Just Ink It—Covering Your Scars

Published on May 25, 2017 by Elisha Neubauer

Scars show the story of a person’s life... they detail experiences, both good and bad. For some, however, some scars are a page in their life story that they would rather forget—that they just want to color over.

But, how do you get rid of something as permanent as a scar?  


Well, there’s always the plastic surgery route. We’ve all seen shows like Dr. 90210 or Nip/Tuck which show woman after woman (and the occasional man, of course, depending on the episode) waltzing in to have their flaws wiped clean—including things such as c-section scars and scars left behind from car accidents or other injuries.


For some of us, however, plastic surgery just isn’t feasible. And we all have our reasons for that. Some want to enhance their appearance, not redo it. Others simply can’t afford the high costs of plastic surgery procedures. In my case, for example, I want to avoid going under anesthesia at any cost—so voluntary surgery is just not in my game plan.


So what other routes can one take when trying to eradicate the appearance of a scar?


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This is where your local tattoo artist comes into play.


Tattooing over a scar is actually quite a common practice. Just in the last few years, mastectomy tattoos have begun making waves in the media, as well as c-section cover-ups and 3d nipples. It’s definitely a doable process, however, there are some precautions and guidelines that need to be followed in order to ensure you have a tattoo that relieves the stress of the scar, not one that adds to it.


First, let’s consider what a scar really is. A scar is essentially a cluster of fibrous tissue which replaces the “normal” skin after an injury occurs in that location. As the body begins to repair itself from the injury, it uses this form of “new skin” to recover—it is part of the biological process of healing. This new skin is a different texture and pigment and can be raised, tightened, or rough to the touch.


This new texture can make tattooing over the scar slightly difficult. Scar tissue can often be more painful for some clients. It also takes ink differently than regular skin does and the texture or shape of the scar have to be considered when designing a piece—you can’t just tattoo any old thing over the top of it.


If you’ve decided to cover your scar, for whatever reason, it is important to locate an artist who has had some experience in the process. Lines are easy to blur or blow out when used over scar tissue, so be diligent in finding an artist who understands the difference between regular skin and scar tissue and has developed a technique to avoid blowing out any lines during the covering. Discuss your scar with the artist and see what ideas they have regarding designs. When it comes to covering a scar with a tattoo, you need to keep an open mind. Your original design may not work as well as you think it will, so be patient and trust your artist if they say there need to be some changes. They want your tattoo to look as good as you do—it’s their name behind it, after all.


Steering clear of designs with open areas or negative spaces, such as tribal or Celtic images, is best as they won’t fully disguise the scar. You’ll want to find a design that will allow your artist some play room and which will cover the entirety of the scar—unless, of course, you are looking to work the scar into the design rather than fully cover it. Feathers and floral patterns are often used in scar cover-ups.


Finding an experienced artist isn’t the only step in the process when it comes to tattooing over a scar. Time is a big factor, too. They say it takes a scar up to 18 months to completely heal, but every injury and body is different and each person heals at a different rate. If it’s been less than 18 months, it’s likely that the artist won’t want to attempt to tattoo it. Tattoos placed over fresh scars can often blur and thicken. Ink doesn’t hold as well in fresh scar tissue and, in some cases, excess damage or extended scarring can occur if the scar hasn’t completely healed.


When you have decided on the artist and the tattoo design, and it’s been long enough for the tattoo to be truly healed (it’s often best to check with your dermatologist before tattooing, as they are able to spot a fully-healed scar), there is one more thing you need to keep in mind. Scar tissue is often more sensitive than regular skin—especially if there is nerve damage within the tissue. If you are averse to pain, meaning you have a low threshold, be prepared for some seriously uncomfortable sensations. Just remember, despite the heightened sensation, you’ll leave with a beautiful piece of art on your skin, reclaiming your body from the injury or event that placed the scar upon your body.


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