Tummy Tuck & Tattoos: What You Need to Know

Woman with tattoos looking at camera

A significant number of my tummy tuck patients from the Scottsdale and Phoenix area have tattoos. These range from small, discreet tattoos to large sleeves and full back pieces. While these tattoos usually have little impact on surgical choices, sometimes they need to be carefully worked into my surgical plan.

Will a tummy tuck remove my lower abdominal tattoo?

With tummy tuck surgery, technically called abdominoplasty, a large amount of lower abdominal skin is removed (usually everything between the pubic area and the belly button).  For patients that have a lower abdominal tattoo they no longer like, this is nice as the tattoo can be removed during surgery (see an actual patient case).  For those with a lower abdominal tattoo they do like, I will explain how much of the tattoo will need to be removed to tighten the skin properly.  Patients can then decide if the surgery is worth it, and how they want to manage the tattoo postoperatively (i.e., have it redone or just leave it as is).

Can I get a tattoo to cover up my tummy tuck scar?

Occasionally, I will see patients who are thinking about getting a tattoo to cover or hide a tummy tuck scar.  There are a few things I explain to these patients.

  • Scars tend to fade over time, so if the scar is less than a few years old, it generally has room for further improvement.
  • Adding a tattoo can draw more attention to the scar, so it’s usually not a great way to camouflage things.
  • Scars that bother patients for the first few years after surgery often fade so much that they become a non-issue naturally over time, while the cover-up tattoo will tend to hold its color over the years.

The other issue with tattooing a scar is that scar tissue does not hold ink as well as regular skin. Because of this, the scar can still show as a lighter or darker colored line running through a tattoo.  Additionally, scar tissue is more fragile than regular tissue and will sustain more trauma during the tattooing process.  This has the potential to lead to further scar thickening or even a soft tissue infection.

Can I do something to reduce my scar’s appearance?

My suggestion for scars is always to do what is needed to make them less noticeable (see this separate blog post). This includes scar massage, avoiding UV light, topical treatment such as BIOCORNEUM® or silicone sheeting, and steroid injections when necessary.  Tattooing scars can make things aesthetically worse rather than better, so I usually recommend saving the ink for a beautiful design in an area with healthy skin where you want attention to be focused.

If you’d like to find out more about tummy tuck surgery, contact us online or call (480) 423-1973 for an appointment.

Originally published 12/21/2016; updated 9/30/2020

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