Areola Tattoos: Empowering Art that Helps Us Heal From Within

“From decorating a scar with a beautiful piece of art to recreating a realistic 3D areola after mastectomy surgery, tattoos can help heal a person inside and out.” – Tattoo artist Tanya Buxton


Today, we’re passing the mic to our friend Tanya Buxton, the UK-based tattoo artist who’s making a huge difference in the lives of people who’ve had their bodies altered because of medical procedures. One of her specialties is incredibly realistic-looking areola tattoos over mastectomy scars – a service that helps so many people after losing an areola to a cancer-related operation.

“Most widely known for helping breast cancer survivors after surgery, 3D realistic nipple tattoos can be tattooed post mastectomy to recreate the areola and nipple. These tattoos play a vital part in the journey for survivors, helping them regain their confidence and body positivity,” Tanya says. We’ve shared some of her writing back in September, and last month when she wrote about her Celebrated Not Censored petition. Now she’s back with a new blog entry about areola tattoos!

Words by Tanya Buxton

I have seen first-hand the impact tattoos have on people, from decorating a scar with a beautiful piece of art to recreating a realistic 3D nipple after mastectomy surgery, tattoos can help heal a person inside and out. They can mark a milestone moment, symbolise a new beginning or celebrate cherished memories in a person’s life; they enable people to reclaim their bodies and transform their skin into something they love, helping them to move forward, build self-esteem and boost body confidence.

areola tattoo
Areola Tattoo by Tanya Buxton

So what is areola tattooing?

Areola Tattooing is something I feel extremely passionate about; the healing and empowering capabilities of these tattoos, for breast cancer survivors in particular, is truly remarkable. Helping to give women a piece of themselves back and feel more complete after their mastectomies. Our nipples are a part of our identity, often taken for granted, but when taken away can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence, which is why this type of tattooing is so important.

Areola Tattooing is a highly specialised tattooing skill, most commonly known for reconstructing and enhancing the nipple area for breast cancer survivors. Small sterile needles and high-quality tattoo machines are used to gently implant ink into the top layers of the skin to create a beautiful, realistic areola. These tattoos play a vital part in the healing journey for many survivors, helping them regain their confidence and body positivity.

3D Reconstruction Nipple Tattoos are also a great option for anyone who has had top surgery (also known as gender reassignment surgery), nipple reconstruction or grafts, and breast surgery where the nipple has been lost or comprised.

Areola tattooing can be used to enhance natural nipples too, adding shape, increasing size and boosting colour. Heart shaped areola have also become a popular trend, offering a fun alternative to a natural areola shape.

This form of tattooing is extremely skilled; working on scarred, radiated and delicate skin takes a great deal of tattooing experience and artistic skill to execute safely and successfully. It’s a skill that takes years to master and it’s so important it is performed by a trained artist experienced in traditional tattooing; inexperienced artists are likely to cause trauma to the skin, resulting in a poor quality and badly healed tattoo.

In the past Areola Tattooing was mainly performed by Cosmetic Tattoo Artists and Medical Professionals; referred to as ‘Medical Micropigmentation’ these types of tattoos were typically done using cosmetic pigment. Cosmetic pigment is specially designed to gradually breakdown and fade in the skin over time; making it a perfect choice for using on the face to execute cosmetic make up tattoos, such as brows, eyeliners and lips. The reason for using cosmetic pigment on the face is that it allows for changes and adjustments to be made to the cosmetic make-up tattoo as the skin ages over time.

However, using cosmetic pigment to produce ‘semi-permanent’ results is not a safe or suitable option for Areola Tattooing. Semi-permanent results mean regular ‘top ups’ are required, and over time this has a negative impact on the skin. Repeatedly disrupting the already delicate skin and scarred tissue (from surgery) can result in further damage being done, which can lead to more scar tissue being created and will cause poor healed results of the tattoo.

These regular and long-term ‘top up’ appointments are not a sustainable approach to Areola Tattooing, not just physically on the skin but emotionally on the client. For many people, having their Areola Tattoo done is the final chapter in their healing, it marks the end of their breast cancer journey and symbolises a new beginning. Having to revisit that period of time in their life, year after year, for regular ‘top up’ appointments is not only inconvenient but can also prevent a person from being able to fully move forward emotionally; not to mention the negative impact it can have on their body confidence. The women I tattoo have sought me out specifically for permanent Areola Tattoos for these very reasons; they don’t want to be reminded of their breast cancer, they want to close the door on that chapter and move forward, their Areola Tattoo symbolises this.

I have such a huge admiration for these brave women (and men) they are my inspiration every day. I think all breast cancer survivors deserve the opportunity to receive a beautifully executed mastectomy tattoo, whether it is a decorative tattoo design or a realistic 3D nipple, they should be able to celebrate their amazing bodies in any way they wish; and I’ve made it my mission to help in every way I can.

– Tanya Buxton –
areola | areola tattoos | breast cancer

With over a decade of professional tattooing experience, Tanya’s extensive knowledge and passion for tattooing make her a highly skilled and versatile artist; with client’s travelling far and wide for Tanya’s perfectionist attitude and attention to detail, as well as her warm and welcoming personality. 

Located within the heart of the Cotswolds in Cheltenham Spa, Tanya’s beautiful, private studio, Paradise, is fast becoming the go-to hotspot for all cosmetic, medical and traditional tattooing services. 

Connect with her via her Instagram or her website, which also features her amazing blog!


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