How to cover a scar with a tattoo

Written by ehow contributor
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Scars from burns, surgical procedures, accidents or other incidents may feel like a blemish on your body that you can't stand to look at. Maybe you're considering covering this area with a bright tattoo to make it look better. Although many scars have been successfully covered with a tattoo, keep in mind that many of these procedures were tedious and in some cases, extremely painful. Before having a scar covered, know all the facts first and make sure the procedure is safe.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Doctor's advice
  • Tattoo artist's advice
  • Appropriate tattoo design

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    Decide if you should cover it. The scar should be at least 1 year old before even considering covering it with a tattoo. The older the scar, the better and the more likely the area will take ink. Besides the physical requirements, think about the emotional reasons you may want the scar covered. Some women who have certain surgeries find that the scars remind them of a traumatic experience.

  2. 2

    Consider the pain factor involved and decide if it will be worth it and if you will be able to endure it throughout the procedure. Scar tattooing can be even more painful than regular tattooing, because scar tissue is more sensitive than regular skin. Unless the nerve endings were destroyed during the ordeal that left the scar, you will feel pain more acutely in scarred areas. Plus, if the tattooist has to go over the same spot several times to get the skin to take ink, each new pass will become more painful than the last.

  3. 3

    Ask your doctor's advice about covering the scar with a tattoo. He may know of reasons you are not aware of that could alter your decision on the procedure. He may also know of tattoo artists who have successfully covered scars in the past that other patients have told him about. In the end, if your doctor tells you there's a medical reason why you shouldn't have a tattoo placed over your scar, then heed his advice.

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    Talk to your tattoo artist. Make sure they know what they are doing, especially if it's a particularly tricky scar to cover. Look at previous work they've done covering scars. They should have before and after photos, so you can see the difference clearly. If your scar is small, then most tattoo artists can probably help you, but if it's large, raised or has any areas that could be problematic, then you need to find a tattoo artist who's had a lot of experience in this area.

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    Think about any limitations there might be in covering your particular scar. Your skin may hold ink differently because of the scar tissue, which means the line work may not stay as crisp and the colors not as bright as they would on undamaged skin. The tattoo also will not change the texture of the skin in scars that are raised, so there may be a noticeable difference in the tattoo design. These abnormalities may leave you with poor results that in the end you will not be happy with. A skilled tattoo artist should be able to explain these limitations to you.

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    Determine if the scar can be covered. If the scarred area is large, then start with something small to see if the skin will take ink. Areas where skin grafts have been done and large burns may not take ink, and you don't want to start a large piece to learn partway through it that your skin absolutely will not take ink. If you start with a small tattoo, you can test if the procedure will work and then either cover the small tattoo with a larger piece or incorporate it into a larger piece.

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    Choose a design that will either completely cover or camouflage the scar or at the very least complement it. You can disguise a scar with certain colors of tattoo ink, and the shape, design and placement of a tattoo may further camouflage scars.

Tips and warnings

  • Tattooing over a scar is probably cheaper than plastic surgery, but you should still weigh all the pros and cons to determine if this is the route you want to take.
  • Keloid scars, especially severe ones, are rarely tattooed over. The tattoo procedure can irritate these types of scars, and they generally will not take ink. If you are trying to cover a keloid, many tattooists will refuse to tattoo over them but might suggest tattooing around them and try to incorporate the scars into a design where they are a lot less noticeable.

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