Many breast cancer survivors feel they cannot face their spouses for fear of being exposed. They feel their femininity has been taken away from them by the disease. To give women a sense of wholeness, one breast cancer survivor created the “Pink Perfect nipples”. The company produces silicone adhesive nipples that are applied to cancer survivors’ breasts after reconstruction surgeries.
The adhesive nipples are carefully crafted by Michelle Kolath-Arbel, owner and CEO of Pink Perfect, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Arbel then underwent a lateral (one-sided) mastectomy, leaving a zipper-like scar across her breast.
Following a mastectomy, patients go through reconstruction surgery, as surgeons use the “origami technique” to rearrange the skin and create a protruding nipple. Arbel opted for several prosthesis options but was not pleased with what was available on the market. That’s why she started manufacturing them by herself. Realizing her prosthesis appealed to many breast cancer survivors, Kolath-Arbel started manufacturing and marketing them from her home in Kfar Saba, Israel, two years ago.
Since then, Pink Perfect changed the lives of 200 Israeli breast cancer survivors – and more worldwide – as they leave behind their scars.
“I felt like a guy”
After her reconstructive surgery, Arbel had breast implants, but no nipples. “In the breast cancer survivor community, we call them `Barbie breasts,’ a breast with no nipple,” Arbel explains.
That’s why she was seeking artificial nipple reconstruction surgery. Awaiting approval for the second surgery, Arbel was browsing a magazine at the doctor’s office, as her eyes caught a nude female celebrity. However, her breasts weren’t completely exposed; they were covered in stars. “At that point, I realized that what made them breasts were the nipples,” Arbel recalls.
Sadly, she was rejected for a procedure she thought would give her that sense of wholeness – a second surgery which would have given her complete breasts. “I cried more than when they had told me about my diagnosis. I had hoped that maybe I could finally face myself after the surgery,” Arbel says.
Not only do they feel incomplete without nipples, many breast cancer survivors feel they cannot face their family members and daily life for fear of being exposed. They feel their femininity has been taken away from them by the disease. “I was bald, hairless; I had no hormones, which meant no sex drive. I felt like a guy”, Arbel says.
Intimate product means no mass production
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For Arbel, finding the perfect nipple with the color and transparency that seamlessly blends into the skin wasn’t an easy task. At first, Arbel opted for products by American and Asian companies but they felt rigid and looked like they belonged on a Barbie doll. Arbel pushed further and pursued studies abroad in silicone prosthesis making, and shortly thereafter, in July 2012, she launched Pink Perfect.
She has built her business without raising funds from investors. The self-made entrepreneur has no intentions of growing her business exponentially. “It is such an intimate product that I didn’t feel the need to mass produce it,” Arbel says. “I want to know exactly who it’s going to.”
When she participated in the Susan G. Komen Israel Race for the Cure, she handed out Pink Perfect samples to cancer survivors. “One woman tried the nipples on and burst into tears. She didn’t want to take them off,” Arbel recalls.
Another client of Arbel’s, Yulia, says: “A moment before the surgery, Michelle actually cloned my nipples just before they got removed.” Customer Linda says the prosthetic nipples gave her more confidence. “Seeing a complete breast in the mirror has made the most incredible difference. I look and feel whole again, which has translated to improvements in other areas of my life.”
Breast cancer survivor Ayelet Saidi agrees. “I was relieved that I found Pink Perfect, my self-esteem as a woman came back,” she tells NoCamels. “The surgery was hard, and Michal came like a light in the dark for me. The nipples felt real, the silicone stuck well and the colors look so real.”
Eight shapes and colors
But the first step in finding the perfect nipple is choosing the right shape, size and texture. The impact of a realistic prosthesis that feels and looks real can be life-changing. Breast cancer survivors can now choose from eight Pink Perfect color variations – ranging from light pink to mahogany – that come in natural, modest and bold. Even the texture of the areola can be replicated (bumps or no bumps).
A set of Pink Perfect nipples costs $280, including shipping and a free adhesive bottle. An impression kit helps the customer mold the exact shape and texture. Clients who prefer the custom-made ensemble, will pay $370; an optional impression kit for $50 is also available.
Pink perfect owes its name to the color of breast cancer awareness and the vision that every nipple should be perfect. However, even the most impeccable nipple cannot replace the sense of inner beauty that needs to be regained. Says Arbel: “My product helps women on this journey of survival. They are made to feel feminine and beautiful again. But women also need to know they are sexy from the inside.”
Photos and video courtesy of Pink Perfect