“A Nipple Is Like a Fingerprint” and Other Things I Learnt When Donating Mine

It was 6.59am, a Tuesday, pissing rain, and chaos as I was sprinting down Chalmers Street. My train to Cronulla was in three minutes. I cussed my late bus between each bounce and step. 

What was I late for? Well, on that rained-up Tuesday, I was donating my nipples. I was giving them to the organisation ProCosmediq.

The Donate Your Nipple Campaign 

Niki Cirillo is the founder of ProCosmediq and a woman with a buckwild journey. At the age of 40, she decided to leave her lucrative corporate career and undertake a new challenge.

Niki Cirillo and I sitting down for a chat.
Image: Joel Burrows

“It was time to just do something completely different,” Cirillo told The Latch, “and I have a very strong creative flair.”

This decision led her to create a company and become a paramedical tattoo artist. Paramedical tattooing is body art that helps people recover from an experience that has alerted their physical appearance. These tattoos can cover up scars, camouflage burns, and fill in nipples that have been damaged during surgery. 

Yet, while this work slays, Cirillo wanted to do even more for her clients. She knew that her paramedical tattoos weren’t the right fit for everyone. They weren’t a good option for folks who have lost their nipples during breast cancer or top surgery.

As Cirillo explained, “I do the 3D nipple and areola tattoos. And they’re amazing, because I use colour, contour, and shading to create the illusion of 3D nipples and areolas. They’re great when you look at them straight on in a mirror. However, from a side angle, they’re still flat.”

Fortunately, a solution came to Cirillo. She learnt how to make 3D moulds of pre-existing nipples, fill them with silicone, and make realistic-appearing nips. These nipples can be worn by anyone who lost one or two said body part.

“It started off with the breast cancer patients who had an existing nipple, but didn’t have another nipple on the other side,” explained Cirillo. “So we would take a mould of their existing nipple to mimic what they already had. They were then happy to donate the moulds that I made, in case someone else needed it.”

Little did Cirillo know, but when she began making this library, she was creating a movement. Over the past few years, she has received an avalanche of requests. 

There are a lot of people across the planet that need silicone nipples. Some breast cancer survivors want nipples but can’t have reconstructive surgery. Meanwhile, some trans men want the euphoria of wearing a pair of male-donated nips.

Additionally, a tonne of people just want options. Do you want a pair of flat ones? Do you want ones that pop through your shirt? Everyone has different needs and requirements. 

This then led to Cirillo creating the Donate Your Nipple campaign. This campaign allows everyday people to donate moulds of their nipples to ProCosmediq clients in need.

Cirillo stated, “I am overwhelmed with the level of demand for this service and how much it is changing people’s lives. The problem is that there is so much demand for the prosthetic moulds that I need more people to donate their time.”

Palingenesis: My Nipple Donation Journey

In a twist that I didn’t see coming, I made it to my nipple appointment on time. I arrived at Cronulla’s Beauty & Balance, soaked to the bone but enthused.

When working in Sydney, Niki Cirillo does her job from Beauty & Balance. This wellness studio has been instrumental in helping Cirillo’s clients feel safe.

What’s more, I too felt at ease as I entered this space. The warmth from Cirillo, the resort vibes, and the heaters melted my worries away.

After chatting with Cirillo for a bit, we got straight to work. We went to one of the wellness rooms. I took my shirt off. Cirillo got the silicone ready. 

ProCosmediq’s mould material.
Image: Joel Burrows

ProCosmediq’s silicone begins as a goopy green substance. This was then slathered over my left nipple and left to harden. Cirillo warned that because I have a whack of chest hair, it might wax me as it gets taken off. 

Me with the mould on my chest for the Donate Your Nipple campaign.
Image: Joel Burrows

As we waited for my silicone to harden, Cirillo and I chatted about my mould’s name. That’s right, each mould in Cirillo’s library gets a title. Some of these names are funny, like Areola Grande or Stevie Nips. Other moulds have sombre titles, named after people who have passed away.

Cirillo said, “There’s some really sentimental ones, and there’s some really cute ones. The only names that I won’t accept are mean, discriminatory, or racist.”

The naming process is an integral part of Cirillo’s Donate Your Nipple campaign. This is because Cirillo doesn’t want her work to feel clinical. She wants to acknowledge that choosing new nipples is a personal experience, it’s not like buying batteries or pegs.

According to Cirillo, “A nipple is like a fingerprint.” The naming convention honours these facts.

So, what did I name my nipple? Well, I named him Palingenesia. It’s the Ancient Greek word for rebirth.

At the end of this chat, my silicone had hardened right up. It was time for it to be yanked off.

Thankfully though, Cirillo’s a pro at taking these moulds off. She did it quickly, and it didn’t hurt much at all.

My Donate Your Nipple mould.
Image: Joel Burrows

Better yet, the mould we scored was a mint one. It captured the intricacies of my Montgomery glands, the details of the tip, and everything that makes my nipple unique. 

After taking a few photos, Cirillo then showed me a selection of ProCosmediq’s nipple library. She grabbed one of her silicone moulds, wore it on the top of her chest, and demonstrated how realistic they look once they’re finished.

Niki Cirillo wearing a ProCosmediq nipple.
Image: Joel Burrows

My review? These prosthetic nipples are a 10/10. If I didn’t know that they were moulds, I’d easily believe they were the real McCoys.

“The prosthetics look so real and feel so natural,” said Cirillo. “With my special adhesive, they can stay on the breast for up to ten days and can even be worn swimming or at the gym.” 

“Once used, they simply need a clean so that they are ready to be used again. They really are the most extraordinary advancement in technology.” 

The End of My Prosthetic Adventure

As I thanked Cirillo for her time, I stepped into the streets of Cronulla. The sun was now beaming, my shirt now dry.

At this moment, I couldn’t help but think of my trans mates. I remember the euphoria they felt, strapping their chests for the first time, or when some of them got top surgery. Gender expression can be everything.

If any one of these dudes ever got nipple necrosis, which is when the nipple dies during top surgery, then I’m glad I can now lend them a hand.

ProCosmediq is still keen for people to join their Donate the Nipple campaign. If you’re interested in signing up, then click the A+ link here.

Related: Why Trans Day of Visibility Rallies Matter

Related: Why Are Women’s Nipples So Controversial?

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