Men's Nipples Are Sensitive Too
Although we are not used to thinking of men’s nipples needing extra care, men’s nipples can be dry, split, cracked, sore, bleeding, and chaffed on a short term or chronic basis. The most common terms for men’s nipple issues caused by exercise are Runner’s or Jogger’s Nipple; but they can be caused by many types of exercise or activities that are repetitive and cause the skin to rub against material. Some of these include weightlifting, surfing, swimming in chlorine (pool nipple), outdoor sports, repetitive factory work or even mechanic work while wearing a rough fabric “work shirt”.
What Exactly is the Male Nipple?
The nipple is the small bump that is in approximately the center of the areola, which is the flat area around the nipple. Both of these areas can have issues. The nipples in both men and women have a large supply of nerves. This can cause nipples that are sensitive, dry, chaffed, cracked or spit to be painful, sore, itchy or annoying, whereas if the same skin condition occurred elsewhere, it would not be as bothersome.
Different Types of Men's Nipple Issues
There is not a "one size fits all" joggers nipple or runners nipple definition. Joggers nipple symptoms, runners nipple symptoms, and general men's nipple symptoms often include dryness, sensitivity, pain, soreness, chafing, cracking and sometimes bleeding or a friction blister. Each person may have a different combination of symptoms or severity of symptoms.
To make the subject clearer, let’s divide the causes of men’s nipple issues into 3 categories: chronic-lifelong, chronic-sustained and acute.
Some men have chronic nipple dryness, cracking, chafing and sensitivity for most of their lives. It isn’t because of a specific situation, it is just because of their skin type, similar to how some people have dry hands or dry feet their whole lives despite trying several remedies.
For these men, some interventions to try to prevent "jogger's nipple" are:
- Making sure you are well hydrated. For the average person this is achieved by drinking 64 oz of plain water per day.
- Make sure that the soaps, shampoos and laundry detergents that you use are not making the condition worse. Having a 6-week trial of a natural product that is free of skin irritating chemicals to determine if the situation improves may be worth trying.
- Allergies are becoming more common. Having an allergic reaction to a fabric or chemical can cause nipples to be irritated, dry, cracked, sensitive or sore.
- Avoid scratching the area as this may cause small openings in the skin which can cause the condition to worsen or contribute to a local infection. (Did You Know? Gently and slowly rubbing an area with moderate pressure of the fingertips (not nails) usually provides as much relief for the itching as scratching does!)
- Use an organic nipple balm to moisturize and protect the nipple and areola area.
Some men have continuous activities that irritate the nipples. It may be a rough work shirt, a job that makes them sweat (ex: construction) that causes the area around the nipples to sweat and leads to irritation, or continuous exercise that causes either sweating or friction in the nipple area.
It is a myth that a man’s nipples will “toughen-up” and soon these activities will no longer be problematic. What usually happens is the man stops complaining about it rather than the problem going away.
The Chronic-Sustained category can include Runner’s Nipple and Jogger’s Nipple which are two terms for basically the same symptoms. Runners Nipple and Joggers Nipple describe the condition of the athlete having raw, cracked and sometimes bleeding nipples from the friction caused from the nipples rubbing against the shirt. Women who wear good-fitting sports bras often will not have this issue because the friction occurs between the fabric of the shirt and the fabric of the bra rather than between the nipple and the shirt.
The condition can occur in all types of weather. Sweating during a run may increase the nipple irritation in warm weather and running in cold weather where the nipples are erect and the skin is contracted may also lead to increased irritation. Working and playing in cold weather may have the same effect. That is why it is called nipply weather.
Remedies that may be helpful to avoid "runner's nipple" are the same actions listed under Chronic-Sustained plus:
- Try different types of shirt materials. There is no “perfect” shirt or material that works for everyone. Finding your “perfect shirt” is more of an individual trial and error process to find what works rather than buying the newest popular shirt. For some men a tighter shirt that moves with the body will help their nipple issues, for others, this creates increased friction and causes increased issues. Tank tops and shirts provide different friction factors for nipples. It may be helpful to try different tank tops and shirts in different fabrics to determine what works best for you.
- Wear a specialty designed men’s sports bra. These come in many styles. There are men’s sports bras available that provide padding as well as some that provide compression over the area. Finding one that works for you is trial and error. Finding one that fits is essential to help nipple problems with exercise. Male bras that ride up because they are too small or cause increased friction because they are too big may exacerbate the problem. Compression shirts may eliminate friction or if they do not fit well, they may exacerbate the problem by causing friction and pressure over sensitive nipple tissue.
- Some runners and joggers find that placing bandages over the sensitive area works to prevent friction. Others find that sweating causes the bandages to fall off quickly. The adhesives of the bandages can introduce another variable that can lead to further irritation of the nipple area. Before using a bandage when you are exercising, try placing the bandage over the nipple area for a day without exercising. After 24 hours remove the bandage and check to see if the bandage left a red, pink or blistered area. If the bandage causes irritation without the exercise and the sweat, it will definitely cause irritation once the friction and sweating starts.
- There are especially designed nipple tapes and nipple guards for running and jogging. These should be tested in an exercise-free environment as well. For some men these work well, for others they provide no relief. These products have also brought relief for other types of exercise and for those that do repetitive work or work in a hot or cold environment.
- If you run shirtless the problem of friction will be eliminated; however, some men may still have irritated nipples from the sweat and temperature.
- A Nipple Balm applied before the start of exercise may be helpful to protect the area from sweat and friction. Balms are absorbed slowly and provide protection to the area compared to creams or lotions which are quickly absorbed by the skin. Test in non-exercise conditions first.
Treatment for chafed, dry, sore, cracked, tender and bleeding nipples.
The best course of treatment will depend on the individual and the severity of the problem.
The first step, no matter the severity, is ensuring the area is clean and dry. Gently wash with warm water, a non-irritating, non-perfumed and natural soap. Gently dry the area by pressing the towel (gently) into the skin, holding for a few seconds to allow the water to be absorbed, and then going to the next area. Do not rub or use a hair dryer. The nipple skin is very sensitive and thinner than other types of skin.
Once dry, applying a good nipple balm to protect and help heal the nipple skin can be very beneficial.
Depending on the amount of skin damage, applying a bandage over the area can help healing and prevent further damage. Make sure the bandage is large enough that the tape used to secure the bandage will be affixed to normal, non-damaged skin. Breathable gauze or a non-stick (non-adherent) substance like telfa may be used. Gauze may stick to a bleeding nipple; however, it absorbs fluids well. A non-adherent dressing will only absorb a small amount of fluid but will not stick to the nipple when removed. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for your individual situation.
Acute Medical Conditions in Men’s nipples.
It is not common according to Medical News Today; but men can get fungal or yeast infections on their nipples. Men can experience pain, burning, tenderness, itching or stinging in the area. The area may be pink, red or have a rash-like appearance. Chapped, cracked or chafed nipples that are slow to heal may also indicate a fungal infection. Many types of fungal infections have become more common in the U.S over the last few years.
Dermatitis of the nipple and breast area may also occur in men, although it is not as common as breastfeeding women. Signs of these nipple problems in men may include burning, itching, pain, sores that leak fluid, and crusting of the area. Men may also experience eczema in the nipple and breast area that can be made worse by exercise, jogging or running.