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What to Know About Tattoos That Cover Scars

illustrated heart with stitches with a snake and dagger in the background

For many people, covering scars with tattoos can be a more cost-effective and aesthetically appealing solution than makeup or cosmetic surgery. But tattoos that cover scars can be more complicated and problematic than tattoos on unscarred skin. We’re here to answer your questions if you’ve been thinking about a tattoo to cover some scarring or already have a scar tattoo idea.
 

Can I Tattoo Over a Scar?

The short answer is yes, you can cover scars with tattoos. But each person’s skin and scars might respond to tattooing differently. Before you generate too many scar tattoo ideas or set your mind on a design, it’s important to understand how the following factors might affect your scar tattoo.

  • The age of the scar: You shouldn’t tattoo over new scar tissue, as it will be more painful and unpredictable in healing. New scars may also rupture during tattooing and require further medical attention. Generally, if the scar is white — not pink or red — it is well-healed.
  • The size, color, and depth of the scar: Larger patches of scarring or dark scar tissue will require more color and texture in a tattoo design to effectively incorporate or conceal the scarring. If the scar is a result of deep tissue injury, it may not hold tattoo ink as well or at all (more on this below).
  • The type and quality of the scar: Some scars sit fairly flush with the surrounding skin, while others are uneven, bumpy, or raised. If the texture of the scar tissue is uneven or raised, it will be harder to achieve designs requiring fine detailing or straight lines, for example.
  • The likelihood of keloid scarring: If you have a history of keloid scarring, tattooing over a scar can be much more complicated.

The best way to know what is possible and realistic for your particular needs and skin is to arrange an in-person consultation with an experienced artist whose designs you admire and who has covered scars with tattoos before.
 

Knowing What to Expect

Scar tissue will not heal and hold tattoo ink in the same way as unscarred skin tissue. It’s much more likely that ink will fade, blur, or blowout in scar tissue, since the underlying skin structure that typically holds ink has been damaged. It is not uncommon for tattoos that cover scars to become a bit patchy, blurry, or faded as they heal, and they often require more frequent touch-ups to maintain their quality and color than tattoos on unscarred skin.
 

Preparing for Some Extra Pain

While all tattoos hurt, scar tissue is generally more sensitive and more painful to tattoo than unscarred skin. However, older scars are not as sensitive as new ones, so make sure you’ve given your scars time to heal fully before tattooing. If you are concerned about pain, you can use a topical tattoo anesthetic before your appointment and as your tattoo heals.