Tattooing over stretch marks means working with uneven skin texture and uneven skin tone.
While it’s not always the case, most clients will want a tattoo to hide their stretch marks. As a tattoo artist, you need to know how to create a design that camouflages those scars and how to work with delicate scar tissue.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to create designs that disguise stretch marks, as well as how to tattoo over scar tissue without causing blowouts or extra trauma to the skin.
In this article, we’re breaking down:
Tattooing over stretch marks is an advanced technique. To do it successfully, you’ll need plenty of experience under your belt.
What Exactly is Scar Tissue?
Scar tissue is a cluster of cells and collagen that cover the site of previously damaged skin. Scar tissue can form over acne, surgical sites, cuts, scrapes, and anywhere else where healthy skin has been injured.
Scarred skin is usually flat and pale when fully healed, but it can also be raised or sunken depending on the type of injury and the stage of healing.
Types of Scars
There are many different kinds of scars, and it’s important to understand the differences when you go to tattoo over a scar.
A keloid scar is a raised, red area of scar tissue that can form over the top of an injury. They often appear on the upper chest, shoulders, and upper back. A keloid scar can form over any of these types of injuries:
A hypertrophic scar looks similar to a keloid and may occur for the same reasons, but hypertrophic scarring is much more common, and the scars are likely to fade more quickly.
Atrophic scars are lighter, flatter scars from less severe injuries and are the easiest to tattoo. Atrophic scars can come from light burns, small surgeries, and smaller cuts.
Acne scars occur when an acne blemish swells and breaks down the pore. An acne scar can be shallow and heal quickly, but some result in deeper scars.
Tattooing Over Scars
There are multiple reasons why people might want to tattoo over a scar. One of the most common reasons is scar camouflage, or trying to have the scar complete covered so that most people won’t know it’s there.
Another reason to tattoo over a scar is because the scar happens to be in the area the client wants tattooed. Clients might also want to use a tattoo to highlight a scar or use the shape of the scar to build the tattoo design.
Regardless of why the client wants to tattoo their scar, it’s important as a tattoo artist to understand what you need to consider before doing the tattoo.
When to Tattoo Over a Scar
Clients should wait at least a year before having a scar tattooed in order to avoid making the healing process more difficult. Fresh scars might get larger and change shape if they are further injured by being tattooed too quickly. There are a couple of other things to think about besides time when thinking about putting tattoos on scars:
If the scar is hard and raised, it will be more difficult to get it to absorb ink. It’s much easier to tattoo over an atrophic scar because it will be flatter and more similar to healthy skin than a hypertrophic or keloid scar.
While you can tattoo over a raised or deep scar, it’s more likely that the ink will spread into the surrounding skin or the scar will change shape. It’s best for the client to wait until the skin is as close to completely healed as possible before they get a tattoo.
Hypertrophic and keloid scars will remain red even after they are completely healed, which means that it may be more difficult to get the color you want over top of the scar. Scars that are still very red and inflamed should not be tattooed.
Tattooing over scars is more difficult than tattooing undamaged skin. Only an experienced tattoo artist should take on clients who want to get a tattoo over scars and stretchmarks.
Tattooing Over Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are scars that develop when skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The change in the skin causes the collagen and elastin in the skin to rupture and then heal as wavy, red scars. Stretch marks can be flat, raised, or even slightly indented and are thought to occur in 90% of people.
Stretch marks fade over time but can also pop up with any quick and significant change in the stretching of the skin. Here are some areas where you will commonly see stretch marks on clients:
Understand Your Client’s Goals
The client’s goals for the future can play a big part in whether they should wait to get tattooed.
For example, if your client might be pregnant in the future or is planning to lose significant weight, it would be best to wait because there could be more stretch marks to cover after those events.
Additionally, new stretch marks where there’s already a tattoo could damage it and change the way the design looks.
Common reasons for stretch marks to discuss with your client:
When to Tattoo Over Stretch Marks
Before you work with a client that wants their stretch marks tattooed, you’ll need to help them decide if now is the right time.
You need to wait until a client’s stretch marks are fully healed before tattooing. Full healing usually takes 1-2 years.
Tattooing on top of fresh stretch marks that are trying to heal could risk the ability of the tattoo to heal correctly.
Do not tattoo on raised, pink or reddish-purple stretch marks. Fully-healed stretch marks are usually a white/silvery color and feel flat on the skin’s surface. If they are still raised, they will be harder to work with.
You should always have your client check with their doctor before tattooing over stretch marks or other skin conditions like scarring, moles, etc.
How to Design Tattoos to Cover Stretch Marks
Anytime you’re covering scars or stretch marks, you’ll need to design a custom tattoo for that person’s body with their stretch marks in mind. Here’s a few things to consider:
Figure out the Size
Some clients will just want a tattoo in an area that happens to have stretch marks, so they might not mind seeing scarring outside the area the tattoo covers. But if they’re getting a tattoo because they want the scar tissue covered, you’ll need to create a design that’s large enough to do that.
Choose the Right Style
Some tattoo styles look better over stretch marks than others. Because you’re trying to hide the skin, a style with ultra-light shades and lots of skin breaks (like a realistic portrait) won’t do the job.
Design with Flow
If a tattoo design flows with the body’s muscles, it’s much harder to notice imperfections in the design and in the skin. A design that flows pulls the eye away from stretch marks by emphasizing the shape of the body.
Part of covering up stretch marks is camouflaging them. While it might seem like a good idea to black out an area with skin discoloration from scarring, the difference in the skin can still be visible.
The best way to camouflage the skin is to do a tattoo with lots of design elements (like skulls, flowers, etc.) and texture instead of using flat color. This is what makes Japanese style tattooing great for stretch mark tattoos and coverups.
Remember that it’s possible for scars to look irregular after being tattooed, so using texture is key in making the tattoo look intentional.
Some people use “tiger stripes” tattoos to emphasize stretch marks instead of hiding them. Others use nano color infusion and skin colored ink to make them disappear.
Tattooing Over Stretch Marks: From Stencil to Afterare
Applying a Stencil On Curved Surfaces
Usually, stretch marks occur around the hips and stomach, which means you’ll be tattooing on a curved surface of the body. To get a stencil to curve with the body, you’ll need to cut little slits in it to make it easier to bend. The more flexible the stencil is, the easier it will be to apply, despite any curves or dips.
Keep Your Needle Depth Shallow Over Scars
Scarred skin is damaged, meaning it’s easier to chew out.
You’ll want to tattoo lightly and keep your needle depth pretty shallow. This is especially important to keep in mind while you’re lining. Pulling a needle through damaged skin can cause the needle to cut right through if you’re not careful.
Healing Tattoos Over Scars and Stretch Marks
The aftercare for tattoos that are done over scars and stretch marks is similar to what you can expect with tattoos over healthy skin, but the healing process might be slightly more difficult.
Because toughened scar tissue is harder to saturate with ink, parts of tattoos that are on keloid or hypertrophic scars are more likely to need to be touched up. They may also need to be tattooed in layers, which would require multiple sessions with healing time in between.
Because scarred skin has a different sensation than healthy skin, it might feel weird during the tattoo and the healing process. Scarred skin is unpredictable when more trauma is introduced, so healing will be different for each person.