Women of color are often limited on what they can do for their stretch marks because of the risk and complications of hyperpigmentation. When I first started my career, almost all my instructors had suggested not to work on Africans, Asians or any dark-skinned clients because they would take longer to heal, you risk tattooing them too dark or potentially having them keloid scar.
I was pretty disappointed by the news because being a woman of color myself who is prone to hyperpigmentation, I know what it’s like to feel like when you can’t do certain laser treatments or the annoyance of having skin wherein scars darken for a while before it eventually lightens up. I have some scars on my knees from shaving and mosquito bites that have been dark for over a year.
At the same time, I really wanted to figure out a way to work with colored skin and so began experimenting and researching new techniques that would make it possible.
The stretch mark camouflage tattoo is not an exact science. A lot of what we do does come with the costs of some variables. We’re not working on healthy skin per se, but more so compromised skin that has been fractured into a scar (stretch marks), so when it comes to tattooing, results and healing time will vary per client. I’ve yet to see any stretch marks that are the same from client to client.
With that being said, I have figured out a way to work on darker skin. The camouflage results are much more dramatic because the contrast of white scars up against dark skin is a lot more noticeable than someone fair-skinned so when results work well, it looks amazing.
It does come with some variables. The major one being the required time it takes to fully heal. Because darker skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, it will take much longer for a client to heal vs. someone who’s fair-skinned. Hyperpigmentation is not something to be afraid of, it’s just how our skin and genetics heal naturally, but it will affect how long it takes to heal.
Someone of color can typically take 60-90 days to heal, with rare cases of clients taking up to 6 months to heal. When working with women of color, I do tend to go even more conservative when matching their skin tones. The reason being is that there’s more pigment in their skin, which will directly affect the overall pigment selected once it’s healed.
Another way to look at this is when we get tattooed, we’re actually looking at that intended color through the lens of new skin that’s healed over the wound (needle in the skin), so if I were to perfectly match someone’s skin tone, most likely they would heal too dark.
Their new skin carries its own hue of color which will overlay over the flesh-toned ink. I’d rather go more conservative; tattoo someone a lighter shade and see what their skin brings back to me. 99% of clients with dark skin will need to come back for a touch-up session or two. It’s always easier to go darker the second time around than it is to try and lighten up the tattoo.
Long story short, women and men of color can definitely benefit from the stretch mark camouflage tattoo procedure but will need to assess and be educated on whether or not the timeline and patience required for healing suits them.
Here is a recent before/after photo of a client who’s come to the studio for 3 sessions to get to where she’s at now. Luckily for her, she takes about 60 days to fully heal, but the amount of sessions has been more to commit to since most clients just need one touch-up, not two.
Client: African American/Mixed Female