Breast cancer survivors opting for 3D nipple tattoos over surgical options

3D nipple tattoos are growing in popularity in Ireland, offering breast cancer survivors, who want nipples, a very realistic and less invasive alternative to more surgery.

Leah Cheung, a permanent make-up and areola artist, based in Wexford, has been doing semi-permanent make-up for three years and recently began her journey to doing areola tattoos.

Having met with cancer patients who had lost confidence or were saddened by the absence of nipples on their reconstructed breast, Leah studied the specialist technique of using tattoo ink to create a new nipple.

Leah Cheung

"I just want people to know that they CAN feel confident again, with a new set of nipples, after surgery. Patients are delighted with the realistic 3D effect created by the tattoo, and can select the exact shape, positioning and colour they want”, Leah Cheung says.

The young Wexford woman charges €150 for one areola tattoo, and €200 for two. 10% of profit is also donated to national and local breast cancer support and research charities.

Usually with a mastectomy, the nipple is removed along with the breast. For those who did not have nipple reconstruction, the option of a permanent 3D tattoo is quick, practically painless and very effective, Cheung explains.

“The artist applies colour pigments that match the natural areola, having discussed size, shape, and placement beforehand. The actual tattooing takes about thirty minutes per nipple, and the whole procedure is no more than two hours, including a dressing and aftercare instruction”.

The tattoo isn't at all painful, for most people, Leah Cheung says, as sensitivity has lessened after a mastectomy. Both men and women opt for nipple tattoos and, where needed, numbing liquid is applied to ease discomfort, and healing balm is provided.

Candidates must not be going through chemotherapy or radiation, at the time of the tattooing, and should generally leave the aesthetic procedure until at least 6 to 12 months, post-surgery.

“Everyone’s situation and type of reconstruction and scarring is different; but most people can have their nipple tattoo created around a year post-surgery, to allow for optimal healing time,” Leah says.

The price of the tattoo includes an after-care healing gel, to be used regularly at home, and a ‘top-up’ at 6 weeks. The follow-up is to make any colour change or adjustments needed, so the patient is happy with the end results, and the tattoo artist can check healing.

Healing should take around 10 days, with some mild scabbing or flaking.

Of all the creative work in permanent make-up and tattooing, Leah Cheung says that nipple tattoos are an incredibly satisfying job to undertake.

“It is humbling to help people who have undergone a mastectomy to feel sexy, confident and beautiful again, after the frightening journey of breast cancer,” she says.

Leah Cheung can be contacted on 087 1939593, by WhatsApp or online at