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Local business offers free tattoos for women with mastectomies for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As of last year, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer globally. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in eight women in America will develop the disease over the course of her lifetime, and while deaths have been declining, survivors are often left with physical scars and having their breasts removed.

However, technology exists to give breast cancer survivors 3-D tattoos that reconstruct the areola. This is one of several services provided by Shelby Rae Yadao of Vacaville business ShelbyRae.Ink, and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she is offering them for free throughout the month.

tattoo artist filling bottle

Founded in 2009, the business provides a variety of services to clients, including makeup, eyebrow work, lip blushing, tattoo removals, eyeliner and more. Last year, Yadao was certified to provide 3-D areola tattoos, but it is a service she has wanted to provide for a while.

“I have a lot of important women in my family that have had breast cancer ever since I was a little kid,” she said. “That’s what inspired me to get certified, but recently, some more ladies in my life have been diagnosed, so I just thought it was important to offer this service for these ladies. They’ve gone through so much already.”


Yadao does offer areola tattoos all year but always with a cost. This campaign, titled “Stronger Together,” allows her to offer the service for free, both for women and men who have experienced breast cancer and undergone surgery.

The process consists of using shadows and highlights to create 3-D tattoos that reconstruct the entire areola.

“Everything that we naturally have, I just implement that as a tattoo,” Yadao said.

The designs can differ depending on what the customer wants. Yadao said some clients prefer to not have the Montgomery gland of the nipple, and sometimes clients come in with single or double mastectomies.

“If they have a single, then I just try to duplicate their other areola and I try to make it look similar,” she said.

Yadao said she performs the service on her off days when the salon she works at is enclosed to ensure clients’ privacy.

“A lot of ladies, this is their first time feeling comfortable,” she said. “Some people never knew it existed. I’ve just been working on the days that my salon is actually closed to give them their own personal privacy.”

Nonetheless, Yadao said the work has been very rewarding and has kept her very busy. While the aftermath of breast cancer surgery can take time to get used to, Yadao wants to ensure they feel a greater sense of body positivity.

“I would hope that it would make all of my clients feel comfortable,” she said. “They experienced so much already, and (I want to provide) something so simple as me being able to give them one or two 3-D areolas just so they feel comfortable in their own skin and rebuilding their confidence back.”

ShelbyRae.Ink is located at 536 E. Main St. The free campaign will run through Oct. 31, but clients can pay to receive areola tattoos afterward. To make an appointment, call or text 365-4124.