What Causes Your Nipples To Change Color?

Whether light, dark, pink, or nearly identical to your overall skin tone, a range of nipple colors are normal and natural. As Women's Health explains, nipple shade is usually related to ethnic background and can be milky white, deep brown, or somewhere in between. This hue is at least slightly darker than the rest of the body, a change that happens during puberty, Dr. Lindsey Bordone, a dermatologist at Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Cameron Rokhsar, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, told The Daily Mail. In other words, hormones trigger melanin production, darkening the nipples early in adolescence.

The nipples and areolae (the rings around each nipple) may continue to undergo color changes throughout life. In some cases, the skin may change because of hormone fluctuations, similar to the effect of sex hormones during puberty. In other cases, however, changes to nipple color could be a sign of certain health conditions.

The many reasons for nipples to change color

A natural darkening or lightening of the nipples is common and rarely a cause for concern, especially in women. In fact, several hormone-related changes can make the nipples appear darker than usual (via Medical News Today). These can be due to pregnancy, menstruation, or hormonal birth control. Hormone fluctuations during breastfeeding can also darken the nipples, which may make nipples easier to spot for newborns.

Hormones can be responsible for paler nipples too. The experts at Healthline explain that some women may notice lighter nipples after menopause. And just as they may darken the skin, breastfeeding and birth control can also lead to lighter nipples and areolae. Occasionally, nipple color may vary only briefly. In other words, nipples may appear more pigmented temporarily during sexual arousal, Carol Queen, a sexologist at Good Vibrations, told Bustle. Exercise can also turn nipples red, especially if your sportswear of choice rubs on the breasts (per Healthgrades).

Rarely, nipple color changes signal serious conditions or illnesses (via Medical News Today). However, one early symptom of Paget's disease of the breast, a type of breast cancer, is a darkening of the nipple. The National Cancer Institute also notes that pink, red, or purple breast tissue could indicate inflammatory breast cancer. Changes in nipple color that persist or are accompanied by new symptoms, such as pain, peeling, skin texture changes, or nipple discharge, should be seen by a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment, as per Healthgrades.