A Scarring Story
I'm no stranger to pain, and I'm certainly not afraid of blood. I think there's something amazing about people with body modifications - Our ability to not only tolerate, but to embrace the pain as a gateway we must pass to get something we want. We accept that yes, it will hurt, but it becomes associated with something so good that after a while, it's actually a bit satisfying. I don't think I'd really feel like I'd earned my mods if I hadn't had to conquer the pain, or take loving care of them. It's a source of pride. Most of my mods aren't attached to anything important, really - Other than aesthetic appeal. But some of them are. So when a good friend of mine was murdered (by her boyfriend, we suspect. But ... That's another story) and I was understandably cut up about it, I decided that's exactly what I'd do. Another notch on my skin, style.
I've always had a soft spot for scarification. The idea of utilising something so simple and manipulating your body into modifying itself is appealing. It seems... Basic, primal. Just right for what I wanted. Something aesthetically pleasing with a story behind it. Something that would seem like a sacrifice, a cathartic ritual, and leave me with a visual reminder of the time. By my body, on my body, by my own hand.
I decided on a smallish star on my left forearm, 5-6cm across. I set up my little makeshift 'operating theater' in my living room. Paper towels, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, sterile surgical scalpels, gauze, a bowl of saline solution and a big paper towel-pad for me to rest my arm in case of blood running over. Wouldn't want to get any on my carpet. I shaved my arm and wiped it with iso.alc. I deliberated over design and positioning for a while, drawing up heaps of different stars on paper and transferring to my arm, wiping them off again and redoing it all. When I was finally satisfied with the dimensions of my star, I wiped over it again with iso.alc and grabbed a sterile surgical scalpel.
It was all very detached and ritualistic. I cut into my skin to a depth of about 2.5mm at an angle along the outside of my design, the skin opened so easily, revealing a pinkish-white underneath before blood quickly came up in little dots that grew into a bright red flowing of warm liquid down my arm. Looking at it was actually pretty amusing, I'm naturally so pale and the blood was so red, the glint of steel and the purposeful setup of sterile equipment in my living room just seemed so out of place. I loved it. I kept having to wash over it with saline and pat it with paper towel so I could see what I was doing, but I got the outside done fairly quickly. So a wash with saline again, rinse my scalpel with iso.alc and onto the inner side of the design.
The inner side was a little trickier as the skin had obviously swollen a bit and was moving differently due to being open already, but I took my scalpel and cut into the skin at the same depth and angle, going the other way. This led to little strips of skin which I peeled off and put on paper towel next to me. And then, I was done. I had removed my skin without incident, now all there was was to clean up and keep it clean and open for as long as possible. It was bleeding a fair bit so I kept washing it with saline and pressed the gauze onto it, applying pressure to my freshly skinned arm while I watched whatever crap was on late night TV at that point.
I wrapped the skin up in paper towel and threw it in the bin with all the other paper towels, gauze, etc, then re-wrapped my arm and went to bed. My aftercare consisted of using Dettol Antibacterial soap on it for a few days while it was still very raw, but when it started to settle and scab a bit, I started using straight iso-alc and sometimes methanol. After a while I started to put the Dettol soap onto a soft toothbrush I'd bought especially for the occasion and gently scrubbed along the lines to clean and irritate it, then rinsed off the soap and blood with cold water, then poured methanol over it and patted dry.
It healed up well. Too well. I couldn't get it to raise a keloid (I didn't think I would, I never keloid), it wouldn't stand out. It just looked a little discoloured but nothing you would even really notice if you didn't know it was there. So disappointed. After going over it quite harshly with a tattoo gun and thick liner a couple of times without making much difference, I decided it needed to be branded over if I wanted to see results.
So again, I set up my living as well as possible, but this time I would be burning myself and I lacked the proper equipment. I don't advise ever doing this yourself, branding yourself can present a very real risk of infection and Toxic Shock Syndrome. I used a new kilt pin, after checking that it was indeed steel and not some nickel coated unknown compound. I used a pair of pliers to bend the kilt pin so that I could hold it at a 90 degree angel to my arm and measured so that the metal that would touch my skin was the right length for the strikes I needed. Then soaked it in methanol while I shaved my arm and wiped it with iso-alc once again.
I heat up the kilt pin with a jet lighter, steadied it over my skin (not wanting to get an angle slightly wrong) and pushed it onto my skin. Wow. It sunk into me and made a noise like a steak being slapped onto a hot barbeque. There were little wisps of a whitish smoke and it felt like the metal had tried to jump sideways in my skin. Amazing. I pulled the metal back up after a couple of seconds and had a look at the strike I had made. It had very clean edges and was white. But it hadn't hurt very much at all, if anything it just felt bizarre. So I wiped the metal, heated it back up and continued until the star was complete. It looked vicious but it hadn't really hurt, and it wasn't hurting now. Brilliant, I thought.
Feeling rather pleased with myself, I repeated my clean up and gauze wrap, then went to bed. The aftercare was much the same again but this time the scabs formed those deep, inset type of scabs that burns always do and it took much, much longer to heal. The scarring looks a lot better but it's been nearly a year since I branded it and it's fading far too quickly for my liking. It looks great when I'm cold and it turns purple , but other times it's a pale pink shimmer on my skin. I know scarification is a subtle medium but I think I could get it to be a little more obvious. I'd love to open it up again, but I won't do it again myself I don't think. As much as that pains me. I wouldn't want to do something wrong or cause too much tissue trauma that would warp the design, so if I find an artist who does branding I'll definitely go to them. I now have two star tattoos next to the branding in a nice greywash as the start of a half sleeve that will involve simplicity, subtlety and incorporate both scarring and tattooing.
I do get a lot of comments about it from people when I'm out and about. I guess a lot of people are aware of branding and scarification but it's not quite common enough that people wouldn't look twice at one. I like that.
submitted by: Ticket
on: 23 Aug. 2011
in Misc. Scarifications