Areola tattoos should be celebrated not censored

Written by Things&Ink

Interview by Alice Snape

“I started my career as a traditional tattoo artist back in 2009, but I wanted to offer cosmetic tattooing as I've always had a love for beauty and make-up. This medical side of tattooing was just a natural progression, I started getting clients who wanted their brows tattooing after they’d lost their hair due to chemo or because of various medical conditions such as alopecia. I had already done tattoos over scarring and mastectomy tattoo designs during my tattooing career, but offering cosmetic tattooing too opened me up to a whole other clientele and a world of people looking for options to build up their self esteem and body confidence.”

“The reasons people want this type of tattoo vary from enhancing their natural brow shape to replicating hair lost through alopecia. I also create realistic nipples on breast cancer survivors. Areola tattooing is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Being able to do something so important for someone by doing something I love so much is just the most amazing feeling. I absolutely love it. Areola tattooing is truly incredible, this type of tattooing treatment is life-changing for so many people – breast cancer survivors who are looking to feel in control of their bodies after mastectomy surgery, the trans community post top surgery, and also for those who have skin conditions such as vitiligo or skin trauma from illness or injury.”

Nipple Drawings

“I have had to start a petition though, as social media is censoring these types of tattoos, claiming they are 'violating standards on sexual and nudity' which, let's face it – with everything we see on the internet nowadays – is complete bullshit! Artists are constantly having their pages banned and photos removed from their platforms, which is so upsetting as this is where lots of potential clients find us. We rely heavily on social media for information and advertising ourselves these days. Having our work censored not only makes it difficult for the artist to share their skills and work, but it also prevents information being shared to people who might be looking for options.”

“Facebook in particular is the biggest culprit, I’ve had photos removed and my business page is constantly on the 'watch list.' I'm continuing to push my petition and speak about all these issues. I’m hoping it gets noticed.... ideally I'd like to speak with Facebook and find a way of making sure these images stay up on these platforms and raise awareness on how important these tattoos are to people.”

Tanya Facebook response

“There are so many layers of double standards and discrimintaion surrounding this subject. I feel really strongly that this needs to be talked about more and for social media to be more accomodating and supportive of this type of tattoo treatment, and also towards women's bodies. I have an issue with the claim that these images are “sexual”. I even have an issue that they are deemed “nudity.” These tattoo images posted by artists are exactly that, a TATTOO. Not real-life, naked nipples – it's a photograph of a tattoo that looks like a nipple. Yes they might look real – which is the point! – but they are still simply a tattoo. I am very mindful and respectful of my clients. I make sure that all captions and photos clearly explain that it is a tattoo, and who the tattoo is for, and yet still these photos are being taken down and banned. Just last night, I was banned from Facebook for posting this tattoo… Why Facebook? Why?”

Areola Tattoo

“There’s also a big double standard of gender – 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? It actually states in Facebook and Instagram guidelines that mastectomy images are allowed, and it also states that it's only female nipples that fall into the “sexual and nudity” category. This puts it out there, in black and white, that this is a gender issue! Which is infuriating. This attitude towards the female body is outdated and outrageously sexist. But even putting my views on women's bodies being sexualised and shamed aside, this type of tattooing and imagery isn't really on the provocative scale whatsoever, is it? This is a tattoo for someone who has survived cancer, they have endured painful surgery and treatment and lost part of their body. Areola tattooing is a huge healing stage, it marks closing a traumatic chapter in life and celebrates a new beginning of health and confidence, it helps heal emotional scars. So how on earth can this be deemed inappropriate by social media?”


“October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Medical tattooing can help survivors claim back their bodies and feel more like themselves again. It’s significant both physically and emotionally for so many people and it's important we continue to raise awareness about the options available to people after surgery and treatment. Breast cancer can affect anyone, so it's also important that we ALL check our bodies regularly.”

You can sign Tanya’s petition here.