Nipples: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask

    Nipples: Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask
    Updated 09 December 2020 |
    Published 07 September 2018
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Andrei Marhol
    Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc., Lithuania
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    Hairy nipples, different types … today, we’re answering your questions about one of the most interesting parts of your breast.

    Are there different types of nipples?

    Yes, there are several types of nipples, actually.

    Nipples, as well as the shape and size of the mammary glands, vary from person to person. They can be large or small, pale or dark, different in shape (protruding, inverted, or flat), and pointing up or down.

    According to doctors, most female breasts have protruding nipples that normally stick a few millimeters above the areola and a little further during a state of arousal.

    In approximately 28–35 percent of female breasts, the nipples are flat or conical, and 10 percent have inverted nipples.

    Interestingly, the same person can have two different types of nipples. This is normal.

    Cone-shaped nipples: Do they indicate underdeveloped breasts?

    Some people have cone-shaped nipples that blend in with their areolas. 

    It is worth noting that the mammary gland of every breast will pass this stage of development. During puberty, female breasts grow and develop between the ages of eight and 13, with significant variation from person to person.

    First, the breasts, nipples, and areolas rise above the chest in the form of a cone.

    Then, generally around 16 years of age and older, the areola merges with the contour of the breast, so it no longer protrudes above it.

    However, about a third of the time, the nipples remain conical after the breast has fully formed. This can change after giving birth and breastfeeding.

    To sum it up: most female breasts have cone-shaped nipples at certain stages. For some, cone-shaped nipples remain indefinitely.

    Inverted nipples are normal!

    Sometimes, at least one of the nipples is inverted, rather than protruding. This is completely normal and doesn’t affect a person’s health in any way.

    This kind of nipple can be an innate feature or the result of breast development.

    Inverted nipples often start to protrude once the breasts stop growing or after childbirth and lactation.

    Inverted nipples require special care. Keeping them clean will help prevent infections from developing in the skin folds.

    Some people opt for corrective devices that resemble a thimble, which can help pull the nipples out.

    If your nipple was protruded but suddenly becomes inverted, consult a health care provider.

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    Can nipples look different?

    There are no identical nipples, just like there are no two identical snowflakes. Even one person can have two different nipples.

    In some people, this difference is imperceptible; in others, it's more noticeable. Sometimes, one nipple can protrude while the other one is inverted.

    Is there a reason to be concerned? It all depends on when you noticed the inverted nipple.

    If your nipple has always been inverted, it’s just a characteristic of your breasts. If your nipple has suddenly become inverted, make sure to consult a health care provider as soon as possible.

    In adolescents, nipple changes don’t normally indicate anything concerning but are often a part of normal breast development.

    Are bumps on nipples normal?

    Perhaps you’ve noticed small bumps on the areolas around your nipples. In the center, you might see something that looks like white pimples — don’t try to squeeze them!

    These bumps are called Montgomery glands, and they’re a normal part of all female breasts. For some, they are numerous and visible; in others, they are less noticeable.

    These tiny holes secrete protective skin oils, which play a major role during lactation.

    If the glands become inflamed, reddened, or release a strange fluid (from transparent to brown), consult a health care provider.

    What is the purpose of areolas?

    The pigmented area around the nipple, or areola, performs certain functions.

    The Montgomery glands located on the areola release an oily substance that protects the tender skin of the breasts from irritation and cracks when breastfeeding.

    Areolas also contain nerve endings. Their stimulation during breastfeeding triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin.

    They may be different in shape (round or oval), color (from light pink to dark brown), and diameter.

    In many people, the areolas are asymmetrical, which is totally normal.

    Hairy nipples: What to do?

    You might have noticed a few hairs around your nipples. This is also normal!

    Everyone has hair follicles on ​​their areolas. Some have tiny, fine hairs that are almost invisible, while others have numerous, more noticeable hairs.

    The presence of approximately 2–15 hairs per nipple is quite common.

    If you wish, you can remove the hairs carefully by trimming them with small scissors. Plucking and shaving may cause infection, so these methods are not advisable. Also, avoid applying depilatory creams or lotions in this area since they can cause irritation.

    Often, the hair on the areola can appear because of changing hormone levels (for example, during puberty and pregnancy, when taking medication, or with certain conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome).

    Only a health care provider can find out the precise cause.

    How to prevent nipples from showing through clothing?

    For many, protruding nipples are raised above the areola all the time. In response to stimulation or temperature changes, they harden and stick out even more.

    When this happens, they often become visible under clothes, underwear, or a bathing suit.

    Despite the fact that this is totally normal, some people feel more comfortable when their protruding nipples aren’t visible. If you choose to do so, there are a few simple ways to make them less visible:

    • Wear shirts, blouses, and tops with colorful prints or solid-colored dark clothes.
    • Opt for dense cotton and linen.
    • Choose bras with lined cups.
    • Wear scarves and shawls that cover your chest.
    • Wear strapless tops under your clothes.
    • Use skin-colored nipple covers.
    History of updates
    Current version (09 December 2020)
    Reviewed by Dr. Andrei Marhol, General practitioner, medical advisor, Flo Health Inc., Lithuania
    Published (07 September 2018)
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