Tattooing Over Scars

Before I begin this blog post, I would just like to start with a trigger warning. In this post I will be discussing self-harm. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with or engaging in self-harm, please know that there is help available. If in crisis please contact Lifeline Australia at 11 13 14 or your international equivalent. You are not alone.

For some, scarred skin is worn with pride, acting as a reminder of how far you’ve come. For others however, scars can be a constant reminder of a very difficult time in your life. They may draw unwanted attention or cause you to feel shameful. Covering your scars with beautiful artwork can be an effective way to change how you view yourself and to draw attention away from the scars. I want to be clear that I am in no way saying that you need to cover your scars. Your experience is valid and whatever empowers you is valid. Whether you choose to cover your scars with tattoos or your clothing or not at all is 100% your choice and you should never feel pressured to do anything that doesn’t feel authentic to you. If you do decide however that tattooing over your scars is a road you would like to go down, I’m here to give you all the information to ensure you can make the most educated decisions possible. Although not impossible, tattooing over scarred skin is difficult and it’s best to find an artist who is knowledgable about covering scars. This also ensures that your artist will likely be empathetic towards your past with self-harm. 

The first and most important thing is to ensure that you give your body enough time to heal properly. You need to be patient and not rush into getting tattooed before your skin is ready. Our artists usually recommend letting scars heal for at least a year before getting tattooed over them. This will give your tattoo the best chance. A good way to tell if your scar has healed enough is if it has turned white and there is no residual redness on or around it. This means that blood-flow has returned to normal in the area and no excess is pooling around the scar. 

It’s also important to be realistic when it comes to what is actually possible with your tattoo. Scar tissue is completely different to the skin on the rest of your body and can therefore take ink and heal differently. The first thing to consider is the thickness of the skin on the scar. If the scar is too thin and papery, it may not be possible to tattoo over it as it is unlikely to hold the ink or cause it to blow out. If you have severe keloid scars this can negatively impact the tattoo as well as the skin may be too thick to properly take ink. If you are prone to keloid scarring this is something to notify your artist of as the tattoo itself could actually end up with keloid scars throughout. Because of all of this, it’s very important for you to book a consultation (sometimes more than one might be needed) with your artist so they can assess your scars and determine whether tattooing over them will be possible. If your scarring is extremely severe, you do need to prepare to be turned away. As much as the artist may want to help you, there really is only so much they can do and the last thing they would want is to cause more trauma to your skin, or potentially leave you with a tattoo that you’re unhappy with.

Along this same vein, you need to be realistic with the style of tattoo you are looking at getting. Fine line designs may not be an option as they are very unlikely to heal properly and sit over scar tissue the way they would other skin. Finally, when you make it to your appointment day, the tattoo artist may need to take their time to assess how your scar tissue reacts. You may require more than one session to finish the tattoo depending on this. It’s always important to listen to your artist and follow their directions, they know best!

Overall, if you decide that covering your scarring with tattoos is the way you want to go, remember to be patient and realistic and work closely with your artist. They will endeavour to help you in any way they can. 

As a final note I just want to say that if reading this post has brought up any negative emotions or triggered you in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to Lifeline Australia (13 11 14) or your international equivalent for help. 

We at Fox and Moon wish you all the best. 

- The F&M Team