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Your sex ed classes might not have covered everything your body is capable of. From menstruation to pregnancy to orgasm, the body is impressive. So just why do nipples get hard? Do nipple erections differ between men or women? And when do erect nipples become an issue?
Side note: If you are currently struggling to orgasm during sex or masturbation, then you may want to learn about the Easy Orgasm Solution. It begins by teaching you the techniques to orgasm easily and consistently. Then you'll learn how to have multiple vaginal and full body orgasms during sex and masturbation. You can find out more here.
How Nipples Get Hard
Nipple erections work differently from penis erections. When the penis gets hard due to stimulation or arousal, the smooth muscles that are normally contracted relax. This allows arteries in the penis to expand and fill with blood, which becomes trapped and cannot flow outward .
Related: What You Need To Know About Boners
This explains why men may struggle with getting and maintaining erections if they have heart or other cardiovascular problems. In fact, erectile dysfunction might be a good predictor of such illnesses . It’s also why medications that interfere with blood flow such as blood pressure medicines can impact erection .
However, nipples don’t become hard when blood flows into them. Instead, the biological reason that nipples become erect is because smooth fibers in the the nipple help the nipples become erect . In addition, as the nipples rise and become prominent, the surface area of the areola surrounding them shrinks .
You might notice that your areolas become wrinkled or puckered when your nipples are hard. This is because nipple stimulation will feel more intense–perhaps too intense for you to enjoy. Whether stimulation feels good depends on the reason your nipples are hard. For example, if you’re cold, any stimulation may feel torturous while your aroused nipples respond positively to a lover’s touch.
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Of course, a devious lover might take advantage of this by teasing you with an ice cube when you’re tied up.
If that idea sounds good to you, check out our guide to light bondage.
Psst, wondering how to make your nipples hard quickly? Ice works wonders!
You can take it further with nipple clamps and other types of nipple play.
Read More: 12 Ways To Use Nipple Play For More Intense Sex
Why Do Nipples Get Hard?
There are a lot of reasons why you might experience hard nipples, and few of them have anything to do with sex.
Men don’t always seem to understand this. In one study where researchers showed men and women images of women with erect nipples, men assessed the images as more sexual than women did . If men associate hard nipples with sex more often, they might misread a woman’s nipple erections. Perhaps that’s why men are more likely to help women whose nipples are erect .
Related: Why Do Men Like Breasts? Find Out The Real Reason
Erect nipples aren’t exclusive to women, either. Men get them all the time, and their nipples don’t even serve the same functions as a woman’s nipples.
Below are some of the reasons why nipples get hard.
1. You’re Cold
You’re not alone if you wonder why your nipples get hard when you’re cold, especially if your nipples only really become erect when cold or aroused! The same nerves that cause the hair follicles on your arms to become bumpy and raised (i.e. goosebumps) cause erect nipples  when it’s a bit nippy.
In fact, hair follicles on your areolas, which are absolutely normal, may also pucker when you’re cold. You may never notice them otherwise.
Goosebumps, like nipples, can similarly be pleasant or unpleasant depending on context.
Hard nipples from being cold may be quite uncomfortable, so make sure to bundle up before you step outside into cool air. A thicker bra may provide warmth as well as hiding firm nipples.
2. Friction from Clothing
If you wear tight clothes, then it’s natural for your nipples to rub against them and you might wind up with hard nipples as a result. You might not even notice this friction, but the results become pretty obvious. There’s nothing to worry about if this is why your nipples are hard, but friction can cause discomfort after a while.
Lotion can replenish the moisture you’ve lost due to friction, while Band-aids or anti-chafing cream can prevent your problem from becoming too serious to begin with.
3. You’re Frightened
This is a less-known reason why nipples get hard. But fear can have physical reactions from quickened breathing to the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach to, yes, erect nipples. This is because the amygdala plays a part in both fear and sexual arousal .
The same mechanism that gives you goosebumps when you’re cold can become active when you’re afraid . So this might be another possible explanation for fear-based nipple erections.
So if you’re afraid, you might also have erect nipples, but the other symptoms may be more noticeable at the moment.
What does it mean when your nipples get hard when breastfeeding? It’s all about feeding your baby. Not only does breastfeeding provide stimulation that can make your nipples erect, but that stimulation causes the release of two hormones, oxytocin and prolactin, that help you secret and eject milk while breastfeeding . This may even be the main reason why nipples become erect from physical stimulation. Your body knows what it needs to do!
So you shouldn’t worry when breastfeeding causes hard nipples. It’s completely natural and has no negative sexual undertone.
Related: How to Breastfeed Your Man
And if you’re pregnant, you might experience nipple erections more than ever before as they get ready for your new child.
Did you know that you can still breastfeed even if you have pierced nipples? This is because your nipples are super capable!
5. Hormone Therapy
Thus far, we’ve discussed normal and natural reasons why you may get hard nipples. But nipples can become exceptionally sensitive, which results in more erections if you have an excess of the hormone estrogen in your system. Menopausal women who take estrogen to replenish moisture (discover more tips for senior sex) or trans women who take estrogen might find that their nipples are often hard because of the hormone therapy.
Having high amounts of estrogen can sometimes be problematic. Excess estrogen can also lead to weight gain and more intense PMS symptoms. Your hypersensitive nipples may be accompanied by breast tenderness, too. High estrogen levels are also linked to high blood pressure and tumors. It can be the reason why you’re so horny, as well as why your nipples get hard when you’re horny.
If you’re worried that your hard nipples might be related to a health concern, it’s time to talk to your doctor.
6. You Have Your Period
Isn’t it interesting how so many pregnancy symptoms are also the side effects of having your period? And sore nipples, which may also be hard, are one of those signs. If your nipples seem a little harder one week out of the month, it’s nothing to worry about.
You may want to keep breast stimulation during sex more gentle or keeps his – and your – hands off until your breasts are less tender. Not sure about having sex during your period? Discover how to make it hot and keep it clean.
7. Physical Stimulation
Even if you’re not aroused, nipple stimulation can lead to erect nipples. Try rubbing or pinching your nipple, and you’ll see. It will soon be hard, but it will return to normal in short order. Technically, friction is a type of stimulation, but we thought we’d differentiate between accidental and purposeful stimulation.
For some people, nipple stimulation can lead to sexual arousal, and you’ll even find special nipple arousal gels to help get things going. That’s because your nipples are one of your body’s many erogenous zones. More about this here.
Read this if you wanna know how nipple play can make sex better. Or check out this post with 15 techniques to help you have nipple orgasms.
8. Sexual Arousal
Of course, one of the reasons why nipples get hard is sexual arousal. It’s far from the only reason why you might have hard nipples, as you’ve come to realize. However, arousal is often the only thing many people associate with hard nipples.
Science can easily explain why your nipples get hard when you’re turned on. In fact, the part of your brain–the genital sensory cortex–activates in fMRI scans when stimulating the nipples just like it does in response to clitoral, vaginal, and cervical stimualtion !
Having erect nipples isn’t the only sign of arousal, though. Flushing of the skin on your face and chest, vaginal lubrication, and clitoral erection are all other signs. But you can feel mentally aroused without many – or any – physical signs. But, again, this is more common with women than is it with men.
Learn more about the dissonance between physical and mental arousal that many women experience in this post on sexual desire.
Any topical allergic reaction can lead to swelling or inflammation. So if you’ve recently switched lotions or laundry soap, you might notice that your nipples are “hard” more frequently. Your nipples are unlikely to be the only body part affected, however. And you might also develop hives or find yourself unable to scratch.
One reason why people pierced their nipples is to increase stimulation–not to mention that it can look super hot! So if your nipples are pierced and more sensitive, it makes sense that they might get hard more often than they once did.
Read More: How A Nipple Piercing Makes You Feel Sexier and Improve Sex
If you’re considering piercing your nipples, but they already get hard often enough to be a distraction, you might want to reconsider that plan.
Even if you take out your nipple jewelry and let the piercings close, your nipples may still become erect much more easily than they did before you had them pierced.
A negative cause of stiff nipples is an abscess in the breast. Abscesses happen when part of your body becomes infected and swells with pus . While a breast abscess may make your nipple hard, you’ll also likely notice that the skin is red, hot to the touch, and sensitive or even painful.
Piercings are one possible cause of an abscess.
If you think you have a breast abscess, speak to your doctor, who can examine you and recommend treatment such as antibiotics or minor surgery to reduce the infection and abscess.
From headaches to sadness, many bodily responses are impacted by hormones. Why not nipples? If you notice that your nipples get hard more often during a certain time of your cycle, and not just during your period, it could be hormones at play. The weeks before and after your period and during ovulation may bring increased nipple erections.
Similarly, hormone levels change during pregnancy, so you might notice that your nipples are harder. They may also start to lactate as your body prepares for an infant.
While the presence of hormones impacts your body, a lack of hormones can do the same. In women, the biggest hormone drop occurs around menopause, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and releasing eggs. Although, most people think of this as a time when a woman’s period stops, her ner nipples might react to the change in hormones, too.
Related: Sex After Menopause – Overcome These 3 Issues & Make It Orgasmic
Your hormone levels also shift tremendously after giving birth. A serious decline in estrogen and progestin may contribute to postpartum depression and other mood disorders.
There may very well be other reasons that your nipples are hard. After all, every body is different (it’s why there are so many different types of nipples!). Pay attention to the times when you have erect nipples to see if there’s a connection.
Otherwise, enjoy them if the timing is right. And if it’s not? Don’t worry! This, too, shall pass.
Hard Nipples Aren’t Always Good
Just because your nipples are erect doesn’t mean that stimulation will feel good. For example, if you’re cold, then touching your nipples might even hurt. Your nipples might even hurt when cool temperatures make them hard, even if no one or nothing is touching them. But if you’re aroused, you might love when your man pinches or sucks on them.
Kinksters are acutely aware that arousal can increase our ability to tolerate or even enjoy otherwise painful or uncomfortable sensations. But science supports it, too. Research finds a “pain-attenuating effect” of orgasm . Essentially, orgasm reduces the impact of pain.
A further study of pain tolerance and detection in women during arousal and orgasm found that the pain detection threshold “increased more than 100%” while pain tolerance increased 74.6% during orgasm [14, 15]. This means that not only did participants detect less pain during orgasm, but they could handle more pain than usual. The same study found similar pain threshold increases during vaginal stimulation, whether it was detected as pleasure or pressure.
This is why we advise making sure you’re plenty randy before spanking or other forms of impact play–unless you want it to hurt more! This is definitely the case with nipple clamps, increasing sensation and giving the impression of hard nipples. Put them on when you’re not aroused, and they might feel like the sort of torture that you don’t like (unless your man is trying to serve up a little punishment, of course).
Related: 7 Tricks to Get Your Boyfriend to Spank You in the Bedroom
Trying to acclimate to more severe activities? Check out our post on sensual domination, which can help you stand more pain over time.
Sometimes It’s Just One
While we’ve discussed hard nipples as a pair, it’s important to remember that you might just have one nipple that’s erect. Perhaps you’re not cold enough for fully erect nipples. One nip might be more sensitive than the other. This is completely normal. Humans aren’t symmetrical.
Even your vagina is asymmetrical. Learm more on what a normal vagina looks like.
Hide Your Hard Nips?
Now that you know why nipples get hard. It’s normal, natural, and doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But it can make you feel self-conscious, especially if your erect nipples are visible through your bra and top.
If you’re not going for the risque look, your hard nipples might be giving away more information than you’d like to share. Many women take this into consideration when it comes to dressing. For example, you might choose a bra with more padding or wear a cami under your top. In addition, a fully lined swimsuit helps prevent nipples from making an appearance as soon as you emerge from the water.
On the other hand, you might want to emphasize your nipples or let them “slip” when wearing lingerie. Some pieces even have cutouts for your nipples.
Read: How to Choose the Perfect Lingerie for Your Body
But think of it this way: men have nipples, too. And those nipples sometimes get hard, and what man is really worried that you’ll be able to see his nipples through his t-shirt? Your body is natural, and there’s no reason you have to hide it.
Besides, people pay less attention to you than they are to themselves, so don’t sweat it. In fact, some celebs step out onto the red carpet in outfits specifically designed to show the pointed nipple.
Society doesn’t always do a good job of educating people, women especially, on how their bodies work and what’s normal. Hopefully, you now understand the myriad answers to your questions, “Why do nipples get hard?”. Then, you can wow your friends and family with your new knowledge and remind people that arousal is but one of many factors leading to erect nipples!
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Sean Jameson says
Talk to your doctor.
Hi, Grand article,
I have always wondered why many woman show cleavage and cover their erect nipples. It is obvious to me that they want the ‘looks’. What’s the difference?
Cary Cotterman says
My wife’s nipples are usually flat, with wide, soft areolas. The nipples gradually begin to rise a little as she becomes aroused. Right at the moment of her orgasm, the nipples quickly become very erect and hard, and the large areolas contract around them, wrinkly and hard. This happens when neither one of us is touching the breasts or nipples. There is no way she could be causing this sudden nipple erection to happen with her mind, so it is a certain sign that an orgasm has taken place.