About Tattoos, Scarification and Sub Dermal Implants

By | January 10, 2014

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Tattooing, scarification and sub dermal procedures all have the same thing in common, they are used to change the physical appearance of the body through artistic interpretation. Some of the procedures are more extreme than others and require a great deal of dedication on the part of the recipient since the idea is to permanently change the physical and or structural appearance of the body.

A Small History of Tattoos

Tattooing has been dated back as far as 5,200 years ago since the finding and carbon dating of the Iceman in the Italian-Austrian border in 1991. Though tattoos have a history as long as time, the art form has not always been an acceptable one.

Tattooing disappeared from the Western civilizations when the Normans invaded Britain in 1066. People thought the procedure of inking the skin was distasteful. For a short time tattoos became popular among the upper class in London when Captain Cook brought a Polynesian man back with him from a trip who was heavily tattooed.

When Samuel O’Reilly invented the first electric tattoo gun in 1891, making tattoos more widely available to people of all classes, the upper class turned their noses up at tattooing once again. This ended up creating a sort of underground society for tattoo artists until after the 1960s. These days, tattoos are found on people from all classes. The popularity of this body modification has made a strong come back in the western cultures even though it never faded from the rest of the world.

About Scarification

This type of tattooing is an ancient form of tribal art that originated in Africa. The rumor is that it was begun because the dark skin of the Africans didn’t take well to the ink that was normally used in tattoos. There are lots of reasons that scarification was and still is used even today.

  • Beauty
  • Rite of passage
  • Fertility
  • Family pride
  • Warding off evil
  • Courage
  • Tribal identification
  • Shock value

There are a number of ways to create scars, some of which are more common in different parts of the world than others.

  • Abrasion
  • Chemical scarification
  • Ink rubbing
  • Packing
  • Skinning

The initial process of using abrasion was a simple, but painful one. The first layer of skin is broken exposing the lighter flesh under the skin, then it is rubbed with ash and other skin-irritating substances to prolong the healing process. These days scarring, in the most parts of the world, is done in a more hygienic environment.

Sterilized tools are used to make the cuts and patterns on the body and substances like hydrogen peroxide and petroleum jelly are used to irritate the skin. The scabs are then peeled away to create deeper scars. No matter the method chosen to create the scars, the longer it takes the skin to heal, the more pronounced the scars will be.

About Sub Dermal Implants

In 1994 Phoenix Arizona tattoo artist Steve Haworth invented the procedure of sub dermal implantations. The procedure is not only controversial, but it may also have legal ramifications since it has not been decided if the procedure is technically surgical or not. The implant is a type of three-dimensional body art that is created by placing and object under the skin. Medical grade Teflon or silicon is typically used as the decorations that are placed under the skin. There are very few places on the body where implants can’t be put.

Putting the implants in requires a sterile environment and a few surgical tools. Members of the surgical community will not practice this procedure if their patients asked them for it, and they have a general disdain for the practice. Surgical or not, this is the procedure:

  1. The dermal layer of skin is cut open using a scalpel.
  2. A pocket is made under the skin using an instrument that is made to separate the dermal layer safely.
  3. The object or objects are inserted under the skin and allowed to heal.

Another form of dermal implant is the trans dermal, which means that the object is placed under the skin but part of it still sticks out of the skin, for example: horns on the forehead. Extreme body modifiers can get these procedures done in tattoo shops, though not many of them use this method yet.

Any kind of body modifying can be dangerous and needs to be taken care of in order to avoid infection or other complications. No matter the reason to get tattoos, body scars or sub dermal implants the end effect is the same, to make a permanent change, and the recipient should think long and hard before making any physical changes to the body since it is not easy to undo any of these procedures.


  • Scarification” Austrailian Museum (2009)
  • History of Tattooing” Katherine L. Krcmarik, Michigan State University (2003)

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