Medical tattooing can help hide scars
But the lesser-known field of medical tattooing may be making a real difference in the lives of people who have undergone surgery, according to a new study.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that patients who undergo medical tattooing – where a practitioner uses ink to blend mismatched skin tones and scars to give them a more natural appearance – feel more positive about their overall appearance and worry less about their scars.
Medical tattooing is often used to help women recovering from surgery related to breast cancer, and can help restore the appearance of the skin around the areola.
“Scars can be an unfortunate side effect of life-saving surgeries, especially if the surgery was in a very visible place, like the head or neck,” says Dr. John Bulger, a plastic surgeon on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Prominent scars can lower a person’s self-esteem, making them feel self-conscious about their new appearance. It’s easy to see how making them less noticeable could help with the emotional recovery from the procedure.”
Patients in the study were asked a series of questions and to rank their answers. They reported on things such as whether their scar’s appearance concerned them, how often they think about it, whether it affects their relationships with others and how self-conscious they feel.
In the end, patients who underwent medical tattooing to camouflage their scars ranked themselves as significantly happier and less stressed by their appearance after the procedure.
“Medical tattooing services are not available everywhere, but the biggest barrier is often that people don’t realize it is an option,” says Dr. Bulger. “A dermatologist may be able to do it, but insurance may or may not cover it. A regular tattoo shop may be able to work with someone, as well, but doing it properly really requires special training. And, as always, commercial tattooing comes with a number of risks.”
Dr. Bulger suggests talking with your physician about whether you may be a good candidate for the procedure.
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