I Have A Burn Scar - Can I Get A Tattoo Over It?

Written by: Pete

Every scar is different and when it comes to tattooing, each one is classified differently as to whether or not it can be tattooed. A burn scar is an atrophic scar and is often raised, grafted, or of a different color than your skin tone. You may be wondering whether it is safe to tattoo over your burn scars - our article covers everything you need to know about tattooing over burn scars.

Related: Can Getting A Tattoo Cause Keloids Scars?

Here’s How Burn Scars Affect Tattoos

Whether you are considering tattooing over your burn scar for personal reasons or whether your burn scar is merely in a placement that will intersect with a tattoo, there are a few things you should know.

What Are Scars?

Scars are a result of trauma or damage done to your skin, the body’s largest organ. They don’t necessarily represent poor healing of the skin, but rather are the result of more complicated healing that required excessive skin regeneration and cell production, creating a build up on the epidermis.

When you get tattooed, the needle injects the ink into the lower layer of the dermis. This means the needle must penetrate through the scarring that sits at the epidermis in order to effectively deposit the ink into the skin.

How Burn Scars Affect Tattoo Healing

Burn scars are often bumpy, discolored, oddly shaped, and of a different texture from the rest of your skin. This presents a complicated tattooing space for your artist, and these challenges during the session may result in a more intense healing period.

In general, tattoos can take around 3 weeks to heal. Tattooing over scarred skin could increase this timeline. In addition to this extension, you also need to be aware of the fact that scars will not heal as flawlessly as healthy skin will heal. This could present distortion or blur in your design. It’s almost impossible to anticipate how your tattoo will look when the scarred area is done healing.

If you do plan to tattoo over your burn scar, your scar should be many, many years old. Tattooing over a fresh scar not only presents a more complicated canvas for your artist but also could be a waste of money as your scar continues to heal and change over time.

Is There an Increased Risk of Infection?

Although scarred skin takes longer to heal, it doesn’t necessarily have a higher risk of infection. The reason the chance of infection may be increased with tattooing on scarred skin is because of poor aftercare treatment and monitoring of the tattooed region. Another potential increase in the risk of infection would be proceeding with getting a tattoo on a burn scar that has not had significant time to heal.

Considering your skin will require extra time and attention to heal, you cannot neglect the tattoo aftercare process at the three-week mark. In addition, you should work to prevent any additional scarring to the region; often, if a region experienced difficult trauma healing in the past, it may have a similar issue when faced with secondary trauma.

What Types of Tattoos Are Best?

While tattooing on scars should generally be avoided or managed by a professional with experience tattooing over scarred skin, the best tattoo for burn-scarred skin would be designs that are simple but do not require sharp or intensive detailing, and those that are more abstract rather than realistic. A free-flowing design that moves with the shape of the scar would be ideal.

Tattooing around your scar with a design that highlights it rather than hides it may result in an easier healing experience as well as a less painful tattooing session, so it should be considered. You may also want to consider a medical tattoo artist who uses cosmetic inks and can match your skin tone, giving your burn scar a healthier appearance.

All skin is different, so you may need to speak to your artist about what your scar tissue may be able to handle.

Does Tattooing Over Burn Scars Hurt More?

Pain is relative and depends on many factors such as:

  • Your learned association with pain
  • Your individual immunity
  • Your age and general skin health
  • Your own tolerance level

In general, tattooing over damaged skin is more uncomfortable because it’s less smooth and a more complicated procedure. But if the tattoo has aged significantly, generally it will lose the sensitivity that fresh scars often have because the nerve endings are not are reactive as in healthy skin.

Tattooing on Scar Tissue

Dang of B-Cool Tattoos says, “When considering working over a scarred area, you want to wait at least a few years after the injury, wait for the scar to whiten/lighten up. Often the details aren't as crisp, the texture of the scar can affect the consistency of color/shading, and the skin sheds differently.”

Our Final Thoughts

Tattooing over any scar means you will end up with a tattoo that may look different than you anticipated, as well as an extended recovery period following your tattoo. In addition, you need to take the time to research tattoo artists who have extensive experience tattooing scarred and damaged skin.

If you do intend to tattoo over your burn scar, ensure your burn scar has had many years to heal and be prepared for a potentially more painful tattooing experience!

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