What is Scar Camouflage?
Skin or scar camouflage is tattooing of the skin with different colors of flesh tone pigments. Its purpose is to disguise a scar or skin area that is missing pigment or color. It is a specialized area of permanent cosmetics that falls under the category of Medical or Paramedical Tattooing. This process is also called Corrective Pigment Camouflage (CPC), Corrective Camouflage, Skin Re-pigmentation, Scar Camouflage, Skin Camouflage, Camouflage Tattooing, and Skin Color Tattooing. The science behind pigments and the physiology of human skin and tissue must be understood by the specialist performing these procedures. These procedures require advanced knowledge, training, skills, and experience in permanent cosmetics as well as an artistic eye for color and skin tones.
How People Can Benefit from Scar Camouflage Tattooing
Psychological studies have shown that self confidence increases when a person’s appearance and body image is improved. This can be achieved with medical corrective tattooing. Skin color loss/de-pigmentation can occur from medical procedures, trauma from burns or accidents, congenital anomalies, or different types of skin diseases. Medical treatments and surgical procedures can correct or improve the appearance of many types of scars and skin abnormalities. However, some patients still need the skin color of the treated area to be “re-applied” so it appears more “normal”.
Are You a Candidate for Scar Camouflage?
You might be a candidate if you meet the criteria below. Your scar should be:
- Healed and no longer pink or changing color: Your scar should be at least 9 to 12 months old with stable color. If it is red or pink or still changing color, the tissue may still be healing. A reputable, experienced medical tattooist will not work prematurely on scar tissue because it may cause further damage to the skin.
- Smooth and relatively flat: Camouflage tattooing cannot disguise or correct extreme changes in skin texture. If your scar or skin area is bumpy or raised, the process may not be effective. If you have any skin surface irregularity, please consult with a Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon first to see if any type of medical treatments can first improve the skin texture.
- Without dark edges: Dark edges or borders around a scar indicate Post Inflammatory Hyper-pigmentation (PIHP) from the initial trauma or surgery. It is possible that the camouflage tattooing process may increase the hyper-pigmentation and create a wider, darker border. The risk of this happening is usually greater with darker skin tones.
- Do not have one of the following: Keloid, scars with raised dark edges, Port Wine birthmarks; spider veins; freckles; age spots; under eye circles; hyper-pigmentation; or unstable vitiligo (not in remission). These can be improved with non-tattoo medical treatments such as lasers, sclerotherapy, or chemical peels. Please consult with a physician regarding the best course of treatment for these conditions.
- Have realistic expectations: Camouflage tattooing will not completely restore skin to the way it looked before it was injured. The process will not “erase” a scar or skin abnormality so it appears completely gone and the area looks “perfect” again. It improves color differences to help disguise the scar or anomaly and make it less noticeable to other people.
- Do not spend time tanning: A scar camouflage tattoo will not be a “perfect” match to the surrounding skin color. This is due to the constant changes in skin tones from blood flow, body temperature, and tanning. The pigment in the tattoo will not darken if it is exposed to sunlight or tanning booths, so the tattoo may appear lighter if the surrounding skin tans. When the tattoo color matches tanned skin, it may appear darker once the surrounding tanned skin fades. Therefore, if you spend time outdoors, you will need to adjust your lifestyle or decide to match the tattoo to “winter” or “summer” skin and live with the changes in between.
- Do not expect results in one session: Camouflage re-pigmentation is a process, not a one-time “cure”. It is performed on “unhealthy” skin that has been damaged or altered. Its response cannot be predicted—a scar or vitiligo patch may have areas that absorb pigment, reject it, or both. The area will look dark and red immediately after a tattooing session, and then it takes several weeks to show the healed color (or not). This requires time and patience.
At the consultation she will determine if you are a candidate for scar camouflage tattooing and discuss your options. If you are a candidate, the next step will be to set an appointment for a “Spot Color Test”. Other permanent cosmetics professionals sometimes refer to this test as a “Patch Test.”
What is a Spot Color or Patch Test?
Scar camouflage is an unpredictable process. Therefore, a spot color test is the starting point for determining an appropriate combination of pigments to match the skin. In all cosmetic tattooing, including permanent makeup, the final healed color looks very different from when the pigment was initially implanted. The healed result equals the pigment color formula that was inserted under the skin plus the patient’s skin color and tones. The healed spot will indicate if that same formula can be used for the first tattooing session or if it will need to be modified.
At your spot color test appointment, your skin tone is analyzed. Several combinations of pigments will be mixed to determine what appears to be a good match. You will receive a tattoo at least one spot about the size of a pea using at least one “formula.” All pigments that have been used will be recorded in your chart for future reference. When the patch test is finished, you must wait 4 to 8 weeks to see how the healed color will look. Your tattooing sessions can then begin after healing and color stabilization of the spot tattoo.
Scar Camouflage Tattoo is a Multi-Sessions Process
Once the spot test has healed and the color stabilizes, the damaged skin can be tattooed. Anna Burns will determine if the spot formula should be adjusted, if needed, she can do so at that time. Cosmetic tattooing is a “partnership” with clients because it is a multi-step process. The results after the first tattooing session may be very good. However, due to the “unpredictable” nature of most scars and skin abnormalities, a second, third, or even fourth session may be necessary for the best outcome. Fortunately, the color formula or technique can be modified at each session to improve results. Sessions should be scheduled approximately 6 to 8 weeks apart to allow for complete healing and color stabilization.