⚠️ Use discretion. Graphic human anatomy images.
Prior to adolescence, there are more similarities among male and female nipples than differences. Between the ages of 10 and 13, females develop buds, followed by breast maturation. Mammary glands allow nursing mothers to produce milk. The ultimate breast and nipple appearance has no standard beyond what the entertainment media promotes. Artists base anatomical illustrations on average measurements.
Plastic surgeons and nipple repigmentation tattoo artists are most concerned with proper nipple diameter and placement. Cosmetic surgeons reconstruct breasts following mastectomy, perform mastopexy (breast elevation and reshaping), and correct gynecomastia. With gynecomastia, male breast glandular tissue swells due to a reduction in male hormones (testosterone) or an increase in female hormones (estrogen). The benign growth above pectoral muscles produces breast-like bulges. There may also be a slight lump behind the nipples. Women who lose nipples with mastectomy may opt for nipple prosthesis.
The male areolar diameter is about 1.1 inches (2.8 cm). On average, a woman’s areola is 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter with the nipple occupying one third of that diameter. But areolae or nipples can be smaller or larger. The ideal position of female nipples is approximately two thirds down the breast, slightly closer to arms.
Some female nipples or areolae are pale while others are very dark. Areolae have between 4–28 Montgomery’s tubercles (a combination of milk glands and sebaceous glands). The areola may be puffy and tuberous while other women have nearly flat or inverted nipples. Inversion and asymmetry, though common, adds to a woman’s fear of mate rejection. The function of female breasts is unhindered by such variety. Growing during pregnancy, nipples allow for lactation after childbirth. A scant few men can produce milk.
When shaved and viewing closeup, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish nipple gender. (Is the main image for this article male or female?) Free the Nipple has become a social movement based on what proponents feel is an inequality. The male nipple does not come under as much scrutiny as that of the female.
Generally with much les protrusion than female counterparts, a male nipple may be dark, reddish, pale, bumpy, or hairy. Appearance has no affect on societal acceptance. Men can walk around in public with bear chests. Most laws view women who do so as indecent. This stems from the fact that for many males, the sight of women’s larger nipples elicits arousal.
As women age, thinning skin, weakening muscles, and increasing fat pulls breasts downward. So what appears optimal in the mid 20s can change 20 years later. By 60, nipples may be sag downward. Differences are less dramatic among lighter A or B size cups.
Despite having their own nipples, the male attraction to female nipples is in the visible contrast with their own. Appeal often correlates to the degree of variance. Female nipples extend and stiffen when cold. During intimate encounters, male and female nipples are common erogenous zones. Gentle stimulation enhances excitement due to nerve endings. Like everything else, there are exceptions. Some individuals are tickled and others are irritated by contact.
There are over two dozen reasons for nipple sensitivity or pain. During perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall in unpredictable patterns before starting to taper off. The spikes in hormone levels can make female breasts hurt. Soreness should improve once periods end with cessation of estrogen production.
Most female anatomy posters yield to the societal expectation of ideal breast size and nipple position. The Anomalous Areolae poster illustrates a wide variety female areolae and nipples. The variations of normal areolae contrast those with medical anomalies. This poster answers many questions women have about their breasts. Order your Anomalous Areolae poster exclusively from ClinicalPosters.
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- Cuhaci N, Polat SB, Evranos B, Ersoy R, Cakir B. Gynecomastia: Clinical evaluation and management. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014;18(2):150-158. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.129104
- Sanuki J, Fukuma E, Uchida Y. Morphologic study of nipple-areola complex in 600 breasts. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2009 May;33(3):295-7. doi: 10.1007/s00266-008-9194-y. Epub 2008 Jul 15. PMID: 18626683.
- Beckenstein MS, Windle BH, Stroup RT Jr. Anatomical parameters for nipple position and areolar diameter in males. Ann Plast Surg. 1996 Jan;36(1):33-6. doi: 10.1097/00000637-199601000-00007. PMID: 8722981.
- Lewin R, Amoroso M, Plate N, Trogen C, Selvaggi G. The Aesthetically Ideal Position of the Nipple-Areola Complex on the Breast. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2016;40(5):724-732. doi:10.1007/s00266-016-0684-z
- Cordeau D, Bélanger M, Beaulieu‐Prévost D, and Courtois F. The assessment of sensory detection thresholds on the perineum and breast compared with control body sites. J Sex Med 2014;11:1741–1748.
- Free the Nipple (film). wikipedia.org
- Main image is artistic rendering of male nipple.
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