Many come to me wanting to cover their scar with a tattoo. So today I thought I’d explain what is possible, what choices you have and what to think about. I’m not an expert on dermatology. My opinions are only based on my own experiences (after 18 years as a tattoo artist). It is also based on my basic understanding of the skin’s anatomy (as any tattooist should have).
Scars are the body’s biological way of repairing itself when it is wounded. The tissue is made of the same collagen protein as the skin it replaces, but its fibrous tissue composition will forever be different. It has a denser, more woven structure and is not as porous as normal skin. The tissue is so compact that hair follicles and sweat glands often are not able to grow back through the new scar tissue.
This uneven texture of the scar tissue means that the punctures made by the tattoo needles are made on a much tougher and uneven surface. Thus, it will leave significantly smaller pigment drops, and which will also live their own lives below the surface. Much of the ink will be rejected, just pushed back out of the scar tissue. All of this gives the tattoo artist a challenge, so make sure the tattoo artist has good experience with this.
So is it possible to cover a scar?
The answer to this question is yes, no and maybe. It is possible to tattoo on scars (which means you can put ink into the scar tissue), but it is important to realize that scar tissue is different from the rest of one’s skin. It is rough, and much less porous.
What kind of scars is it? Is it a stretch mark? Was it from a cut? How deep was it? How deep does the scar tissue go? Is it a raised scar? Is there any nerve damage in your scar? In that case, the nerve damage can increase the discomfort you feel when you get a tattoo or even the opposite.
Unfortunately, there are limits to what you can cover a scar with. First of all, the skin almost certainly keeps the ink different from the normal skin. Lines can become less defined, shading and color may require repeated sessions. Nevertheless, there is so much that can be done within these limits. Tattoos for extremely scarred skin should contain a lot of colors. Also, texture, details to create art will camouflage the scar, although it is not necessarily tattooed directly on the actual scar. These aspects of design are used to pull the viewer away from the scar, so it becomes much less noticeable or, in ideal situations, even completely camouflaged.
Camouflaged or Decorated?
Most want to camouflage their scars with tattoos. Then the tattoo needs to be a bit larger so that it disappears inside the tattoo. One should make a design big enough to trick the eye to focus on something other than the scar. Much comparable to when you make a Coverup, see your own article about it here: Everything you need to know about Coverup Tattoos
Some are looking to actually highlight the scars instead, or just decorate them, or make them cute or funny. Then they get an artistic twist, and therefore something more exciting to look at. Like this picture:
Tattoos cannot change the texture and it will not eliminate the scar. The tattoo will look good on most types of scars, but you will still see light and shadow if the scar is very bumpy on the skin. As in the following picture:
Therefore, it is advisable to create a design that uses these shapes so that if the light should make shadows, the subject will be even better, as in the following picture:
Wait for it
The scars should be several years old before tattooing over them. We´re talking at least 1 year, preferably 3 years old. A fresh scar is still moving inside, thus turning the ink around during the first years.
So, yes, you can tattoo over scars, but it is likely that the ink will look significantly different from the scars than around. It is up to you and your tattoo artist to find out and work out the option that best suits your specific needs. Some scars should not be tattooed directly, but by working around it, it can help to camouflage it.
You should also check out the 7 things you need to know before getting tattooed