"After my double mastectomy and reconstruction, I had 3D areola tattoos done. Better than life changing, they are life NORMALIZING! When I look in the mirror I no longer see breast cancer, I just see me!  I highly recommend Housley Institute for Restorative Ink!"

-Linda W., Cincinnati



If you're considering areola restoration, there's a lot to take in and review before making your decision to find the right areola tattoo artist. So, take your time, look around, read our client reviews and check out our work.  Of course if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us!  

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"What an amazing business to have here in Cincinnati.  [Shannon's] work is beautiful and realistic looking. Her studio is clean and sterile. She has changed the way I look at myself ... I feel somewhat normal again!"

--Jan M., Liberty Township

Areola & nipple restoration

3D Nipple Tattooing, Areola Tattooing, Unilateral Areola Tattooing

 We use micropigmentation to create the illusion of a natural, three-dimensional areola and nipple.  

For women who have undergone mastectomies (whether it be a DIEP flap, latissimus flap, or implant reconstruction—with or without nipple reconstruction) this intricate intradermal pigmentation and nipple restoration helps you to recover physically and emotionally from the scars of breast cancer.

This procedure can also help men and women who have  had a mastopexy or have irregularly shaped or have faded areolas.

Transgender surgery patients often are impacted by areola areas that are now too small or misshapen post-surgery.  Areola tattooing can allow for a more natural appearance, significantly boosting self-confidence. 

Micropigmentation and 3D areola restoration can be applied in multiple ways: 

Unilateral: We mirror the color and shape of your existing areola and nipple area to create a “matching” areola and nipple on the reconstructed breast. 

Bilateral: We select a color that either matches your previous areola color or we can create a “new and improved” shade if you always wanted a lighter or darker areola. Then, we select your ideal size and shape.


3D Tattooing: If you have not undergone nipple reconstruction, our 3D tattooing will provide you with an extremely realistic areola and nipple. This 3D process can be performed either unilaterally or bilaterally.


 Appointment length: 2 hours

Healing time: 3 to 5 days

Numbing Used? Yes, a pre-numb agent and a secondary anesthetic can be used if there is any discomfort

Actual tattooing time: 30 to 40 minutes

Lasts for: 8 to 10 years

Colorboosts recommended: as needed

Follow up appointment included with appointment? Yes 

Areola Restoration Prices & Scheduling

The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998

The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) of 1998, a federal mandate, mandated coverage of reconstructive surgery following mastectomy for all health plans that provide medical and surgical benefits. This includes, but is not limited to:

  •  Reconstructive breast surgery -- defined as surgical procedures that are designed to restore the normal appearance of the breast after surgery, accidental injury, or trauma. Breast reconstruction surgery may be based on the treatment a patient receives or the extent of surgery performed.  The reconstructive surgery may be performed in a single stage or several stages/phases and either during and/or after the initial surgical procedure. 
  •  Insertion of prosthetic implants; Extensive flap reconstruction (e.g., transverse rectus abdominus ocutaneous/TRAM flap, latissimus dorsi flap)
  • Revision of a previously reconstructed breast
  • Surgery for symmetry of the contralateral (opposite) breast, and/or
  • Nipple tattooing and areola restoration 

"Shannon has a beautiful heart and is an amazing artist! My reconstruction after a double mastectomy was 5 years in the making and she made it complete with areola tattooing. I am so pleased with the results and give her the highest recommendation!"

-Melissa M., Loveland

Benefits Of 3D Areola Tattoos

Realistic Looking

Areolas provide a focal point which helps your breast look more natural. 3D areola restoration can also detract or mask the scars from your mastectomy and reconstruction.

Can Be Covered By Insurance / HSA Funds

The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires insurance to cover post-mastectomy reconstruction, including areola/nipple tattooing.  Housley Institute is listed on the National Provider Identifier (NPI) registry and can issue a Letter of Medical Necessity with the appropriate recognized billing codes so that you may submit for reimbursement from your insurance.   

Funds from your HSA are also a great way to cover the cost of areola restoration.

Can Be Covered By Insurance / HSA Funds

The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 requires insurance to cover post-mastectomy reconstruction, including areola/nipple tattooing.  Housley Institute is listed on the National Provider Identifier (NPI) registry and can issue a Letter of Medical Necessity with the appropriate recognized billing codes so that you may submit for reimbursement from your insurance.   

Funds from your HSA are also a great way to cover the cost of areola restoration.

No Downtime

Unlike nipple reconstruction, the healing process with areola tattooing is very simple. There is no down time. Your nipple tattoo will heal for 3 days beneath a waterproof Tegaderm bandage. Then once you remove it, simply keep it clean and dry for 7 days while applying an unscented moisturizer. And your areola restoration results can last anywhere from 8-10 years... to a lifetime.



BEST ADVICE: We highly suggest researching an artist's 3D areola restoration work prior to scheduling your nipple tattoo. 

Often times, areola tattoos offered by physicians and surgeons offices only consist of one to two colors and usually resemble  at best what I like to call "pepperoni" slices.   They're often performed by untrained or unskilled staff with terrible results that are ugly or do not last and fade very quickly.  

Also,  the other issue is billing. Not only will some surgeons/physicians bill the initial areola tattoo to your insurance company at exorbitant rates, but they also bill your insurance for every repeated  application.  It's not unheard of for a physician or surgeon's office to repeat the entire procedure 3... or even 4  times.  

The result? 

You or your insurance could be paying a lot for UGLY, flat "pepperoni" results through a physician's or surgeon's office than you would pay for a one-time payment to a  specialized 3D areola artist. Not to mention, you could still be reimbursed through your insurance company regardless, even if are tattooed by an independent cosmetic tattoo artist.

If you've had previously unsatisfactory results from a physician or surgeon's office, we can help! Please schedule a consultation and we can discuss what corrective measures can be taken to improve and help you reach your desired look.

3D areola tattoo micropigmentation

The most common thing we hear from our patients is:

"It looks SO real! Why did I wait so long to do this!?"


Mastopexy Scars

With this patient, we were able to help camouflage the scar from her mastopexy.  We matched the color of her natural areola and blended it into the surrounding scar tissue.  While the scar is contracted immediately following the areola tattoo procedure (as shown in the picture), it will heal much softer--giving the appearance of a rounder areola and drawing the eye away from the surgical scar. 


3D — Before and After

Once the color is determined and the areola area is outlined, we begin the areola tattoo by adding base pigment to the areola. With an artistic eye, we start building depth into the nipple area. The result is a very realistic appearance--even on this patient who did not undergo nipple/areola reconstruction and had no nipple protrusion.

Have Questions?

If you're considering 3D areola restoration, download our 3D Areola Tattooing brochure today and review the pre- and post-procedure aftercare. You'll learn which options are best for you and get answers to the most frequently asked questions.




 You should schedule your nipple tattoo only once you are completely healed from any surgery or  invasive procedure. You should not have any additional revisions scheduled and you must receive approval for areola tattooing from your surgeon.  You must be fully healed with no scabbing remaining. You should not schedule an areola tattoo sooner than a minimum of 12 weeks post-op.  Regardless of the number of weeks you wait post-op (12, 16, 20+ weeks etc.), it is imperative that ALL incisions must be fully healed--without any scabbing and residual swelling must be gone. 

While you may be excited to put the finishing touches on your reconstruction, we highly recommend waiting 3 months (ideal for implant reconstruction) or 5 months (for flap reconstruction) to allow healing to occur and the scars to fully close and settle slightly.  Your tattoo is the finishing touch and you want your breast to be fully healed so that you have excellent results. Please don't rush it if you are still healing.  


The first step of your areola tattoo is the consultation. Once you complete the general medical history form and the tattoo consent form, we'll discuss your expectations and your reconstruction history. I'll take as much time as needed to answer all of your questions.

Before photos are required. Your face will not be included, but photos of your areola restoration are mandatory for your record. Once we have before pictures completed, we move on to the design part, where we select the size, placement, and color of your nipple tattoo.

The next step in the appointment is the actual tattooing. Each areola is completed in approximately 20 minutes. If you have any discomfort, I simply apply a topical anesthetic and you should be more comfortable after that.

Following the tattooing phase, we'll take "after" photos and then I'll apply the Tegaderm bandage which you'll keep on for 3 days. I'll review all aftercare instructions with you and answer any remaining questions about healing. 


Your session will take approximately 2 to 2.5 hours total. The bulk of the appointment is spent on the consultation, design, and color selection. The actual tattooing process is typically only 20 minutes per areola.


  •  Do not use recreational drugs or alcohol for 48 hrs prior to procedure.
  • Nicotine constricts your vascular system and will  impede healing.  We suggest that you abstain from smoking at least 2 weeks before and after your session.
  • You will be sent home in a Tegaderm bandage so your tattoo will be protected. You will be most comfortable if you wear a loose-fitting top. You are free to wear a bra if you are more comfortable in one than without. 
  • Do not take aspirin or NSAID at least 24 hours prior to your appointment. Tylenol is OK, as it does not thin the blood.  However, DO NOT STOP regularly  prescribed blood thinning medications from your physician, (aspirin or  prescriptions).  The tattoo is a superficial procedure, not an invasive  surgery.
  • You must wait at least 6 weeks after ceasing chemotherapy. If it's any sooner than 6 weeks, you must have written consent from your physician prior to your appointment.
  • Skin must be completely free of tinted or self-tanning lotions. I'd suggest to stop using self-tanning lotions at least 2 weeks prior to your appointment.


 While everyone's pain tolerance is different, most patients report little to no pain with areola restoration.   And depending on the type of breast reconstruction you  had, there usually is decreased sensation of the skin --especially with flap reconstructions. After your areola tattoo,  you might experience discomfort that is comparable  to a minor sunburn for a few days.  During the nipple tattoo, if you experience discomfort, we can apply a topical lidocaine anesthetic. 


 If you have a spouse or good friend who can lend encouragement and input on the shape, design, and color of your 3D areola tattoo, I highly suggest bringing a support person with you.  However, if you are more comfortable coming alone for your areola restoration, you can work directly with the artist to determine what is best for your nipple tattoo.  Please do not bring young children.

What Others Are Saying

 I just had my 3D areola tattoos done by Shannon Housley this week and  unveiled them today for the first time. They are beyond amazing. I never  dreamed they would look so real and perfect. Shannon does amazing work  and is very compassionate and caring. She made me feel very comfortable  and relaxed, and took extra time to make sure everything was just  right.The environment is very clean and relaxing and I would highly  recommend her to everyone. She has given me the final touch to make me  feel whole again after my recent Breast Cancer journey. 💕She’s truly an angel.  -- Stephanie S.

Schedule Your Areola Tattoo Consultation Today