What you might not know about your nipples, but should
Earlier this month, more than 300 protestors marched topless in New York City for the GoTopless Pride Parade. The event was a response to Mayor Bill deBlasio’s and police commissioner Bill Bratton’s recent statement that topless women covered in body paint are a “nuisance.” He wasn’t the only one who took issue with women going topless in the city (where it’s totally legal, FYI). According The Guardian, “Governor Andrew Cuomo says the practice harkens to the pornographic ‘bad old Times Square’ of the past.” The problem with these statements? They continue to stigmatize and sexualize female nipples.
The nipple conversation has been ongoing for awhile now — the #FreeTheNipple campaign started in 2014 when filmmaker Lina Esco called attention to how our culture talks about and treats the female nipple. If men can legally walk around topless, why can’t women? The movement grew, empowering women to bare their chests and challenge the nipple taboo currently in place.
But nipples aren’t just a social movement —they’re an incredibly important part of the female human body. And we need to talk about them, because there are a lot of facts many of us don’t know. Here are ten for starters:
1. There is no such thing as a “perfect nipple.”
Just like there’s no such thing as a perfect breast (despite what the media may show you). Nipples come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. Dr. Jane O’Brien can verify this because she’s a breast and oncoplastic surgeon, which means that she examines women’s breasts for a living. “I can confirm that the variations in normal breasts and nipples are endless,” she writes.
2. Important: there is nothing wrong with you if you have nipple hair.
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin—an OB/GYN in New Haven, Connecticut—explains that close to 30% of women have nipple hair and it’s all due to genetics. To answer your next possible question: yes, you can tweeze, laser, or trim them just like you would with other body hairs –or you can leave ’em just the way they are!
3. If you see small bumps around the nipple, just below the surface of your areola, those are your Montgomery’s Glands.
4. Your bellybutton isn’t the only body part that can fall into the “innie” or “outtie” categories.
Your nipples can, too! And just like with our navels, both are completely fine. “Some people may feel awkward about having ‘innies’ because their nipples look different, or appear to be hiding or shy,” explains Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice! team. “Fortunately, no medical problems are associated with being born with inverted nipples; however, one thing to note is that for some women, inverted nipples can sometimes make it difficult to breastfeed since a baby latches on more easily to an erect nipple.”
5. Polythelia is a nipple-related condition that affects 1-5% of the human population.
By definition, it is: “the condition of having more than the normal number of nipples.” But, really, who’s to say what’s “normal” when it comes to our beautifully unique bodies?
6. Keep an eye on your nipples —any changes could be warning sign for cancer
According to the Susan G. Komen website, it’s important to keep tabs on any breast or nipple changes. Such as “Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple,” “Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast,” “and “Nipple discharge that starts suddenly.” If you have any concerns, it’s best to ask your doctor.
7. Even if you’re not pregnant or breastfeeding, you can still experience nipple discharge.
According to Dr. Leah S. Gendler—a breast surgeon at New Jersey’s Morristown Medical Center—this can happen to most women if the nipple is squeezed. Luckily, it’s nothing to worry about. BUT, if the discharge is bloody or is only coming from one breast, Gendler advises that you make an appointment with a health care professional ASAP.
8. If you’re into exercising, make sure that you’re wearing the right sports bra because nipple chafing is a real thing.
According to the New York Daily News’ Running Doc, here are some rules that you should follow: (1) Avoid cotton because it retains moisture and a soggy bra is not ideal. (2) Instead, find a bra that’s made of a synthetic fabric, one that pulls moisture away from the skin. (3) Make sure your bra fits properly because, if it’s loose, you will most likely encounter some chafing. The bottom line: invest in a quality sports bra. It’s worth it.
9. This one’s proof that history can occasionally be quite bizarre: nipples have a deep, mythological background.
In ancient Ireland, a King’s nipples were believed to be sacred. If the ruler’s enemies wanted him to fall from grace, all they had to do was cut off their rival’s nipples. Essentially, healthy nipples were the key to the Celtic throne.
10. Between the 14th and 18th century, having one’s nipples on full display was actually a fashionable trend.
The nipple movement goes further back than we thought. Agnès Sorel (who came up with silk underwear, by the way) challenged the way people looked at nipples —and she made an incredibly bold statement, especially for the time. Sorel was the mistress of King Charles the VII of France and, therefore, had power over the nobility and was admired by most women. When she started to have her gowns customized so that one or both of her nipples could be displayed, many other noblewomen followed suit. As you can probably guess, the Church was not happy about this and urged the king to stop her exhibitionist ways (and to keep her Instagram-approved). Sound familiar?
(Image via iStock)