Melany Whitney is an artist-turned-tattooist who specializes in permanent makeup application for the face and body out of Florida, New Jersey and New York.
Her ultimate specialty is an unusual form of tattooing called areola restoration -- tiny tattoos placed on the breasts that are meant to re-create or reshape one's nipples.
Whitney told AOL News that her areola restoration technique is geared toward breast cancer survivors who've had mastectomies and have lost their natural nipples to surgical procedures.
"Ever since I saw that first woman without a 'face' on her breast, I knew I had to do this. These tattoos give women their lives back. They can begin to put the trauma behind them and move forward with confidence again," Whitney said.
Over the past 11 years, the tattoo technician said she has given a much-needed boost to thousands of breasts, taking her time on each every one of her mini-masterpieces.
"I spend a minimum of two hours with each one of my clients because I like to take my time with my art. I inspect the nipples carefully up close and step back and look at them from a distance to make sure they look as realistic and natural as possible," Whitney said.
When creating a new set of areolas, Whitney said her main focus is on shading the area properly with pigments to match the client's natural skin tone. She's also meticulous about adding appropriate texture to the area so the new nipples look like the real deal.
"I've become known for my texture work. I'm able to make the nipples appear as if they're perky and protruding. Specific types of shading make them look 3-D. I like to call it the 'illusion of protrusion,' " she said with glee.
Whitney, who is first and foremost an oil painter by trade, believes it takes a real artist to do areola restoration justice.
"You need an artistic eye for this. An eye for softness and texture, not just regular tattooing skills. This is my joy, my love, my passion."
Although she's had plenty of practice to perfect her techniques, Whitney said she's continually doing research to improve her work any which way she can.
This includes visits to museums and art galleries, where the true artist in her examines classical paintings to see how past artists have interpreted the human breast on canvas.
"I check out all the breasts in paintings and take my lead from them. Even though I have my own areolas, looking at the paintings really helps me visualize proper technique," she said.
The extra effort on Whitney's part seems to be paying off because she said her work is very well-received among clients.
"Most of my clients stand up in front of the mirror after I'm done and start crying because they're so happy. Then I start crying and it's one big cry-fest. The women feel like they're back and better than ever. Their nipples are evenly aligned and there's a face back on the mound. Their breasts look perkier because I tend to put the areola a little bit higher to give a more youthful look. There's also a sense of relief because, for many, this is the end of a long and painful journey and the beginning of a new life," she said. "It really is a wonderful thing."
Whitney recalled one of the first areola restorations she did back in 2000, when a client was so happy with her new nipples, she walked around her house topless for hours, peeking at herself in the mirror every chance she got.
"Her husband called me mortified because she wouldn't put her top back on and they had company coming over. She was just so happy," Whitney recounted with a laugh.
Although mastectomy survivors are the bulk of her clientele for areola restoration, Whitney said she also gets requests from women who've had breast implants and want to soften the look of their chest.
Whitney can make nipples larger, smaller or more even -- whatever the person wants.
She'll even take on male clients, who, surprisingly, have been requesting her services more often in the past few years.
"I take a lot of guys who've had gynecomastia and have had surgery to remove their excessive breasts. They come to me to restore their nipples into their natural state."
Whitney said she's also gotten a few requests from men who want to make their nipples bigger for purely cosmetic purposes. She chalks that up to the fact that modern men care much more about their appearances.
"They may have small nipples and get embarrassed taking their shirt off in the guys' locker room. I can help. I can also fill in their brows and bald spots," she said.
Whitney said her permanent chest makeup is meant to last five to 10 years. Of course, since the breast is usually protected under clothing and not exposed to the elements, it can last much longer.
As long as she's been in business, Whitney herself has never had to do an areola touch-up on a client.
Perhaps this type of tattooing really does provide long-term function and satisfaction -- probably more so than that Tweety Bird tattoo you got on your butt during your wild college days.
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