A dedicated tattooist who inks nipples on to breast cancer survivors practises by permanently drawing them - on her own LEGS. Vicky Martin, 47, has been tattooing nipples onto women who have had them removed during cancer surgery for 15 years. She is always learning new techniques and using different products in a bid to get the more realistic look - and said her own skin is the best practise canvas. Over the years the mum-of-one has inked eight nipples onto her own THIGHS. Six have since been covered by other tattoos - but she still has two fully visible on her right thigh, which she is keeping to monitor the healing process. The mum-of-one gets funny looks but said she's proud and it is well worth it for the feeling of boosting the confidence of cancer survivors. Vicky from Three Mile Cross, Reading, said: "I think of the nipples as a positive reminder of what breast cancer survivors went through and I want to give them the best and most realistic areolas possible. "I'm always coming up with new techniques and trying out new products - and I am happy to use my leg as a canvas if it means the outcome is better for my clients. "I currently have two realistic nipples on my leg - I definitely get some strange looks but it doesn't bother me. "It's only my leg after all, and eventually I can cover them up with another tattoo like I have done with others. "It's worth it to see how the nipples heal on skin so I can assess my work. "I'm not embarrassed by them - but I can't say the same about my teenage son over the years!" Vicky, who runs Vicky Martin Method in Wokingham, Berkshire, was first introduced to areola tattooing when she attended a training school in Portland, Oregon, US, 15 years ago. Despite learning a range of skills on the course, she took a shining to areola tattooing and has inked hundreds since. The hyper-realistic nipples are usually applied to women who have had a mastectomy, normally due to facing breast cancer. She also sells her own products like pigments, practice breast moulds and runs worldwide training courses. Vicky said nipple tattooing has come a long way since she entered the industry - and fifteen years ago "you'd get an orange blob if you were lucky." She said: "Whenever I have a new idea to try, I go straight to my leg. "It's not the same as a boob, but real skin is closer than a mould if you don't mind having it on you forever!" She trials different colour combinations and inks, as well as using different sized needles and tattoo techniques to see which looks more effective and inks the skin better before doing it on a client. She originally used a large needle to draw clean ink lines - but a trial on her own leg revealed that a more successful technique for nipples was to use a very tiny needle. Now she presses hundreds of tiny dots of ink into the skin, which prevents fading and reduces the need for touch-ups. Each of the nipples she tattooed on herself were there for at least a year so she could see how they healed before being covered. She covered some herself with butterflies, and went to other professionals to cover others with a mandala pattern. Vicky, who is mum to son Louis, 18, said: "One of the visible nipples on my leg has been there nearly three years now - and even that doesn't bother me!" "It's only a nipple, and it's for a good cause. "I remember laying on a sunbed on holiday a few years back and a couple of people were staring. "But I'd rather have them on display and look like an idiot if it means I get to see how they look over time so I can improve my technique for my clients. "It didn't bother me, but my son was about sixteen at the time of the holiday - I think he was pretty embarrassed his mum had a nipple on her leg. "This is my calling - I absolutely adore what I do and I can't wait to get out of bed in the morning. "I love being able to help women to move past what they have been through and help them to feel strong and proud. "If that means sporting nipples on my legs then so be it! "I see my work as giving cancer survivors their medals for what they have been through, which is why I am always trying to improve. "People might think 'nobody really sees your nipples, so what does it matter?' but women see their own nipples every day and it is a reminder of what they have been through." *Video filmed 16th August 2021.
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