FAQ's: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR THE SURVIVOR TO ASK THE SURGEON OR TATTOO ARTIST: print this page and bring with you to your appointments with other areola professionals, or refer to it when speaking to them on the phone.
1. Is MicroPigmentation an option for every survivor after mastectomy?
A: the majority of survivors are candidates for micropigmentation, depending on your particular case, skin and healing stage. All open wounds and scabs in the areola area must be gone and healed before considering tattooing. Fresh or currently healing stitches, wounds and scabs are ok as long as they are outside of the areola area…case by case basis and medically cleared by your doctors.
2. Is all areola Micropigmentation the same?
A. No. There are different levels of skill and ability, most persons offering areola micropigmentation have not been trained as fine artists in photorealism before offering the service. Many (most) technicians doing areola micropigmentation use temporary pigments (used for semi-permanent cosmetics of the face) which fade and literally disappear within months. This is the single most important thing for you to know: they use TEMPORARY INK THAT DISAPPEARS eventually.
3. How long does the procedure take?
A: usually approximately 2-3+ hours from beginning of paperwork to end of procedure (each session, two sessions required)
4. Is there any down time?
A: No. Unless you’re planning on going on vacation or a trip within two weeks after the procedure, you should wait until you’re return. Do not go into hot tubs, swimming pools, or the ocean with open, healing wounds to avoid all risk of infection.
5. Is areola micropigmentation any different than a regular tattoo?
A: yes and no! In the hands of a trained Areola Architect, yes its different - its fine art and you will look like Michealangelo worked on you. In the hands of an untrained, unskilled medical professional or other tattoo artist, its just a flat, pink coin (usually botched) tattoo, that Cathi Locati has to fix!. The Locati Areola Procedure is the medical version of a tattoo, highly skilled photo-realism.
6. How long does it take to heal?
A: the same amount of time as a regular tattoo or similar skin wound and depends on how well you follow the after-care instructions. It starts to heal within the first 24 hours and usually by the end of the first week, well on its way back to normal.
7. How many sessions do you perform for each areola/nipple tattoo?
A: two sessions, 3-6 weeks apart.
8. How long do your areolas and nipples last?
A: They last as long as you do, your lifetime. The brilliancy and color depth will soften over time and an expected, anticipated fade factor is welcome as permanent inks are applied during both sessions heavier and darker than the requested final outcome, months after healing is complete.
9. Do I have to go through my surgeon to make an appointment for an areola tattoo?
A: no. However, we ask for your surgeon’s contact info so that if necessary, I can confer with them about any particulars with your case and follow up by sending before and after photos to them for your file.
10. Do I need a referral from a surgeon to get insurance companies to cover the procedure?
11. My insurance company told me that only in network surgeons tattoo work is reimbursed – is this true? May I choose any provider I like to do the areola fine art and will it be covered?
A. You can choose anyone you like to do the tattoo procedure and it is mandated by federal law that the micropigmentation procedure cost be covered. See: The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998: “Women whose health plan covers mastectomies are entitled to insurance reimbursement for post mastectomy reconstruction including nipple micropigmentation”
12. Can I choose the size, color and shape of the areola and nipple?
A: Absolutely! When dealing with professional Areola Architects, that’s what we base our entire business on – the ability and communication skills to achieve exactly what you want. However, often times we must “fix” or attempt to “hide” scars created in a surgical attempt to replicate areolas. More often than not, these scars are not where they need to be to create proper placement of the new areola/nipple with micropigmentation. We have to deal with what you present us with when you arrive…that is our starting point, as artists, we use our skill and training and go from there.
13. How soon after reconstruction can I get an areola tattoo? Do I need permission or clearance from my surgeon to have an areola tattoo done?
A: All open wounds and scabs in the areola area must be gone and healed before considering tattooing. Fresh or currently healing stitches, wounds and scabs are ok as long as they are outside of the areola area…case by case basis. We contact your surgeon and double-check with them about timing if it seems to be an issue and you want the tattoo sooner.
14. How much pain is involved? Do you use topical anesthetics?
A: pain levels vary person to person, bilateral patients tend to feel less because both breasts have been surgically altered and often have a numb feeling or much less sensitivity than the “live” side (existing) areola of the unilateral patient. We replicate both sides (both areola’s and nipples) with unilateral patients without exception, both sessions. Anesthetics are used and applied at least 20-30 minutes before the procedure begins as well as added topical anesthetics during the procedure and after the first pass, as needed. Many patients don’t need additional anesthetics.
15. How do the nipples and areolas you create differ from other tattoo artist and surgeons/nurses tattoo work?
A: Evident from photos available in the marketplace today, other tattoo artists and surgeons tattoo work appears standard, flat and ‘color-added’ discs similar to a pink coin and one design is used for both the right and the left side. Photorealism, 3D areolas and nipples by a highly trained and specialized Areola Architect appear similar to fine artwork done by the Old Masters: Michelangelo, DaVinci. We create a distinct right areola that looks round and protruding and a distinctly different left areola - not just two flat pink coins. Custom created artwork by Areola Architects is virtually undistinguishable from the actual body part we are replicating. The final outcome when choosing an Areola Architect verses a regular tattoo artist or surgeon/ nurse, (although fantastic medical providers they are not trained, fine artists) is dramatically different. The best test? Compare ‘before and after” photos side by side…and ask all the FAQ found on the FAQ sheet for surgeons. The choice is usually quite clear.
16. Can any tattoo artist or surgeon or nurse create photorealistic areolas/nipples in 3D?
A: no. Many try – ask for photos and experience
17. How long have you been a professional fine artist? If you are not a professional artist, where did you get your areola tattoo training?
A: If they are not fine artists – how did they learn tattooing?
A: If they didn’t get training, ask them to see photos of their areola tattoo work.
18. What kind of artwork do you create outside of areola/nipple tattooing?
A: the type and scope of skill that an artist or surgeon is willing to show you is going to be the best indicator of how their areola’s and nipples will look when created with a tattoo machine.
19. Some bilateral Breast Cancer Survivors choose to have full radical mastectomy with no implants or breastmounds put in afterward and no areolas and nipples restored surgically. Can you tattoo the entire breast onto the flat rib cage giving the illusion of round breasts just like you would a painting of a nude woman?
A: Yes and they are called 7th Dimension Illusion BreastmoundsTM exclusive to Cathi Locati Co. Areola Architects
20. When both breasts (bilateral) have been removed and reconstructed, do you tattoo both areolas and nipples on? How do you know where to place them on the chest barrel? How do you line them up so that they are straight?
A: Using the suprasternal fossa, the proper degree of angle is projected artistically with anatomical accuracy together with the patient’s involvement and approval ongoing
21. Are you able to fix or lessen the obvious scars outside of the areola edge with the tattoo machine using scar camouflage techniques? Can you attempt scar camouflage and tattoo skin color on and around the scars to lessen their appearance?
A: yes. Scar camouflage is offered and although not an exact science, each patient is different, it requires the willingness of the survivor to experiment with the Areola Architect’s procedure and agreed approval ongoing. It is sensitive to undergo, but great outcomes are achieved most of the time.
22. Do you offer regular tattoos as mastectomy covers?
A: Absolutely. Anything you want. Dragonflies, flowers, illusion undergarments (bras, vests, seashells, lace, corsets, etc). You’re only limited by your imagination. Run wild.