IT’S far from the average tattoo studio, and at the back of the New England Skin and Medical Clinic, beauty meets science.
Paramedical tattooist Vivienne L’Or creates nipples and areolas for women who have had reconstructive surgery, usually due to a mastectomy as a result of breast cancer.
“When I first started doing it I just wanted to cry every time I saw a woman who’d had a mastectomy done,” she said.
“But now the happiness on their face when you achieve a great result for them – the tears of joy, it’s better than anything.
“It’s what makes it worth it.”
Using oscillating needles with pigment instead of ink, Ms L’Or is the only person who offers 3D breast tattooing in the area between Sydney and Brisbane.
Women can choose from a range of deliciously-titled colours, from champagne to cherry, licorice to sherbet.
Whatever the shade, it’s absolutely important to get it right Ms L’Or said.
“It’s psychologically inhibiting for these women because that femininity is gone, that reminder every day when you have a shower that the breasts are just not there anymore,” she said.
“The impact is immediate, some women haven’t had anything there for years and they just cry tears of joy.”
Ms L’Or has travelled to Brisbane, Perth and Ireland to learn the art.
Not only can she create realistic nipples, but cover scarring with a technique called camouflage.
A tricky task, learners practice on pig skin, much like a regular tattooist, before moving on to the real thing.
Ms L’Or practices the art form every night, so far she has created 10 new sets of nipples for women.
“It’s like painting or drawing, if you don’t have that artistic bend it will be hard to do it, in all honesty if you can’t draw don’t do it – you’re going to wreck faces or anatomy,” she said.
“I really enjoy it and I have an artistic ability that I inherited from my mother.
“It’s a real technique and an art to do this in 3D so when you’re looking at a woman’s breast from a distance it’s an illusion.”
Some women who’ve had mastectomy’s choose to get roses, hearts or other meaningful images tattooed on their breast – especially if they don’t have access to a 3D paramedical tattooist.
Some request one nipple tattoo and one rose, it’s all up to the individual.
Ms L’Or said she’s noticed not only an impact on the woman’s confidence, but on their relationship with their partner and the partner themselves.
“There’s not a lot of support there for the men, and when a husband looks at his wife and there’s nothing there anymore it does take a toll – not on every man, but even with my own brother I noticed a change in his demeanour,” she said.
“He felt bad for his partner and that made him feel bad too.
“When I talk to these ladies and they’re in relationships – when women are diagnosed with breast cancer sometimes the relationship breaks down.
“Quite often when you’re chatting to them they’ll say, ‘He’s going to love this!’ – it’s a different attitude all together so it’s for the guys as well.”