I first noticed I had puffier-than-average nipples about midway through high school. It was around the same time I began lifting weights and wearing tighter-fitting shirts to accentuate my newly developed pectoral muscles. I’d been pretty skinny my entire life, so my new buff body was something I was proud of. I may or may not have been the guy who would flex and kiss his muscles from time-to-time.
Basically, though, my nipples looked inflated, which was strange because my pecs were completely flat. You know how in some cartoons the characters’ eyes pop out when they get excited? My nipples sort of looked like bulging cartoon eyes.
For a while, I did a good job of concealing just how puffy they were. I had a bag of tricks that included flicking or rubbing them before I took off my shirt, causing them to perk up while deflating the skin around them. (In fact, I still do that out of habit.) I also figured out that if I raised my arms above my head, my nipples would stretch out and elongate, which helped deflate the area around them, too. I mainly used that tactic when I was having sex if I was on the bottom. Though none of my girlfriends or anyone I had sex with ever made any comments about my nipples, I would only have sex with the lights off, for fear they might notice and say something.
Once I started researching the issue, I realized that there were different levels of puffy nipples or Gynecomastia — a disorder of the endocrine system in which there’s a non-cancerous increase in the size of male breast tissue. There was the option of plastic surgery, but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Still, I must’ve looked at hundreds of before-and-after pictures of guys with swollen nipples. They ranged from guys like me who mainly just had above-average puffiness to dudes who had A cups (or straight-up man boobs).
One particular bodybuilding article I came across recommended Biofreeze gel — a pain reliever that’s meant for sore muscles, but because it’s minty, it helps shrivel up the nipple for an extended period of time. I tried it, but it only worked for me for like 20 minutes, after which I felt weird walking around with cream on my nipples.
I also tried a specific type of compression undershirt, which diminished my protruding nipples. But even that solution only lasted a few weeks before I was annoyed by having to wear an undershirt with every shirt I wore, especially in the summer when the weather got hot.
That’s around the time I started seriously thinking about plastic surgery. Two of my friends had gone under the knife for the same reason. Once they told me how easy the surgery was and how much it had boosted their confidence, I began researching plastic surgeons. The cost of the procedure was $5,000, which was a lot of money at the time, but I thought to myself, $5,000 to boost my self-esteem is well worth it.
I met with two different surgeons, both of whom suggested that marijuana could’ve been a possible cause. I don’t believe that, but I remember the doctor asking me if I smoked a lot of weed as a kid. “Guilty,” I responded.
The first doctor wanted to staple down the little circle part around my nipple to help push down the puff. That sounded a bit medieval. The second wanted to make a small incision under the nipple in order to suck out the excess fat tissue. I went to one more doctor to break the tie, and he agreed that a small incision would suffice.
On the day of the surgery, the doctor gave me a bunch of Xanax. I’d be awake during the entire surgery. Obviously, I couldn’t see or feel anything because they numbed the area and had a curtain blocking my view, but I could hear the clinking of the doctor’s tools. It may have been the Xanax, but I swear I could also hear my skin tearing as the doctor made a small cut underneath my nipples. Either way, he made a 3-inch incision under my armpit, where he placed a tube that was for draining fat tissue. The whole surgery took a few hours, and I went home later that day.
The first few days after the surgery, I had drainage tubes that hung near my armpits that looked like Tupperware containers circulating fat and excess blood out from underneath my nipples. The doctor had given me some painkillers, too, but I really didn’t have too much pain. I’m pretty sure my friends ended up taking more of my Norcos than I did.
There was some bruising, but almost immediately after the surgery, my nipples looked good and significantly flatter than before. Needless to say, I was really pleased. Unfortunately, in time, the flatness started to go away and the puffiness came back a bit. That said, the surgery was fairly satisfactory. It definitely helped deflate some of the puff from my nipples, even if there’s still a little part that’s protruding. On that count, I’d say it was about 60 percent effective. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a higher percentage of feeling in both nipples — i.e., if you were to rub a circle with your finger around my nipples, I can’t feel half the spots.
Still, I’m considering going under the knife one more time. But I want to wait a few more years to see if it still bugs me. It helps that I have a girlfriend — the first one I’ve ever talked to about my insecurities surrounding my nipples — who couldn’t care less. I still look really good with a shirt on, and since I’m not the type of guy who likes walking around with his shirt off, it’s not too big a deal.
Just don’t give me a titty twister. I’m forever paranoid that a titty twister could rip my nipple off. I mean, it’s already been cut open once.
—As told to Andrew Fiouzi