Exploring the Psychosocial Impact of Tattooing as a Method of Scar Camouflage and Decoration in Individuals with Visible Differences

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences


Approximately 1.3 million people in the UK are currently living with a 'visible difference' (disfigurement) affecting their face and/or body (Wallersteiner, 2020). A visible difference can be congenital, for example, cleft lip's birth marks. They can also be acquired later in life, for example, due to medical accidents (Wallersteiner, 2020). Evidence suggests that medical tattooing and skin camouflage can be beneficial for psychosocial wellbeing.
This study aims to expand on limited research surrounding the use of decorative tattooing by non-medical professional tattooists as a form of scar camouflage, and its psychosocial impact on individuals with visible differences, for example, scars after burn injuries. It seeks to identify: the motives that drive individuals to engage with decorative tattooing surrounding visible scars-; and how this application of decorative tattooing changes an individual's relationship with themselves and their environment. In particular, the research will unpack the differences between decorative and medical tattooing, and the influencing factors that drive individual choices. This research draws upon sociocultural perspectives surrounding decorative tattooing and its impact on current knowledge surrounding decorative tattooing as a form of scar camouflage. This will be conducted through an interdisciplinary psychosocial approach, whereby a contrast of the psychological implications of placing a decorative tattoo over a scar, and the sociological outcomes and influencers are compared. For example, the potential for decorative tattoos to enable an individual to reclaim their body, and the sociocultural benefits and risks in relation to the individual's experience. The main focus and key areas of the study are as follows:
Primary Research Question: What are the individual perspectives and experiences surrounding non-medical professional decorative tattooing in relation to health and wellbeing?
Secondary Research Question: How can a deeper understanding of both user's and artist's perspectives be used to improve awareness, training, and regulation of the industry?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2597570 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2021 30/09/2024 Kieran Moulton