Why Do Some People Have Inverted Nipples?

What exactly is an inverted nipple? Much like Inception, inverted nipples are one of those subjects that that we assume we have a handle on, but upon closer inspection actually have just a passing understanding of. What makes a nipple inverted? What does an inverted nipple actually look like? And is there anything unusual about having a pair? If this was a pop quiz, I bet you would have failed (luckily for you, I let my Internet Boob Teaching certification expire).

First things first: any nipple that is more indented than protruding can be considered an inverted nipple. Some nipples are inverted only some of the time, and will "pop out" following stimulation or changes in the temperature; others are permanently inverted, no matter what's going on with the thermostat. There is also an inverted nipple variation known as "flat nipples," which are exactly what they sound like — nipples that lie flat against the areola, instead of sticking out or dimpling in.

If you're really curious about your own nipple type, you can perform something called the Nipple Pinch Test (yes, that is its actual technical name) — the way your nipple responds to being pinched can help you classify your nipple type. Also, while you're doing it, you can pretend that you're some kind of erotic scientist from a James Bond movie (where your name would probably be Bosoms O'Hara, obviously).

Though there's a lot of pressure on women to have breasts that look exactly like the type of things we see in porn or on the chests of movie stars, inverted nipples are actually a totally natural and very common breast variation, one that will give you almost no trouble in your nippular life. Your inverted nipples aren't looking to start trouble; they're just here to have a good time, like everyone else's nips. So what's the rest of the story with inverted nipples? Read on, and learn more about how totally normal your innies are.

How Common Are Inverted Nipples?

Ten to 20 percent of women have inverted nipples, which makes them more common than blue or green eyes (and yes, men can get them, too). So if you're reading this in public, look all around you. A decent chunk of the other people in this Starbucks/school library/bus/Journey-themed cruise also have innie nips. Which means that if you have innies, you shouldn't feel embarrassed or shy about showing them to a partner — odds are, they have encountered them before (or even have them themselves).

Oh, and if you're looking for examples of famous innies, Neve Campbell proudly shows off hers during a topless scene in the film I Really Hate My Job .

What Causes Inverted Nipples?

A fully inverted nipple is caused by the tissue inside the breast. When breast tissue is attached extra tightly to the inside of the nipple's skin, it can pull that skin inward, toward the inside of the chest, creating an inverted nip. Inverted nipples are typically just part of your genetic makeup, and most women with inverted nipples have either had them their whole lives, or found that they inverted as their breasts developed during puberty. So if you have inverted nipples, you definitely didn't "do" anything that made them that way.

Also, not all people with inverted nipples have both nipples inverted; it's pretty common for one nipple to be inverted, while the other protrudes.

Are All Inverted Nipples Permanently Inverted?

Nipple inversions can sometimes come and go. In fact, one third of pregnant women will experience inverted nipples at some point in their pregnancy, even if they did not have inverted nipples before (and especially if it's their first pregnancy). Conversely, some women who have had inverted nipples their entire lives find that their nipples begin protruding once they become pregnant. But nipples that suddenly invert are something to get checked out by your doctor — an inverted nipple can be a sign of breast cancer if it suddenly shows up in adulthood when you're not pregnant.

Are Inverted Nipples Less Sensitive?

Inverted nipples are just as sensitive as protruding nipples, so feel confident that you're not missing out on anything the outies get to feel (in bed or in sports bras made of weird, itchy fabric).

Can You Breastfeed With Inverted Nipples?

Since a baby latches onto the erect nipple while breastfeeding, some women with inverted nipples experience trouble in this arena (though most women with inverted nipples won't have a problem). But even if it does trip you up, there are a ton of techniques and solutions out there to help out nursing moms with innies.

If you have inverted nipples and are pregnant or are planning on becoming pregnant soon, it's worth discussing the situation with a doctor or midwife; they might recommend some exercises called the Hoffman Technique, which involve manual manipulation of the nipple that can help loosen the tissue inside the breast that is causing the inversion.

Some breastfeeding moms with inverted nipples also find that using nipple shields (a silicone cover with holes in it that is placed over the nipple during feedings) help their babies to latch on; some also recommend wearing breast shields, which apply pressure to the nipple, encouraging it to pop forward. Some innie moms also have success with stimulating their nipples (with hands or ice) or pulling back on the areola to make the nipple protrude right before a feeding.

And if none of these options work, women with inverted nipples can still easily use a breast pump to express their milk — in fact, sometimes the suction of breast pump can even be used to pop the nipple out for a feeding. Fun!

Do You Need Surgery To Correct Inverted Nipples?

Since inverted nipples are simply a variation in how our bodies look, and not a health problem, no one needs surgery to change their inverted nipples. Surgery to make your nipples into "outies" is purely cosmetic, and can make them less sensitive.

Obviously, they're your nipples, and you're the ultimate judge of what to do with them. But our breasts come with as many variables as our faces — including nipple size, areola shape and color, and skin texture — so there is no "right" way for your breasts to look. I personally think innies are interesting, like having a regional accent or being double-jointed. They're part of what make you you (and your boobs your boobs), and the only standard they need to measure up to is your own.

Images: Sodanie Chea/ Flickr, Giphy (7)