A study by Dutch doctors recently suggested that people who get tattoos to cover scars and skin grafts typically feel happier with their quality of life and appearance lending credibility to the notion that tattoos can be good for your mental health. Though the technique isn’t new, the study results may provide the data required for a patient to convince their health insurers to cover qualified treatments under the category of mental health instead of elective cosmetic procedures which are normally not covered.
Although people have been covering scars with tattoo designs for almost as long as tattoos have existed, medical tattooing (also known as dermatography or scar camouflage), is quickly becoming a popular option for burn and skin cancer patients especially those who’ve suffered damage to their face and neck areas. Dermatography involves using subtle colors to mimic the look of unscarred skin instead of simply covering a scar or graft with an artistic design. The most common procedure currently is the adding of nipples to reconstructed breasts for mastectomy patients. The Dutch study focused on 56 patients, mostly women aged from 19 to 86, who received medical tattoos to cover scars and skin grafts that were left on their head, face, and neck areas after cancer treatments. What was found was that after tattooing, the patients rated their appearance of the affected areas an average of 40% higher (using a 10 point scale).
The most interesting part in this study truly is the effect that these types of tattoos have on someone’s mental health. Having highly visible scars on the face can destroy a person’s self-esteem causing or worsening depression and anxiety. It’s a nice thought that a medical tattoo could give someone their social life back after severe medical trauma and also help them move on from the negative experience rather than staring at a reminder in the mirror every day.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.