Breast augmentation is the No. 1 plastic surgery procedure in America, increasing in popularity by 31 percent since the year 2000, and up 4 percent just since 2015. However, for as much attention that has been paid to the breast, very little has been paid to the nipple. But that may be changing, as an increasing number of women are turning to plastic surgeons for nipple augmentation procedures.
"Nipple augmentation isn’t a new procedure by any means," says Dr. Ryan Mitchell, a plastic surgeon in Henderson, Nevada. "Traditionally it was used to fix oversized or inverted nipples in both men and women, but lately it is becoming more popular both with and independent of breast augmentation or lift surgery."
The procedure, which can be done in as little as one hour under local anesthesia, is growing in popularity especially among women who have finished having children and are looking to restore their pre-pregnancy bodies.
"Pregnancy takes a toll on your body," says Mitchell. "Even if you don’t breastfeed, the pregnancy hormones and weight gain can permanently change the shape, size and even color of the nipple."
So, what does Mitchell believe is behind this sudden increase in attention to the nipple?
"Part of it is social media, part of it is fashion," he says. "Women see photos of other women or female celebrities wearing tops with exposed nipples and see that their bodies no longer look that way, or never did, and they want to change that about themselves."
He’s not wrong. Between the Instagram-famous "free the nipple" movement and the trend of matching your lipstick to your nipple color to find your perfect shade (thanks to a segment on the show The Doctors), the nipple is having its moment in the media.
"Women are realizing they don’t have to settle for feeling bad about their bodies," Mitchell says. "Some are happy to embrace how they look, but for those who don’t, they feel empowered to do something about it."