Whether aimed directly at you or said to a friend, or even to a contestant on your favourite reality TV show, it's likely that at some point you'll have heard the term 'burger nipples' aka 'burger nips'. The term – which is described by Urban Dictionary as "over-sized nipples, which are seen as unattractive by the wider western population" – is often used in a derogatory and body-shaming manner, which can leave those who have so-called 'burger nipples' feeling conscious or ashamed.
This is obviously pretty darn heartbreaking, considering that all bodies (and shape and size of nipple) are deserving of respect – and in our opinion, anybody who throws the term 'burger nipples' around as a juvenile insult honestly needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and get a life.
But, what actually are 'burger nipples'? Why do some people have bigger nipples than others? And, are burger nipples something to be embarrassed about? To find the answers to those questions, we spoke to Dr Deborah Lee at Dr Fox Online Pharmacy.
"The term 'burger nipples' is sometimes used when the nipple allegedly looks like a beef burger has been placed onto the tip of each breast," Dr Lee tells Cosmopolitan UK. "Of course, the nipple itself is not the burger. The nipple is the part of the breast that protrudes and is connected to the mammary glands underneath for breastfeeding. The larger, circular, often pigmented, ring of skin that surrounds the nipple is called the areola [and this] is the part that can 'resemble' a burger."
Should people be ashamed if they have burger nipples?
"There is nothing to be ashamed of if your nipples look like this," Dr Lee emphasises. "All nipples look different," she adds, pointing out that: "The size and shape of the nipple and the areola is inherited genetically from our parents."
As for what the 'average' nipple looks like, Dr Lee notes: "The typical diameter of the areola is 4 cm, but it may be larger or smaller."
How to feel more confident about your nipples
"Try not to let your feelings about your nipples get out of control," Dr Lee reminds us. "We all have parts of our bodies we don’t like."
"Psychologists recommend that you get used to your breasts and learn to love them," the expert continues. "Handle them regularly, performing regular breast massages. Don't allow any negative breast talk – make sure you keep the breast comments upbeat and discourage any negativity amongst your friends.
"Showing gratitude and being kind to yourself are both positive ways to help increase your self-confidence and self-esteem."
Why do some people's nipples look different to others?
"The size, shape, and colour of the areola often change over your lifetime," Dr Lee says when asked why some people have bigger or smaller nipples in comparison to others. In fact, these changes can happen frequently, and may be "at puberty, before a period, or during pregnancy, for example."
As well as this, Dr Lee explains that "in general, the areola tends to enlarge and darken in colour, with age." She also notes that becoming a parent can have an impact on the appearance of your nipples, too. "During pregnancy, levels of the melanocyte-secreting hormone become elevated, leading to hyperpigmentation of the skin, including the nipples," Dr Lee adds.
And it's not just the size of your nipple that can be different to other people's, as the expert points out that the colour of your nipple will vary from person to person, too. "Nipples normally vary in colour from pale pink to dark red, to brown," she says. "Why the nipple is darker in colour than the rest of the skin is not known, but perhaps it is because it is more easily recognisable for a breastfeeding baby."
Can you change the size of your nipples?
"You can’t change the size of your nipples – it’s down to Mother Nature," Dr Lee tells us. "In very extreme cases, it is possible to have the nipple made smaller by surgery, but this involves cutting the delicate nerve endings in the breast tissue which makes the nipple area relatively insensitive to contact."
As for whether your nipples can change naturally, the expert adds: "Your nipples should be fairly symmetrical and are also bumpy as they contain little glands called Montgomery’s tubercles. If you ever notice changes in the skin of one nipple and not in the other, see your GP [as] nipple changes can sometimes be a sign of breast cancer."
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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