MIC PASS: The life-changing possibilities – and social media controversies – of areola tattoos

Real talk from a British tattoo artist who’s trying to make a difference from the front-lines of social media censorship

areola tattoos
Photo: Tanya Buxton

We’ve been chatting with Tanya Buxton, a UK-based tattoo artist who’s on a mission to raise awareness about – and change – social media’s censorship of medical tattooing. She creates the most realistic, amazing areola tattoos for clients who have had top surgery, who have survived breast cancer (post mastectomy), who live with skin conditions, who have vitiligo or who have suffered skin trauma from illness or injury.

In the course of her work, she’s shared her art and its results on her social media – only to discover the platforms had censored and removed it. We think this conversation is so important and want to help her spread the word; both about the fact that this super cool option is available for folkx who can benefit from Tanya’s work, but also about the way female nipples are censored across social media – even when it’s just a drawing. That’s a problem. Remember to sign her petition at the end of the article to be part of the solution.

So we’re passing the mic to Tanya, and will let her take it from here:

art | cancer | censorship
Photo: Tanya Buxton

Social Media Censoring of Breast Cancer Survivor Tattoos

by Tanya Buxton, originally published on her website

Social media censorship is a HUGE topic, and I could talk about the countless issues, hypocrisy and double standards for hours, and I’m on a mission to raise awareness and change the censoring issues surrounding areola tattooing.

Cosmetic and Medical tattooing can be used for a wide variety of reasons: from cosmetically enhancing your natural brow shape, to replicating hair on alopecia clients, and even creating a realistic, 3-D nipple on a breast cancer survivor. 

Social media are censoring these types of tattoos, claiming they are ‘violating standards on sexual and nudity’. Let’s face it – with everything we see on the internet nowadays, that’s complete bullshit!! Artists are constantly having their pages banned and photos removed from social media, with Facebook in particular beingthe biggest culprit. I myself have had photos removed, and my business page is constantly on the ‘watch list’. There are so many layers of double standards and discrimination surrounding this subject, and I feel very strongly that this needs to be talked about more in order to make social media a more accommodating and supportive place for this type of tattoo treatment – for women and other people who might need this treatment.

My first issue is ‘sexual and nudity’ :

The most important point in all of this is that these tattoo images posted by artists are exactly that – a TATTOO. No real life, naked nipples are being let loose and posted for viewers to ogle at. It’s a photograph… of a tattoo… that just looks like a nipple! Yes, they might look real (which is the point!), but they are still simply a tattoo. All the areola artists I know are extremely mindful and respectful of their clients and the imagery being used, making sure all captions and photos clearly explain that it is a tattoo, and why this client received it….yet still, our work is still being taken down and banned from Facebook. Why?

My next issue is the double standard of gender:

So, Mr Zuckerberg: Why is it okay for male nipples and topless male torsos to be posted with no issue, offense or blink of an eye – but you post a female breast and all hell breaks loose?! I personally think this general attitude towards the female form is completely outdated and sexist anyway (don’t even get me started on people being outraged by breastfeeding in public), but even putting my views on women’s bodies being sexualised and the shamed aside, this type of tattooing and imagery isn’t really on the provocative scale whatsoever, is it?! This is a tattoo for an incredible warrior who has overcome cancer; they have endured painful surgery and treatment, lost part of their body and fought their way back to health. Areola Tattooing is a huge healing stage for many people; it marks the closing of a traumatic chapter in their life, and celebrates a new beginning of health and confidence. This type of tattooing not only boosts self-esteem and body positivity, but also helps heal emotional scars too. So how on earth can this be deemed inappropriate by social media? I just can’t get my head around it! 

art | cancer | censorship

My third and final issue is the double standard of content that’s allowed:

Have you ever been scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and thought, ‘Whoah!! WTF!?!’ Yeah, me too. The amount of upsetting, explicit and inappropriate content in our feeds is not only mind-blowing, but also a bit frightening; the volume of videos or photos shared on a daily basis of extreme violence, animal cruelty, pornographic and dangerous is shocking! Yet, posting a photo of a tattoo on a courageous woman who has survived breast cancer and is taking back her body is seen as inappropriate and then removed? Come on, Facebook – you’re taking the piss!

One example of this double standard (and I use this not because I am against the page but because it is also tattoo-related) is a hugely popular Instagram page called @snake___pit. This is a light-hearted page, showcasing outrageous and shitty tattoos, with a following of nearly 650k. Now, I’m not against pages like this whatsoever (we all enjoy a good laugh at people’s stupid tattoos); but I’m wondering how a realistic tattoo of a woman giving a blowjob, a realistic vagina covered in cum, or a nun masterbating with a crufix (no, I’m not kidding!) can be deemed appropriate for our feed – while a mastectomy tattoo of a realistic nipple on a breast cancer survivor is ‘violating standards on sexual and nudity’…?

Is it a matter of popularity? Are pages or influencers with a larger following given more leniency in the content they post? I can’t understand the hypocrisy of it.

I feel these issues need addressing and ultimately, I want social media to recognise the importance of this type of tattooing, and support the artists more. Having our posts and pages removed and suspended is not only damaging to our business, but also prevents us reaching potential clients who are looking for this type of service, or trying to find more information. Our profiles on social media are hugely important, and as an artist myself, they’re how I show my portfolio to a larger audience and engage with more people who I might not necessarily have reached through word-of-mouth or my website alone. Social media allows us to network and connect with not only potential clients, but also with hospitals, clinics and charities so we can educate on the quality and diversity available through tattooing.

As artists, we’re here to help our clients, and give them the best final result. It’s time for social media and its hypocritical censorship to get out of the way. Please sign and share my petition below to help me make these types of bans a thing of the past:



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