Can You Tattoo Over Scars and Scar Tissue?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 15, 2018
    Last Updated: October 13, 2021

It is usually possible to get a tattoo over a scar as long as the scar tissue has finished healing, which is normally when the scar is white and no longer pink or red. Complete healing can take over a year for deeper scars.

Fresh scars should not be tattooed over because not only will this be very painful, but there’s a high chance that at least some of the ink will be rejected.

Tattooing Over Scars

The first thing to understand is that depending on the size and severity of the scar, you will likely need a good amount of color, depth, and texture within the tattoo that you’re thinking about getting. This is so the tattoo can work with the scar, and not against it, to help make it blend in and ‘disappear’ into the ink the best way possible.

All of the design attributes mentioned above will help take attention away from the scar itself, and instead, draw people’s eyes towards the actual tattoo.

Other questions that need to be answered mainly focus on the scars themselves.

Since each and every scar will differ from one another, there are going to be many factors for your tattoo artist to consider before they decide whether or not they can take on the job successfully.

The main factors your artist will take into consideration include:

Is the Scar Fully Healed?

Scars will always be harder to work with (and more painful) when they’re still relatively fresh. Your body will still be trying to heal the damaged area, and the skin will still be inflamed, irritated, and sensitive.

Therefore, it’s always best to wait until your scars have fully settled before deciding to get your tattoo. This process can take between several weeks to several months (or even years), depending on the severity of the initial damage.

There are a few products you can try to use on your scar to help speed up the healing process, such as BioOil

Is the Scar Raised? 

Raised scars are generally harder to work with when compared to scars that sit flush with the rest of the surrounding skin.

If you have a relatively new scar that’s raised, it could just be that it hasn’t fully healed yet, as scars usually tend to settle down as time progresses.

What Color Is the Scar?

A red, angry-looking scar will be harder to color over and conceal compared to an older, faded, more pale looking scar. As scars get older, they tend to change color from dark and red, to light and silver/off-white.

How Wide/Long Is the Scar?

Obviously, a significant factor to take into consideration when deciding whether a scar can be successfully tattooed over is going to be how big the scar actually is.

The bigger the scar, the harder it’s going to be to cover, and the bigger the risk that the tattoo may not turn out exactly as intended.

Are More Scars Likely to Appear in the Same Area?

If the tattoo is going to be on an area of skin that’s likely to scar even more at a later date, you need to understand that there’s a risk of the tattoo getting damaged in the future.

An example of this would be if you went to get a tattoo over some stretch mark scars in an area where there’s a high risk that more scars are going to appear in the same area at some point, which could end up distorting and damaging the tattoo.

How Deep Is the Scar?

Superficial scars that only go a couple of layers of skin deep shouldn’t be too tough to tattoo over, but scars that go particularly deep could cause bigger problems.

For example, the toughened scar tissue could prevent the ink from being placed exactly where it needs to go, and this can lead to blurring and distortion within parts of the tattoo.

Are You Prone to Keloid Scars?

Keloids are a form of scar which protrude from the skin to form fleshy growths. If you have a history of developing keloids, getting new ink over an affected area is much riskier, and the tattoo has a higher probability of not turning out as intended.

Along with the factors above, it’s also important to try to find an artist who has previous experience in tattooing over scars.

Ensure you’re diligent in your search and don’t be afraid to ask an artist about their past experiences with scar tissue. Looking at an artist’s tattoo portfolio is also a good idea.

Can Tattoos Make Large Scars Look Better?

They certainly can! If you pick an artist who is experienced in tattooing over scars, they can do amazing and wonderful jobs at covering up even the most challenging of scars.

As an example, there are many hundreds of breast cancer survivors with beautiful and flawless tattoos covering up their usually large and awkwardly placed surgery scars. Tattoos are even used to create an areola and nipple for women who have had total mastectomies.

Even if you have a scar that cannot be completely covered, a good artist should still be able to create a tattoo that at the very least is able to disguise the scar somewhat, and take most of the attention away from it. It doesn’t stop there, either, as tattoo artists can also do a great job at tattooing over cellulite, varicose veins, and stretch marks, too.

Many people who have scars that are unsuitable to be tattooed over actually end up deciding to have tattoos placed next to them instead, as a way to symbolize the scars and to tell their stories through art.

Don’t worry – it won’t feel THIS bad.

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

Ordinarily, the answer is yes. While all tattoos hurt, tattooing over a scar will likely make the procedure slightly more painful than it normally would be. Damaged skin tissue is usually more sensitive than regular, healthy skin.

Usually, the older the scar is, the less extra pain you will likely suffer. But on the other hand, a newer scar is probably going to hurt quite a fair bit more, which is why it’s always best to let a scar heal as much as possible before getting inked over it.

If you’re especially worried about the potential pain, you may wish to look into using a tattoo numbing product to make the whole procedure a little bit more comfortable.

For people wanting a little extra assistance for dealing with the pain, a good tattoo numbing cream can really help to take the edge off.

One of the most effective tattoo numbing products currently on the market is Zensa Numbing Cream, which contains the highest level of Lidocaine allowed by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The feedback left by thousands of customers for this product is nothing short of exceptional.

Just follow the instructions supplied with the cream and apply shortly before your tattoo appointment is due to begin so that you can look forward to a less painful and more comfortable tattooing experience. The amount of cream you get in a tube also ensures you have more than enough for a large tattoo.

One thing to remember, though, is that everybody’s pain thresholds are different. While somebody you know who has been tattooed over a scar previously may have found the experience extremely uncomfortable; you may find that it doesn’t really hurt too much at all.

It’s all relative to how your own body will personally react to various sensations, so don’t get yourself too worried about the pain.

Besides, once the tattoo is complete and you have an awesome new tattoo to show off, everything you felt during the procedure will be completely and instantly forgotten about.

Potential Risks

As with all forms of body art, each individual tattoo will come with its own element of risk, and more so if the tattoo is being done over a scar.

The main potential risks all relate to the appearance of the tattoo and how it will turn out visually once fully healed.

If your scar changes after you’ve tattooed over it, the artwork overlying it will also change, which is why you want to have an older scar that has a stable appearance before you introduce any ink to the area.

Scar tissue will also hold the ink differently to how healthy layers of skin would, and therefore you may find that areas of the tattoo could look less defined and more blurry than normal. Some parts of the scar tissue may not even take on any ink at all, leaving areas of fading and patchiness. Your tattoo artist may recommend darker ink for covering scars to get the best results.

If this is the case, you may need repeated sessions in order for your artist to be able to pack the skin with as much ink as possible to improve any patchiness that’s occurring within the tattoo.

Also, there’s a very small chance that a scar (especially if new) could rupture or reopen, which could possibly cut your tattooing session short, and might require you to seek further medical attention.

Obviously, the bigger, more pronounced the scar is, the higher the chance that the tattoo will end up looking a little less than perfect.


Hopefully, you can now see why tattooing over scars isn’t as clear-cut as you may initially have thought since the underlying skin is so different than normal skin. However, there really are some truly excellent artists out there that can do great things with a piece of scar tissue.

My final advice to you would be to have a good look around for a suitable artist, and let them take a look at your scar so they can give you a professional opinion as to how successful they think getting a tattoo over it will be.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.