Tattooing over scars and stretch marks is not quite as simple as many would think. It is possible to tattoo over most scars, but it can be more challenging to tattoo these places than it is to tattoo normal skin. The structure of the skin in scars is often altered, and the results when tattooing can therefore be erratic. In these cases it is therefore more important than ever to use a tattoo artist experienced in this type of work.
When the white blood cells attack bacteria, there are changes appear in the skin that can often become quite visible. In young people, the skin is often more supple and elastic, and it heals faster after an injury than in the elderly, but some types of scarring are also more common among younger people. How the skin reacts also depends on where on the body the damage is, how deep the wound is, and a person’s individual skin type.
Before deciding to get a tattoo on your scar tissue, you may want to study a little bit more about which type of scar tissue you have, and how the scar you have will respond to the tattoo. This can help you decide if you need to adjust your plans. Better knowledge can also help you adjust your expectations in terms of how good the results can be and which motif you choose for your tattoo.
In this article, we touch on the reasons why people tattoo over scar tissue, as well as some of the challenges associated with tattooing over scar tissue. We also go into more detail about the most common types of scars, and how each of these respond to tattoos.
Why tattoo scar tissue?
People choose to get a tattoo on top of scar tissue for a number of different reasons. Many who have scars find these to be unsightly. Tattoos can be an effective solution to hide, or reduce the visual effect of scars or stretch marks.
Others may simply just want a tattoo somewhere on the body where they happen to have a scar. In these cases the main concerns are often to avoid making the scar worse by tattooing it, and to make sure the quality of the tattoo is not adversely affected by the scar tissue.
Some see their scar as something unique and cool on their body that they want to highlight in an artistic way by decorating it with a tattoo.
How difficult is it to tattoo over scars?
Scars contain harder and partly altered skin. It is a common problem that this type of skin cannot absorb ink to the same extent as normal skin. Therefore, you may have to go back several times to continue the tattoo if you are having a tattoo on top of scar tissue. You may also get unexpected results, such as for example an unclear tattoo, since it can be erratic exactly where the color eventually settles in the scar tissue.
There are also different risks associated with different types of scars that both you and the tattoo artist should be aware of before tattooing over scars. It is therefore recommended to use a tattoo artist who understands the healing process of scar tissue, and when the scar is ready to be tattooed. In the worst case scenario, if the tattoo artist does not have the right knowledge, he may end up making the scar worse.
Tattooing hypertrophic scars
Hypertrophic scars is a type of scars more common among young people. They are also common as a result of burns. People with dark skin more commonly experience this type of scars. Hypertrophic scars will usually be red, thick and somewhat elevated. They grow only in the original area of the wound and will often itch or feel painful. The scar usually develops a few weeks after an injury, and is generally fully healed after a year or more.
As soon as hypertrophic scars are completely healed they can be tattooed. There is relatively little chance of this type of scar becoming irritated and expanding once fully healed. It will usually take at least one year for a hypertrophic scar to be completely healed. Larger and deeper scars can often take a fair bit longer.
Tattooing atrophic scars
Atrophic scars are often whitish, soft, and are located just below the skin. These are scars that you get after simple surgeries, burns or deep cuts.
Stretch marks also belong in this category. Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched too fast. These are typically a result of rapid weight gain or pregnancy. Some also grow so fast in their teens that the skin is unable to keep up, thus resulting in stretch marks. The most common places to experience stretch marks are on the hips, thighs, abdomen and arms.
Another type of scar that belongs to this group is scars from acne or chickenpox. These often look like small, round depressions that lie just below the skin surface. These are scars that occur when the skin’s healing process is interrupted.
Tatovering over atropiske arr er ingen problem. Man må vente til de har grodd skikkelig, men etter det vil den største utfordringen være å finne det rette motivet for tatoveringen. Store enfargede tatoveringer er for eksempel her ikke anbefalt for å dekke strekkmerker eller acne arr. På grunn av at huden under ofte er misfarget vil det være vanskelig å få til en jevn tatovering. Det beste er derfor mangefargede tatoveringer der fargeforskjeller ikke vil være like fremtredende.
Tattooing over atropic scars is no problem. You still have to wait for them to heal properly, but after that the biggest challenge will be to find the right motif for the tattoo. Large single-color tattoos are for example not recommended to cover stretch marks or acne scars. This is because the skin underneath often is discolored. It will therefore be difficult to get a smooth tattoo. The appropriate choice might therefore be a multicolored tattoo where color differences will not be as prominent.
For operating scars it is often popular to choose designs that have a shape similar to the operating wound.
Tattooing Keloid scars
Keloids is the most challenging type of scar to tattoo. Keloids are often thick, red scars with a round shape and irregular scar tissue. They can occur long after the actual injury, and the scar tissue can spread beyond the area of the original wound. Keloids are more common in young people and in those with darker skin types. It is also quite individual who is prone to get this type of scarring.
If you have a skin type that makes you prone to this type of scarring it may be a good idea to try on a smaller area first before getting a bigger tattoo. This is because the tattoo itself may trigger a keloid reaction even on healthy skin.
If you want to tattoo over a keloid scar the rule of thumb is to give the scar at least one year to complete the healing process. In the case of deeper and larger scars this healing period can be much longer, often 3-5 years before you safely can get a tattoo. If you tattoo your scar too early you risk irritating the scar and making it worse. It is particularly important to use an experienced tattoo artist if you have keloid scars as this is the most challenging type of scars to tattoo.
Perhaps the safest is to avoid tattooing over keloids. The right tattoo artist will in many cases be able to come up with a creative solution where these scars can be creatively integrated as a part of the tattoo without having to tattoo directly on the scars.
In most cases it is quite possible to tattoo over scars. In many cases, it is actually a cheaper and preferred method compared to other cosmetic treatments.
One important thing to note is that the tattoo should be done after the scar has had enough time to heal. In many cases this means months, and sometimes years of waiting before you can get the tattoo you wanted.
It is also recommended to use a tattoo artist experienced in tattooing scar tissue, and who is knowledgeable with regards to what can be done, when it can be done and what should not be attempted.
Dersom man tatoverer over arr er det viktig at man tar uberegneligheten med i beregningen slik at man ikke risikerer uønskede resultater. I mange tilfeller kan man designe tatoveringen slik at den passer sammen med formen på arret.
If you are considering having a tattoo on top of scar tissue make sure you also take into account the unpredictable nature of scar tissue so that you minimize the risk of unwanted results. In many cases this means designing a tattoo that fits the shape of the scar.
Do you have one or more scars you want to cover up? Send us a picture of your tattoo and we will contact you for further progress.