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The tattoo artist giving Kiwi women their nipples back
Debbie Gasson is a cosmetic tattooist who specialises in tattooing nipples on women who have had breast reconstruction surgery.
00:00 / 11:27
Sarah Van Der Kley

The Kiwi tattooist changing the lives of cancer survivors one nipple at a time

Debbie was diagnosed with two cancers within four days, which sparked a career change
30 May 2023 12:17PM

Debbie Casson is not your average cosmetic tattoo artist. 

In 2012, Debbie was diagnosed with Olfactory Neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that grows in the nasal cavity. Four days later, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dealing with two cancers, months of radiation, surgeries and a mastectomy that removed her nipple ultimately sparked a career change in her.

Hearing the stories from other young women in her breast cancer support group inspired Debbie to train and become a cosmetic tattooist who specialises in realistic areola tattoos - an ability to tattoo 3D nipples on women who have undergone breast reconstruction surgery. It's now become a full-time job that takes her around the country, and she jokes tattooing breasts "must be every guy's dream!"

"A lot of the specialists do a little nipple nub, but until you get that areola tattooed in, it's just a 'nothing', really."

"I went five years without a nipple... It's just that catching yourself in the mirror and going 'Oh, I look normal.'"

Debbie says while there are others around NZ that also tattoo nipples, she understands the journey her clients have experienced, from "wearing the t-shirt" to getting her nipple tattoo, which she admits she's touched up with her tattoo gun now and then.

Hear Debbie's full interview with Sarah van der Kley, as well as Debbie's husband offering his derriere for practice in the full video above. 

You can check out Debbie's website and work at ladyink.co.nz