Can You Tattoo Over Burn Scars?

It is becoming increasingly common to tattoo over mastectomy scars. The practice has branched out to be used to cover or make art out of other surgical scars. But burn scars often have a very different texture to those neatly cut and stitched by a skilled surgeon. Is it possible to tattoo over this type of skin?

It is possible to tattoo over burn scars with designs or have the skin recolored to a tone closer to the surrounding flesh. The damaged tissue must be a few years old, as healing continues over a prolonged period. Also, results will vary, as the texture and thickness of the skin will be uneven.

Having a tattoo placed over a burn scar is not easy, and the artist will need to have ample experience. The consultation process will have to be longer in order to discuss what design options are possible and to manage expectations. The client will also need to consider the fact that scared skin is often more sensitive, bringing extra pain or discomfort to the overall experience. But many have found great satisfaction in having a burn scar tattooed.

Designing Tattoos Over Burn Scars

When you decide to have a burn scar tattooed, it is important to be open regarding designs. Of course, it is lovely to know what you like and don’t like. For example, if you dislike roses but love owls, that’s something to communicate during your consultation. However, until the artist sees the skin, they cannot commit to a specific design.

Firstly, find an artist that has experience working with scars. They will be best suited to assess the damaged skin to give you honest feedback on your options. They will also know which colors will work best with your scaring and if there will be areas where the color will bleed into the surrounding tissue.

Some scaring will not hold ink, and thus it is better to look at tattooing around the scar or incorporate it into a design. Other areas might be prone to color bleeding, which an experienced artist can anticipate and work into the overall design. Then there is skin that might be too fragile to a needle.

Even scared skin that can hold ink will have design limitations. Thus, it’s good to have reasonable expectations of what elements to avoid and which have the highest chances of success.  

Design elements to avoid:

  • Geometric designs
  • Designs with hard lines
  • Designs needing perfect edges and outlines
  • Realism
  • Faces

Design elements that work best:

  • Flowing shapes, such as flowers
  • Bold colors
  • Designs that work with the texture of the scar
  • Patterns that flow rather than require precision
  • Feathering and shading

Can Burn Scars Be Given Natural Skin Color?

There are tattoo specialists, including para-medical tattoo artists, who can use cosmetic inks to help make the impacted area match the surrounding skin tone. The success of this procedure depends on the specialist, the quality of the ink, and the type of scaring. However, many people have been incredibly pleased with the results.

However, it is essential to understand that this type of tattooing, like artistic tattooing, will not restore the skin’s original texture. The scar’s texture will remain; it is the discoloration that will be evened out.  

Does Tattooing Over Burn Scars Hurt More?

Pain from a tattoo is always relative to the person getting inked. Nor are all scars the same. Some areas might be extra sensitive, while other sections lack nerve sensation. A skilled artist will also be able to advise and assess which areas of the scar might be most painful to tattoo. This can be compared to your own experience from living with the scar.  

Discussing the potential sensitivity of areas can help you, and the artists decide if you want to tattoo over those specific spots. It’s possible to cover some sections and go around others. A skilled artist will be able to create a design that flows with the areas that won’t be inked.

Does Tattooing Over Burn Scars Take Longer To Heal?

Some scarred skin may take longer to heal than your typical tattoo timeline of 1-3 weeks. As a result, the peeling and discomfort might be different than usual, too. Unfortunately, even with proper aftercare, this is also the stage where discoloration of a tattoo might occur. This might also blur sections.

However, a good artist will have taken these potential pitfalls into account. Thus, a good design will still work with the natural bleeding and blurring of color. But it is why detailed line work is best avoided.

Is Tattooing Over A Burn Scar Have Higher Infection Risk?

Any tattoo comes with a risk of infection. But yes, the risk is higher for scarred skin that has been inked. In addition, the area surrounding the scaring is also of heightened concern. Thus, it is imperative to listen to your artist regarding the sanitizing and moisturizing of the site. However, severe infection is uncommon with tattooed scaring.

Signs of infection include:

  • Drainage or weeping
  • Growing pain
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Unusual amounts of swelling

How Long Must I Wait To Have My Scar Tattooed?

A scar continues to heal much longer than what is seen at the surface. Some scars are fine to tattoo after a year, but others can take as long as five years before it is safe to tattoo them. Tattooing a scar too soon can lead to further damage, making the area worse. It can also reopen a wound, causing further problems and raising the risk of infection.

Again, it is crucial to use an artist who has experience working with scars. They can help you better assess if you can have the scar tattooed now or if you should delay it a bit longer. Rushing will not only leave you open to complications, but it can also negatively impact the design.

Can Sunburnt Skin Be Tattooed?

Sunburns are damaged skin that still needs to heal. While sunburn is not as severe as what created a burn scar, the burn scar has healed.

This isn’t just about the increased pain that would result in tattooing sunburnt skin. Sunburned skin is damaged and, consequently, will not be in the best shape to receive the ink.

This isn’t just risking blurred lines and uneven color and shading. The damaged skin could simply reject the ink. Yet, you’d still be out of pocket for the cost and have to deal with the recovery from having a tattoo (yes, the tattoo wounds still have to heal even if the ink has been pushed out).


Having a burn scar tattooed is possible. However, you are more likely to have a positive outcome if you find an experienced artist and are willing to be flexible in the design. Be aware of the risks and manage your expectations. But overall, many people have been incredibly pleased with the final results.


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