Nipple concerns and a gallery!

This article explains some common nipple concerns and displays images of normal nipples. It has these sections:

Nipple shape worries

Many women worry if their nipple looks funny or odd or is inverted.  Some worry about hair, or those 'bumps', or the shape or the size. It's been amazing to observe how MUCH women indeed angst over these things - mostly in vain...

...because there is enormous variation in nipple and areola size and shape among normal women! For example, areola size and color varies with women. Also, areola color can appear darker when it's hot because of increased circulation, just like your skin appears redder when the blood vessels dilate near the skin in hot weather.

Bumps on areola

montgomery glandsIf you worry about those 'funny bumps' on the areola, those are supposed to be there; they are called Montgomery glands or areolar skin glands. Their function is partially unknown, but scientists suppose they secrete a liquid that lubricates the nipple/areola area.

These Montgomery glands can be about unnoticeable, OR stand out as bumps on the areola. They often become more prominent during pregnancy. Also, it appears they are white in some women.

Some women have squeezed them and can get a white substance out, but please do NOT squeeze them because that causes them to become infected.

In one study, it was noted that women with more areolar glands had better or more optimal breastfeeding start after delivery. They also noted that the glands were seen in virtually all women in the study but with great interindividual variations; their areolar distribution was nonrandom, and about 1/5 of the women had glands giving off a secretion (this is about women who have just given birth).

Hairs on areola/nipple

nipple with hair around it

Also, many women have some hairs around the nipple (on the areola). This is perfectly normal because there are hair follicles in the areola. There is no need to "treat" the hair, but if you absolutely don't like them, trim them carefully with scissors. Don't pluck them with force, because that can make them grow back thicker and darker, or cause them go become ingrown under the skin which leads to scarring. It is also possible that the hair follicle gets obstructed, which can cause a sebaceous cyst to form under the skin, or that the follicle gets infected. Apart from using scissors to remove the hair on areola, laser hair removal treatment is also possible.

nipple with hair near it

However, if the hairs are so many that they mimic the male hair pattern on chest or if they keep growing in larger and larger quantities, that may mean that the body has higher levels of androgens (male hormones) than normal. If a woman has excessive hair growing in typical male hair pattern, the symptom is called hirsutism. There are many causes for hirsutism, so please follow the link above to learn more.

protruding nipple with hair

One common cause for such hirsutism is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). However, don't use the mere existence of hair as a "diagnosis" for that but consider all the other factors and possible symptoms as well.

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Puffy or flat nipples

flat nipple

If your nipples are 'puffy' and not constantly erect they are called flat nipples. That is perfectly normal too, and fairly common among teens. Typically the nipple "sticks out" (becomes erect) when stimulated by cold, clothing, or rubbing.

This puffy or flat appearance may stay as it is until a woman becomes pregnant. For most women with flat nipples, the nipples evert (poke out) during pregnancy as the elasticity of the skin changes. Even if not, a full-term baby can usually suck out a flat nipple.

nipple on tubular breast

Also it's a total misconception that all females get erect nipples in sexual activity like men get an erect penis... not every woman does. Nipples are not to be compared to penises. The organ in females that corresponds to the male penis is clitoris, and clitoris can and does become erect (it is just harder to notice).

My nipples are puffy, well like the outside is, I guess you can say, but like my nipple does not pop out at all! Unless it's cold. Which really bothers me because guys are in love with nipples & what if one day a guy wants to suck on mine & he can't because they aren't out!


Hi Jessika,
Remember the nipple is there, and your nipples are just "flat" for now. That is fairly common in teens. Mine were flat too until age 28 when I got pregnant.

When it comes to babies, babies don't suck on nipples—they take in a big mouthful. It's not the nipple that receives the sucking action—it's the areola that they "suck" and the nipple just releases the milk.

An illustration tells this better than words. The nipple is completely inside the mouth, not visible from outside. Babies don't "nibble" on nipples. The nipple looks long because it does get stretched when nursing... but that does not hurt (I know, I have nursed 3 babies). Also, women's nipples do get larger during pregnancy.

Now, I know some guys do like to suck on women's nipples. But some won't. Keep in mind also that in a relationship it's NOT only us women trying to do everything what men might fancy or like -- YOU also have the right to tell what you like sexually, and if you happen not to like your nipples sucked, then your partner definitely should take that into account.

A sexual relationship works when both understand what the other partner likes. Most men definitely are concerned about "satisfying" their woman -- in other words taking into account what she likes and doesn't like.

Erect nipples poking through clothing

In some women, the nipples stay erect (stick out) all the time, and can easily be seen through clothing. If this bothers you, there exist "nipple covers" - little skin-colored round things made of silicone that attach to the skin and can hide the nipples from being seen. Search for "silicone nipple covers" online, or ask for them in a bra store.

"Hard nipples" - areola or nipple skin

wrinkled scrunched areola of a pregnant lady

Someone once wrote to us: "...when I get really cold, or get goosebumbs all over my body, the whole thing really scrunches up, like, my entire areola scrunches itself up into a wrinkled little mound. It looks really weird and ugly, and I haven't ever seen other people's breasts do it. What is wrong with my areola/nipples??"

Well, nothing is wrong. This is what my areola does, too. It is a normal reaction to the coldness, to irritation, or to stimulation. The little muscles in the areola do a goosebump thing similar to what your other skin does. People often call this phenomenon "hard nipples".

goosebump  knotty skin on areola Also note that the skin on areola has less feeling or sensation than other areas of your body. If the areola was very sensitive, then breastfeeding would probably be quite uncomfortable because the baby pulls and tugs it! The nipples are sensitive, but the sensitivity changes with hormonal changes, such as with the mestrual cycle or pregnancy. Also, this varies among individuals.

The skin on the nipple and areola can also be flaky or scaly, with little scales of skin coming off. This is likely just dry skin or eczema (far more likely). It could also be a symptom of Paget's disease (rare).

Areola color

pale areola

Areola skin tones are caused by two pigments: red and brown. Therefore, the resulting areola color can be various shades of pink and brown till very dark brown. Dark skinned individuals usually have a darker areola than light-skinned individuals. However, areola color also varies quite a bit between individuals. Some pale-skinned individuals can have totally pale areolas where it does not appear darker than the other skin.

During pregnancy, the areola usually darkens substantially. This will create a large contrast between the areola and the rest of the breast. Newborns have limited vision, but can see such a contrast easily, and thereby the darkened areola helps the newborn locate the nipple. In a few months after giving birth, the areola will start fading. However, it usually does not fade back to the pre-pregnancy color but remains slightly darker.

dark areola

Areola color is also known to change because of hormonal changes, birth control pills, aging, or because of certain medications.

An inverted nipple

An inverted nipple is 'turned inside' instead of pointing outside. It appears like a indentation in the middle of the areola.

inverted nipple

It is possible to "coach" the inverted nipple out so it becomes an 'outie' and everts.

If a nipple that was an "outie" suddenly inverts, this along other symptoms such as itching and pain may be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.

We've made a separate page about inverted nipples where you can read more.

Nipple piercing

Nipple piercing has become more and more popular in recent years. Nipple piercing procedure has the risk of infection, mastitis (serious breast infection), scarring, jewelry rejection, boils, risk of HIV or hepatitis transmission (from unsterilized equipment), and more (it has even led to a partial mastectomy).

The jewelry may also cause problems while wearing it because clothing you wear can catch it.

As far as breastfeeding and nipple piercing is concerned, you can breastfeed as long as you don't have a buildup of internal or external scar tissue. If you do, or if the piercing became infected during the healing process, you may have a problem with milk flow. Most moms with pierced nipples can breastfeed fine. They should just remove the jewelry while breastfeeding.

The Gallery!

These pictures are here to let you see some of the normal variations in nipple shape and areola size/shape. There are lots of variations as you can see! The photos below are by volunteers.

Women who have not been pregnant

nipple with a bump
A bump next to the nipple – probably a large Montgomery gland
young woman's nipple
She has small areola.
montgomery glands
The 'bumps' on the areola are called Montgomery glands.
nipple with hair near it
Some hairs near the edge of areola

She's in her early twenties.
nipple on tubular breast
Tubular breast – large areola
A dark areola and slightly puffy nipple of a 18-year old girl.
hair around areola
Hair around the areola

She is 31 years old, hasn't been pregnant.

A 25-year old.
acne on breast
Acne on the breast.

She is 23 years old.
a 21-year old woman's nipple with scar around the areola after breast reduction
A 21-year old; had breast reduction 7 months ago so nipple shows scars.

A fairly flat nipple.

A 30-year old woman's nipple
large areola
Large areola.

inverted nipple
Inverted nipple.
nipple and areola of a 20-year old small nipple nipple nipple
She's 23 years old.
nipple areola
a 19-year old
prominent montgomery glands nipple with hair around it
Hair on the areola edge
nipple with hair around the areola
Again, hair around the areola
nipple with prominent Montgomery's tubercles protruding nipple with hair
Hair around the areola. Click to see a larger version.
nipple with hair
Hair and a little "puffiness" but it is normal!
small nipples nipples dark nipples of a black woman slightly inverted nipple
A slightly inverted nipple

nipple nipple and areola pale areola
A very pale areola color
inverted nipple
This looks like an inverted nipple.
hirsutism around the breast and cyst on nipple
Hirsutism (hair) around the areola, plus two nipple cysts that appeared when the lady was 35. They grew slowly for about 3 months until one actually started opening on its own and she had them both removed.
very large areola
A very large areola of an 18-year old
nipple and areola
A nipple of an 18-year old
cyst on nipple
A close-up of the nipple cysts, one large and one small, one is below the other. They were easily removed by a dermatologist and left no scars.
hair around the areola
Hair around the areola
pale areola
A pale areola
oval shaped or elongated areola
Oval shaped or elongated areola
knotty skin on areola
Here, the areola skin has become "knotty", probably from nipple stimulation. In other words, we see the goose-bump effect on the areola skin when the muscles there have contracted
protruding nipple
A protruding nipple
"I was always insecure about my nipples but your site made me realize I'm not the only one and that I'm beautiful just how I am :)"
Women who have been pregnant

A 50-year old woman's nipple.
large areola
She has large areola.
visible vein in areola
You can see the bulging vein on the areola
nipple picture where you can see stretch marks on the breast too
Nipple of a woman who has stretch marks on her breasts
veins on breasts
Veins visible on the breasts

Different shape nipple - drooping/asymmetrically

Nipple with no areola
areola not symmetrical
Nipple where the areola is asymmetrical shape

Here's a wrinkly areola because of cold. Lactating pregnant woman.
montgomery glands showing on an areola of a pregnant woman
Same nipple as on the left; now montgomery glands showing well on the areola
veins showing on a large areola of a nursing mom
Veins showing on a large areola of a nursing mom.

She is currently pregnant the second time.

Pregnant, week 20, the sixth time.

A nursing mom 1 month postpartum.

A woman currently nursing a 6-month old.

This lady was unable to produce milk after pregnancy.
nipple of woman 12 weeks pregnant
A nipple of a lady 12 weeks pregnant.

A nursing mom.
nipple of woman 12 weeks pregnant
A nipple of a lady while 20 weeks pregnant.

Nursing mom
nipple nipple hair
You can see various hairs in this picture.
drops of milk at nipple
A nursing mom;
you can see drops of milk.
nipple large areola

It said that after a month putting toothpaste on your niple it will grow up one cup size. I put it on before going to bed but when i wake up its all on my clothes because i dont sleep with a bra on. So will it really help?
Thank you

THE INTERNET is an incredible source of LIES and SCAMS. No, toothpaste on nipples won't help. Total silliness!

I'm 17 & I've never been to self conscious about my nipples until my previous boyfriend said something about "pepperoni nipples". He has never seen mine & now I feel like I might have them, unfortunately I don't know what they are or what they look like. He stated that they were "really big nipples". Now I feel very self conscious & I don't know what too do or who to talk to. /:

I think what they mean by that expression is not the nipple... but the AREOLA being as large as a slice of pepperoni. Areola is the darkened area around the nipple but not the nipple itself.

I don't think that is even very big... many many women have their areola the size of pepperoni slice, and often even larger! Keep in mind, areola size increases in pregnancy so tons of women have large areolas! Look again at our gallery on this page... Yours are most definitely normal too, no matter what their size.

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