to be just as pointless as my tongue piercing, really, and when I accidentally ripped it out with my bracelet about a year ago—a story I hear is pretty common—I never decided to go back and get it redone. Interestingly, now that it’s not there anymore, I find that that nipple is much more sensitive than the other.” —Jess M.

“Once I sat up and looked in the mirror, I was instantly aroused.”

“It was the weirdest thing. I had a dream that I was getting my nipples pierced, and when I woke, I was intrigued by the thought of it. I started to do research, and by the end of the week I had them done. The experience was nerve-racking, of course. I was sitting in the parlor like, ‘What the heck am I doing here?!’

“I sparked a convo with a young lady who was getting her nose pierced, and that set my nerves at ease. Then, I heard my name called, and there went my nerves again. The room was cold and very sterile. I removed my top and bra and lay on the leather chair. My nipples were erect from the cold chill. The tech told me to take a deep breath, then boom. She put the bar in my left nipple, and I felt it in my toes. My adrenaline kicked in; then it was time for the right one. That was the painful one, as it’s my sensitive side. I felt the blood rush through my entire body. I lay there a while. Once I sat up and looked in the mirror, I was instantly aroused.

“The ride home was interesting. The vibration of the train was erotic. Still in full adrenaline mode, I felt myself climaxing. What a rush! My first intimate encounter was also amazing. The touch of his tongue circling my nipple and the bars made for an explosive orgasm, and it has ever since. I’m a put-together, professional caretaker and mother. The thought of this secret being hidden under my clothes is so sexy to me. I’m aroused by the slightest touch or tap, and I would not take them out any time soon!” —Yamil J.

“My partner says that they taste like metal.”

“I got them done a month apart: the left first, then the right. I’m a side-sleeper, so I figured that doing one at a time was the best approach, and I think I made the right choice. The first hurt worse, mostly because I was more nervous and thus more tense. My nipples are naturally not that sensitive, so compared to the stories I have heard from others about the pain they experienced during the piercing process, I had a pretty easy time overall.

“After getting them done, my nipples are definitely more sensitive than they were before. That’s a big bonus because I didn’t get much from my partner touching my nipples before. There definitely is a level of caution that both my partner and I have gotten used to having, but I think that a bigger issue than anything sex-related is simply getting dressed. You have to be careful taking clothes on and off, and things like open knits and mesh are usually a no-no.

“My partner says that they taste like metal, but he doesn’t really mind it or notice in the moment. Overall, I enjoy having them mostly for aesthetic purposes—they’re super cute and switching out jewelry is fun—and I see myself having them at least for another year or two.” —Chloe M.

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