Israeli Breast Cancer Survivor Launches Prosthetic Nipple Company

Pink Perfect Helps Women Find Normalcy After Mastectomies

By Ben Sales

Published February 09, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

KFAR SABA, Israel (JTA) – Michelle Kolath-Arbel squeezes a nipple, rolling it in her fingers with a look of mild disgust.

Michelle Kolath-Arbel
Michelle Kolath-Arbel

This model, which Kolath-Arbel ordered from China two years ago for $50, is thick and crude and took three months to arrive in the mail.

“It was hard, rubbery,” she said. “It looked like a doll’s. My husband said, ‘Don’t put that on your body.’ ”

Kolath-Arbel, 37, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. A year later she underwent a mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

While fighting the disease, Kolath-Arbel says she remained relatively calm, keeping a tight schedule of treatments while holding down a full-time job as production director for an advertising firm. But finding out that her nipple would be removed during breast reconstruction, she broke down.

“When the doctor told me I’d have to lose the nipple, I cried more than when they told me I had cancer,” she said. “It’s so small, but every day I’d get dressed, I’d see the scar. I’d get undressed, I’d see the scar. I’d shower, I’d see the scar. It’s in your face.”

Searching for solutions, Kolath-Arbel came up empty. Reconstructive surgery would have rendered an unrealistic lump whose color would fade, she says, and the prosthetic nipples she ordered from the United States and China looked fake and rough.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” she said, quoting the Talmudic sage Hillel. She decided to design a nipple herself.

After a year studying with a silicone artist who specializes in prosthetics, Kolath-Arbel made her first nipple. Now she’s doing the same for hundreds of breast cancer survivors in Israel and abroad through the company she founded, Pink Perfect, which she runs from her home in Kfar Saba, a central Israeli city not far from Tel Aviv.

Some 4,500 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in Israel, according to the Israel Cancer Association.

“For the first pair I made, I found friends who had also been sick,” she said, sitting next to a binder bulging with nipple types she crafted. “One put it on and started crying. All the doctors said, ‘We were waiting for someone to do this.’ ”

Delicate and realistically textured, Kolath-Arbel’s nipples are surrounded by a semitransparent circle that blends with the skin on which it sits. For women who have undergone single mastectomies, she creates custom prosthetics from a silicone mold of the remaining nipple, matching its shade and that of the surrounding skin by mixing pigments with silicone gel.

To get the texture right, she uses a hard plastic tool she invented attached to a wooden stick. The finished nipple is attached to the breast with a medical adhesive.

Kolath-Arbel says her nipples have become progressively more accurate. She now anticipates the shade changing as the mold dries and knows to make the prosthetic a touch shallower than the real nipple to compensate for the stiffness of the fake.

“She essentially completes our breast reconstruction operation,” said plastic surgeon Yoav Barnea, who directs breast reconstruction at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. “What Michelle is doing is she provided a solution to build a nipple that looks like the other one in shape and color, and avoids surgery.”

For double mastectomies, Kolath-Arbel offers nipple models made from plastic molds. The models, which are named, vary in size, shade and texture. The most popular is Bold, a light option with a medium, shallow protrusion. Other offerings include Peach, Caramel and Sandy Brown.

Kolath-Arbel says women often seek what they consider an upgrade from their natural nipples, for example choosing a shade they always wished they had.

“I chose something nicer,” said Ayelet Itiel, 49, who underwent a double mastectomy in 2012. “I might as well, as long as you can choose what you want. You have identical, beautiful nipples. People don’t believe they’re not mine when I show my friends.”

Kolath-Arbel has expanded her services beyond mastectomy patients. Her most challenging client, she says, was a 5-year-old girl born without a nipple who likely will be a repeat customer as she grows.

Kolath-Arbel also has provided her services to three men who survived breast cancer. As men are bare-chested at the pool or beach, Kolath-Arbel says, a prosthetic nipple is especially important. But she says they are also less particular about how the nipple looks.

“They’re much more easygoing,” she said. “They don’t care if its the right shade or height. It just matters if there’s something. In any case, the hair hides it.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.