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Illustrations by Diego Sabogal

Breasts come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. No two people have breasts that look exactly the same.

So, what’s “normal” when it comes to breasts? How do your breasts measure up?

The answer is that your breasts are unique, and it’s perfectly OK that they have their own distinctive shape and size.

The only thing that isn’t normal is unexplained pain and sensitivity.

If you need more convincing, read on to learn about the many variations of breast shapes and how to identify yours among them.

Even if your breasts take after a common “type,” they probably have variations that set them apart from the next person’s.

Some breasts have characteristics associated with multiple types and can’t be boxed into one specific category.

Want to get a closer look? Slip into something comfortable and go somewhere private, preferably with a mirror.

Use this time to explore your unique anatomy and learn more about your body.

Archetype

 common breast shapes

The archetypal breast — round and full with a small point at the nipple — is considered the “standard” for breast type.

It’s said to be the most common shape, so it’s what most bra manufacturers model their designs after.

Asymmetrical

 common breast shapes

Asymmetrical breasts are of two different sizes. It’s pretty common for breasts to be uneven by a cup size or less, and more than half of people have some variation between breast size.

Athletic

 common breast shapes

Athletic breasts are wider, with more muscle and less breast tissue.

Bell shape

 common breast shapes

Bell-shaped breasts resemble a bell, with a narrow top and a rounder bottom.

Close set

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Close-set breasts have no separation or a very small gap between them. They sit closer to the center of your chest, creating more distance between your underarm and your breast.

Conical

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Conical breasts are shaped more like cones, rather than round. This shape is considered to be more common in smaller breasts than larger ones.

East West

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If your nipples point outward, away from the center of your body, then your breast type is East West.

Relaxed

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Relaxed breasts have looser breast tissue and nipples that point downward.

Round

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Round breasts have an equal amount of fullness at the top and the bottom.

Side set

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Side-set breasts are further apart, with more space between them.

Slender

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Slender breasts are narrow and long, with nipples pointing downwards.

Teardrop

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The teardrop shape is round and the bottom is just a little fuller than the top.

Once you’ve identified your shape, you may wonder: How did your breasts get to be that shape?

A few factors can determine why your breasts are the way they are.

Genetics have the biggest say, by far. Your genes influence your breast density, tissue, size, and more.

Other factors that shape your breasts include:

  • Weight. Fat is a large part of your breast tissue and density, so you may notice a difference in your breast shape as you gain or lose weight.
  • Exercise. Your breasts might look firmer or perkier if you build up the muscles behind your breast tissue by strengthening your pecs.
  • Age. Your breasts will naturally sag as you get older, so over time, your breasts may become longer and shift to face downward.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Your hormones during pregnancy and breastfeeding can make your breasts swell and change the way the fat and tissue are distributed throughout your breasts.

Your areola is the darker area surrounding your nipple. It’s also unique to your body, and no two sets are the same.

The average areola is 4 centimeters in diameter, but some are much smaller and some are much bigger.

It isn’t unusual for your areolae to change in size over time or during periods like pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Areolae come in many different colors.

Although people who have darker skin tend to have darker areolae than those of people with lighter skin, that’s not always the case.



Your areola shape can also be uneven or lopsided, so don’t worry if you don’t have two perfectly round circles around your nipples. This is more common than you might think.

Just like your breast shape and areolae, your nipples are unique. (Seeing a pattern here?)

They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, directions, and more.

Some of the most common nipple variations include:

  • Bumpy. Small bumps around the areolae, called Montgomery glands, are more noticeable on some nipples.
  • Everted. Everted nipples are erect, standing up away from the areolae even when they’re not being stimulated.
  • Inverted. Inverted nipples retract inward instead of standing out like erect nipples.
  • Flat. Flat nipples remain at the level of the areolae, though they may stand up with stimulation.
  • Hairy. It’s totally normal to have hair growing around your nipples, and some people have more hair than others.
  • Protruding. Protruding nipples stand erect, further than everted nipples, even without stimulation.
  • Puffy. Both the areola and the nipple make up a raised mound.
  • Supernumerary. This is just a fancy way of saying you have an extra nipple — which, in case you’re wondering, is completely normal.
  • Unilateral inverted. These nipples like to mix it up, as one is inverted and the other is everted.

You may notice changes in your breast size, shape, and color over time.

Often, these changes are tied to hormonal fluctuations, aging, or other natural occurrences.

However, there are a few symptoms that could be a sign of an underlying health condition.

See a doctor or other healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

  • unexplained tenderness or soreness
  • unexplained redness or bruising
  • abnormal or bloody nipple discharge
  • lumps or swelling in the breast tissue
  • a sudden change, such as a raised nipple becoming retracted

Your provider will use your symptoms and medical history to help determine what’s causing these changes.


Maisha Z. Johnson is a writer and advocate for survivors of violence, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities. She lives with chronic illness and believes in honoring each person’s unique path to healing. Find Maisha on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.