Can You Get a Tattoo Over a Scar? Ink On Scarred Skin

Written by: Pete
Updated:

Can you tattoo over scars? The quick answer is yes but there are things to consider. Whatever your reason for wanting to tattoo over your scars, like everything else when it comes to tattooing, you should do careful research about the process. Tattooing over scar and scar tissue isn’t a get-it-and-go situation and there are many factors to discuss during your consultation with your artist. Read on for everything you need to know about getting a tattoo over scars.

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Tattooing Over Scars

Scarred skin is damaged skin, and this, of course, will not be as easy a process as tattooing over regular, healthy skin. As such, you should learn more about the process of tattooing over scars prior to making the decision to do so.

While many people wear their scars as a badge of honor and pride, your reasons for wanting to cover up or even accentuate your scars are personal. Since all scarring is vastly different and because how the skin will take the ink can be unpredictable, you need to be prepared to have a finished piece that is different from your expectations in the end, just to play it safe.

Anka Lavriv, a New York tattoo artist with experience tattooing over scars says, “Prepare yourself to go to a couple of consultations and be realistic about the end result.”

There are a few important questions to ask yourself when it comes to getting a tattoo over a scar.

Is the Scar Fully Healed?

This question is undoubtedly the most important, not only because it is severely more painful to tattoo over a fresh scar, but also because it’s much harder for the artist to work with.

Take a look at our Tattoo Pain Chart

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling states, “Scars in general take a good six months to a year to fully heal. One should wait until the scar is fully healed prior to getting a tattoo.” Most artists feel more comfortable tattooing a scar after it has had at least a year to heal, and when it is less red and more flesh or white colored.

Is the Scar Raised?

There are three primary scar types that all look and feel differently.

  • Atrophic - Light burns, cuts, or simple surgery scarring that are flatter and easier to ink
  • Hypertrophic - More severe burning and abrasions like road burn; generally lighter in color but predominantly flat
  • Keloid - Very raised and tricky scars to tattoo; either the result of severe injuries or skin that’s prone to keloid scarring

Scars that obviously sit flatter are easier to tattoo and will not cause as much distortion to the final design.

What Color Is the Scar?

As mentioned, color does impact the tattoos’ ability to keep and hold ink, not only because it influences the pigment, but because a lighter scar is usually an indication of a more healed scar, as well. Silver, off-white, or flesh colored scars are generally older and easier to tattoo than red, purple, or dark colored scars.

How Wide or Long Is the Scar?

The size of the scar will impact what design you intend to get, and the larger the design over wounded skin, the more likely the design may experience some distortion upon completion. Some people choose to integrate their scars into the design, while others prefer to cover them up entirely.

Are Scars Likely to Appear in the Same Area?

Scars could be a result of a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis related scratching scarring. If there is a greater risk of scarring to reappear in the area, this could distort the money you’ve spent on your cover up tattoo.

Learn more about eczema and tattoos & psoriasis and tattoos

How Deep is the Scar?

As scar tissue becomes layered, the skin gets harder and this becomes more difficult for the needle to penetrate and deposit ink effectively. No matter how deep your scar may be, you need to find a professional artist who has experience working with adjusting the depth to suit scarred skin.

Are You Prone to Keloid Scars?

The saying is that if you get one keloid scar, you’re likely to have more in your lifetime. Tattooing over a keloid scar could actually amplify the swelling and distortion of the scar tissue rather than hide or improve it.

Can Tattoos Make Large Scars Look Better?

This depends on how you define better, and whether you see your scars as an eyesore or a badge of honor. Tattoos can certainly mask, blend, or cover up scars in a way that transforms how they look on your body, but you need someone who knows what they are doing, understands the skin they are working with, and has experience working with scar cover ups.

Anka Lavriv mentions, “When I get requests for scar cover-ups, I always have a consultation with the client, assess the scar in terms of severity, age, color, placement, and have a conversation about what is the client’s goal with this tattoo. Chances are that it won’t be possible to make the scar disappear completely, but there is a lot that usually can be done in terms of concealing, blending it in with the design and drawing attention away from the scar.”

There are many options available for tattooing a scar:

  • You can completely cover the scar
  • You can integrate the scar into the design
  • You can tattoo along the scar to emphasize it or highlight it
  • You can find a pigment that helps blend the scars into your regular skin tone

Lavriv says, “In my opinion, things that have an organic flow and movement—like floral or botanical designs—work great, and severe linework and geometric shapes usually do not because of the difference in the skin quality and texture. That said, it all depends on what you are trying to achieve with your tattoo, and it’s a matter of personal preference.”

Will Getting Tattooed Over a Scar Be More Painful Than Normal?

The answer to this question depends on your personal tolerance or pain threshold, because it will certainly be a different kind of pain when you tattoo over scars.

The older your scar is, the more likely the feeling or sensation will be numb or dull. But fresh or new scars will be immensely painful to tattoo and can have extreme swelling reactions during your session.

If you are worried about how it may feel to tattoo over your scar, choose to highlight or integrate the scar in your design instead.

scar integrated with tattootattoo integrated with scar

Potential Risks to Tattooing Over a Scar

There are a few factors to consider when tattooing over a scar:

  • Will your artist know how to handle this skin? Find an experienced and patient artist.
  • Withhold your expectations for how the art will turn out, as you may require a touch up after the first round of healing.
  • Be prepared for strange sensations or a painful tattooing experience.
  • You may have to alter your design or coloring to suit the scar.
  • You may need to attend multiple sessions to tattoo the scar in layers. This requires significant healing time in between sessions.
  • You never know how scarred skin will react to more trauma, so be prepared for potential disappointment should your scars swell, rupture, or react to the tattooing experience.

Our Final Thoughts

Tattooing over a scar is a personal decision but it requires extensive research and patience in finding an artist with experience working on wounded skin. Don’t rush the process and be adaptable, as you may need to alter your design or expectations in your consultations leading up to your sessions.

Whether you’re looking to highlight or hide your scar, it’s safe to get a tattoo over scarred skin. Just be sure to give your scar extensive time to heal prior to heading into a shop.

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