About 200 people in Israel and elsewhere have prosthetic nipples that look and feel natural – all because of an Israeli woman who wasn’t willing to live the rest of her life without one.

Michelle Kolath-Arbel’s self-funded company, Pink Perfect, was founded for people who are missing a nipple because of cancer surgery or any other reason. The nipples are handmade from platinum-grade silicone to match the client’s skin tone, and are attached with a medical-grade adhesive strong enough to wear in the pool or shower.

Unless you’ve gone through a mastectomy, like the 37-year-old Kolath-Arbel did in 2011, you might not realize that the cancerous breast’s nipple is almost always removed as well. The only available solutions – a “bump” of spare skin on the reconstructed breast, and/or a tattoo that must be retouched yearly – were not acceptable to her.

“When I realized my nipple would be removed with my breast, I was crying so much because this is something permanent,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “I shopped around and tried to find a solution.”

She ordered fake nipples from US and Asian companies, but they were disappointingly just that – very fake.

“I didn’t like the texture of what was available,” she explains. “You already feel ridiculous without a real nipple, and the last thing you want to feel is more ridiculous.”

It occurred to her to make a mold to fashion an artificial nipple. She was a marketing manager for an advertising company, but enjoyed making jewelry and crafts. “I always had a good hand,” Kolath-Arbel says.

With a loan from her brother, she took a prosthetics course with a silicone specialist. “And I just started making them. I thought if I’m crazy enough to do this, I hope there are other crazy women like me not settling for a bad solution.”

Ready-made or custom-made

Pink Perfect nipples can be purchased ready-made and custom-made. Each comes with a one-year warranty, although with proper care the silicone nipples can last for years, says their inventor. Some insurance plans offer reimbursement.

Ready-made nipple styles “natural,” “modest” and “bold” are available in eight different color variations from pink to brown. The price of $280 per pair includes a bottle of adhesive and free shipping.

Kolath-Arbel wasn’t willing to settle for a prosthesis that didn’t feel natural.
Kolath-Arbel wasn’t willing to settle for a prosthesis that didn’t feel natural.

Custom-made nipples cost $370 apiece. The customer can purchase a $50 impression kit that comes with a color chart, and mail it back to Kolath-Arbel at her Kfar Saba home office in Israel. Most of her overseas orders come from the United States, and she has also filled orders from Canada and Australia.

“I was scared at the beginning that the kit would not work out well, but I have gotten good feedback,” she says.

“Most customers are post-mastectomy, and they take a mold of their other nipple so I can match it. With a double mastectomy, they choose whatever they want. Some girls always wanted pinker nipples, and they can have that now.”

She also has made nipples for women whose plastic surgery procedures went awry; for a male transgender; and for a man who had breast cancer surgery. She even made one for a child born without a nipple.

Pink and perfect

Interviews with satisfied Pink Perfect customers have been featured in the Israeli media, and Kolath-Arbel has been interviewed on Israeli television and in print.

Dr. Yoav Barnea, director of breast reconstruction at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Kolath-Arbel “essentially completes our breast reconstruction operation. Michelle … provided a solution to build a nipple that looks like the other one in shape and color, and avoids surgery.”

In speaking with ISRAEL21c, Kolath-Arbel revealed for the first time that she is currently developing a full breast prosthesis.

“Two years after I was diagnosed [with breast cancer], my sister was also diagnosed and she couldn’t have a reconstruction. So from her painful situation, I decided to try doing a full breast. I hope that will be the next thing.”

Kolath-Arbel explains that the name of the company was her husband Simon’s brainstorm.

“First of all, we know that the product has to be perfect. Pink is the breast cancer awareness color, and nipples are pink,” she explains, adding that her husband of 10 years believes in her startup and helps her in many ways, such as building the Pink Perfect website.

She has chosen not to accept outside investments, at least for now, preferring to use profits to build her business step by step.

For more information, see www.pink-perfect.com.