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To some, a scar is like a tattoo—it has a cool backstory that can often be used as an icebreaker at parties. Other scars, however, have negative memories tied to them, making them more suitable to be hidden than put on display. Either choice is fine, but those who aren’t happy with their scars may want to cover it with a piece of body art.
But can you tattoo over scars? You’ll be happy to read that covering your scars with tattoos is very possible and can lead to truly amazing results. You, however, have to keep a few things in mind before you decide to tattoo over scar tissue.
Things To Consider Before Getting a Scar Cover-Up Tattoo
Tattooing over scars takes more planning than getting inked on healthy skin. You can’t just walk into a tattoo parlour and expect to get your scar covered up then and there. You should prepare yourself for more than one consultation with your tattoo artist. As any professional tattoo artist will tell you, tattooing over scar tissue comes with its own set of challenges.
1. Assess the Scar
Not all scars are the same, and tattooing over some types of scars can be tricky (or impossible). This is why it is important to have a chat with a professional tattoo artist and get an honest opinion of what is and isn’t possible. They will have a look at the type of scar, its location, and let you know if you can tattoo over your scar.
Here’s a list of the types of scars and their difficulty levels and whether it’s possible to tattoo over them.
Can you tattoo over hypertrophic scars?
These scars are usually thick in nature, red, and elevated. You get them as a result of a burn or some or other superficial injury. It takes them over a year to heal completely, and that is how long you’ll have to wait to get a tattoo over burn scars.
Can you tattoo over keloid scars?
These scars are thick and red and have a jagged and bumpy shape. They occur after a serious injury and can take anything between three and five years to heal fully. If you’re impatient and get a tattoo over an unhealed keloid scar, it can lead to the scar reopening.
So, although you can tattoo over keloid scars, these scars are the most difficult to cover and will need a lot of planning and you will have to take your tattoo artist’s advice when it comes to design.
Can you tattoo over atrophic scars?
You find these scars below the skin’s surface. The most well-known type of atrophic scars are stretch marks, but you also get them after a burn, deep cut, or minor surgical procedure. Scars left behind from acne or chickenpox are also atrophic scars. These types of scars are the most popular to cover with a tattoo and also the most straightforward and safe.
However, as with other scars, the scar must be healed before you get inked over it. Furthermore, these scars are usually discolored, so finding a design with the right colors, detail, and texture is very important if you want to hide the scars.
Can you tattoo over amputation or skin-removal scars?
Healed, these scars are very easy to get tattooed. The only thing to keep in mind is that it might be too sensitive to get inked on these scars since they’re usually located on areas that can have serious nerve damage.
Of course, if you can handle the pain, nothing is stopping you from covering your scar with a tattoo.
2. Evaluate the Healing Stage
As you now know, certain scars take up to five years to heal fully. So, even though you can tattoo over scars, you need to make sure you don’t do it while it is still in the healing process. Your tattoo artists may not always be able to tell how old your scar is and if it is healed properly; it is up to you to be honest.
3. Find a Reputable Tattoo Artist
We always emphasize the importance of getting tattooed by a professional tattoo artist. We can’t stress this point enough, especially when it comes to scar cover-up tattoos.
Get a few names of artists in your area and ask them, straight away, “Can you tattoo over scars?” If they answer yes confidently and you’re happy with their portfolio, then you can go ahead. If you select someone who is inexperienced in tattooing on scars, you may experience complications afterwards.
4. Get the Right Design
Not all designs work. If you and your tattoo artist put your heads together, you’ll be able to come up with a design that hides your scar and doesn’t highlight it. The location, size, severity, and discoloration will affect the design and help guide your artist toward the right colors, depth, and texture to use.
In general, designs that have an organic flow and move with your scar work better than geometric and rigid shapes. Of course, it all depends on the look of the scar and what you want to achieve.
You have to keep in mind that there is a higher chance of blowout when tattooing on scarred skin. Since the skin varies in thickness, the tattoo needle may penetrate the skin deeper on some spots. This results in ink spreading beyond the tattoo lines giving it a blurry effect.
5. Manage the Pain
The pain of getting a tattoo on a scar hits differently than on healthy skin. Some scars may be on areas where there’s been nerve damage, which will make the experience a tad more painful than usual.
How painful it is around the scar also depends on how long ago you got the scar. If you go against professional advice and get a tattoo on a fresh scar, you can expect it to hurt terribly.
A scar that is healed completely will get extremely irritated and raised when poked with needles—now imagine how a fresh scar will react and the level of pain that accompanies it! You also have to prepare for follow-up sessions—it is a must when you get a tattoo on scar tissue.
Correctly caring for a scar cover-up tattoo is vitally important. You will have to keep an eye on the tattoo healing process, as well as how the scarred tissue reacts to the ink.
Using the right tattoo ointment can save you a lot of hassle. It is normal for your scar to look red and raised after getting your tattoo; it aggravated already damaged skin. If the scar stays irritated and raised and starts hurting more as time goes on, you need to go to a doctor.
There’s also the possibility that the scar will reopen and this can lead to a tattoo infection. In this case, getting immediate medical attention is crucial.
Tattoos That Work With Scars
Your tattoo artist may recommend you get a tattoo that incorporates your scar into the design instead of covering it up. This generally happens when scars are too large, raised, or deep to tattoo over.
With a little bit of creativity, you and your tattoo artist can come up with a design that can turn your scar into a work of art without covering it up. It all depends on your personality and preferences.
For example, if the scar is long, tattooing a fish head at one end and a tail on the other can leave you with a cute, cartoonish fishbone. If you’re a horror fan, why not put your favorite scary character next to your scar as if they gave it to you? The options are endless.
You can also take a more sentimental route and add a special quote around the scar. This is a choice if you got your scar in an accident where you were lucky to survive, or due to a lifesaving operation.
So, if you visit a tattoo artist and they feel that covering the scar up isn’t a viable option, don’t feel discouraged—there are different ways you can embrace your scar. All it takes is a well thought out design.
Can you tattoo over scars? For the most part, the answer is yes!
Whether your scar triggers bad memories or you want to cover it up for the simple reason that it is unsightly to your eyes—go for it!
- Your scar needs to be healed.
- Some types of scars are more difficult to cover than others.
- The design you choose is super important.
- It is more painful than getting a normal tattoo.
- Find a tattoo artist who has experience in covering up scar tissue with tattoos.
We can’t stress this last point enough. A professional tattoo artist will be able to assess if your scar can be covered or not. They’ll point out the pros and cons and discuss the possible risks with you, as well as be able to share with you the best aftercare specific to tattoos on scar tissue.