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The Intricacies of Healing a Skin Removal Scarification

My original plan was to write a thorough experience about my flesh removal scarification once it was completely healed. It's been six months since I had my skin removed, and the new skin is still red, tender, and raised. At some of the edges, a lighter not-so-raised scar tissue seems to be invading. Besides the small lighter areas, the scar is pretty much the same as it was four months ago. So I figure, I'll just write this now while I have time. I also want to advertise the healing method I used because I think that it was so effective. It can be summed up as followed: soak your fresh scarification 3-4 times a day, and then scrub the scabs off. This is further elaborated in the "healing" section.

Also, before I start I want to mention that I have incredibly nice and accepting ex-hippy parents. I'm more fortunate to have them as my parents than I can probably even comprehend. I know that they are understanding of body modification (and I told my mom beforehand, although she didn't really understand what it was) so that is why I felt it was okay to get this scarification while I still lived with my parents. This mod was somewhat of a "rite of passage" for me, but I would vote against this mod for those with less understanding parents.

Now that I've put that out there, I'm going to divide this into three sections: before, during (the procedure) and after. I should add that I took a log of the healing process during the first couple of weeks in a black notebook that I unfortunately lost. But I'm going to do my best—hopefully this will still be helpful.

Before:

Sean had pierced my tongue and septum. Both turned out great. I was fast approaching 18, and I wanted more piercings. I was very excited that I could finally sign for myself. So, about two weeks before my birthday, I went to his IAM page to see what he was up to and where I could find him. Since his shop burned down, he had been moving around a lot.

Lo and behold, I went to his page and he said he was offering a variety of $15 piercings to test out new techniques. In addition, he was offering four FREE flesh removal scarifications—his choice of design--to build his portfolio. I became incredibly giddy. I had always loved scarifications and was fascinated by them. I thought they were beautiful. I left a comment expressing interest in both the $15 piercings and the scarification once I turned 18 in two weeks.

Sean sent me a message back to call his cell when I turned 18, and we could talk about things. So in two weeks I sent him a message (not on the phone though, I'm a wuss and grew up on the internet) asking if he was still doing free scarifications and if his four designs had been taken. Sean wrote me back saying that he was doing more than four and that he had only said that to get people to jump on it. He also told me that he didn't know me well enough to pick a design for me, and that most of the designs he was enthusiastic about were taken. So my "SCORE I DON'T HAVE TO THINK OF ANYTHING" copout was destroyed. I started to have some anxiety about what to pick. I drew a lot of sketches but I didn't like any of them. I'm quite an indecisive person. I became nervous about the whole procedure itself. In one way, it was a rite of passage, and I didn't care about the design—I just wanted to go through the process. On the other hand, this was going to be on my body for life. I was also nervous that Sean wouldn't like my design. He eased my nerves by saying he was more interested in showing people healed scars and the somewhat unpredictable nature of scarification. Then, Sean mentioned to me that I should check out symbols.com for some ideas. That reminded me that I had previously wanted the biohazard warning symbol tattooed on the inside of my lip. That didn't seem very viable, and I didn't want a tattoo anytime soon, so I thought that would be a perfect design.

I guess it is somewhat pertinent to mention why I wanted this design. No, it's not because I am a big fan of the band Biohazard (although Sean said maybe this scar would get me backstage.) Anyway, basically, I think I suck. I pretty much hate myself. I don't think I need to go into that anymore here. So this is a warning to other people that I suck. When I'm having a good, more optimistic day, it's a warning to people not to mess with me. I was feeling particularly down on myself when I got this scar. This boosted my confidence and opinion about myself, so I must mention I also like the whole irony of the concept of the design and its implications.


The Procedure

I had never been scared for a body modification before (though they were limited to piercings and tattoos) This time, though, I was terrified. I went to Sean's studio. The first thing I did was sign a consent form. At this point Sean put me somewhat at ease and I wasn't as scared. He took me back to his studio, where there was a metal table. He put the Johnny Cash greatest hits CD on. Whenever I hear Johnny Cash I think of getting that scar. I took off my pants, and lay on my side on the table. He would be scarring the outside of my left thigh.

Throughout the whole procedure, I tried to just relax and stay calm. I truly believe that with this kind of thing that's what you have to do. If you have this mentality, you're set. I took deep breaths. First, he outlined the design with a scalpel. Next, he removed the smallest pieces of skin. He did this by lifting up the skin with clamps and sort of flaying it off with the scalpel (I'm not sure how else to describe it.) He then tossed the skin into the wastebasket. When the scar was finished, there were two small spots that were excessively bleeding (they were cut a little deeper than the rest of the scar.) Sean put silver nitrate on these spots to cause a chemical scab. That pretty much stopped the bleeding.

There's not much more to say about the actual procedure. Sean finished before the Johnny Cash CD was over. Sean told me it was the fastest and easiest scar he had ever done. He said that maybe I had good skin, or maybe he was getting better, or maybe it was both. He wrapped my leg up with a significant number of bandages. Sean told me that it would bleed a lot in the night. He wasn't lying. I took off the bandages in the shower. When I went to sleep, I put down three towels on my bed. I bled through all of them, so that there was a significant amount of blood on my sheets. My blanket was also very bloody, but I used a red one that night and for the ensuing weeks. This brings me to...

Healing

I started out healing my scar the way Sean told me. I had also read this method of healing in all of the scarification experiences here. I let the scar scab up entirely and poured satin liquid soap over the scab. The scab became huge very quickly—within a week.

I lost all of my wonderful notes that I took during the healing process to reference here, so forgive me that this is not as thorough and specific as I might wish. The first night, as I stated, I bled tremendously. I took that next day off from school. I pretty much just sat around in my underwear and tried to rest. It didn't bleed too much when I was just sitting/lying around for a long time.

Obviously, I couldn't sleep on my left side. When I slept on my right side, my scar scraped against the blanket, which kind of sucked. So I tried to sleep on my back, which I'm not really used to.

The second day I wore a bandage to school. It was difficult to walk. I limped around suspiciously. All I could think about all day was getting home and peeling the bandage off. It was sticky and scratchy and dried out my wound.

I took a shower and soaked the bandage. Even though the bandage was thoroughly wet and supposedly "non-stick", taking this bandage off is my worst memory of the entire healing process. Maybe that's why I was terrified of ever wearing a bandage again. The scar had a nice layer of scab by the next morning, so I decided to go bandage free for my last day of school before spring break. My pants didn't get terribly bloody because of the semi-enormous scab on my leg, but I did bleed through the scab a little.

I was lucky I had spring break the second week of healing. I recommend everyone to take as much time off of work or school as possible. For the most part, I didn't wear pants or leave the house. I did hang out with people a few times, but they usually came to my house. For some reason, my friends didn't mind me wearing only underwear or having a huge disgusting scab on the side of my leg. On a particularly bad day, my friend Tom came over. It was towards the end of break, as I recall. My scar was oozing and bleeding a lot per usual. I was having a lot of trouble walking normally, and it sort of scared him. He convinced me that it was infected and that the lymph was pus. I found out when I went to my doctor that my scar was actually doing incredibly well. Lymph is normal and healthy. However, the scabs at this point were quite mountainous. I estimate that they were at least a half an inch high. (It sounds unbelievable, but I have pictures to prove it.) For some reason the scab pictures posted on BME don't have very high scabs. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe the area of skin removed was smaller, or maybe I'm just weird, or maybe the people who have huge scabs just thought the photos were too disgusting to post on BME. Anyway, my friend Tom was kind of scared, so I made an appointment with my doctor for the next week. My had also been freaking out. I almost made him cry one day walking to his car after school, which I felt pretty bad about. I had to insist that it didn't hurt at all when I limped--only when I tried to walk normally, which by the second week was sort of (but not completely) true.

When I went to my doctor he told me the scar looked great and wasn't infected at all. However, he said that with a wound this size infection can potentially get trapped underneath the scab and actually drill a hole in the skin all the way down to the fat/muscle that would require a skin graft. He said that it would heal faster and be less likely to get infected in general if I let it heal from the bottom up. So here is what he told me to do:

He said to soak it 3-4 times a day, and let all the scabs fall off. He said to soak it a long time and scrub the scabs off with a towel and soap—any soap was fine. He said to let it keep forming scabs and soak/scrub the new scabs as they come. It did bleed a lot more but he said that this was good and normal.

The night I removed all the huge scabs, only the three small circle parts looked like they had grown any new skin (the rest looked pretty much the same as when I first got it.) In just the course of using this system for one day, big patches of new skin grew in two of the bigger outer parts (one still had no new skin.)

So I did exactly what my doctor told me to. I soaked and scrubbed in the morning, right after school, and before I went to bed. If I could, I came home from school during the day to soak it. I removed the hard to reach clumps of lymph and blood with tweezers.

Yes, it's somewhat annoying and painful to scrub the scabs off--much more so than just letting it scab over. Still, it's safer to scrub the scabs, and the scar heals dramatically faster. After talking to my doctor it's something I personally feel that one HAS to do. I'm not usually one to use prestigious schools as a way to measure someone's credibility, but my doctor graduated from Harvard medical school and is the chairman of the department of pediatrics at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Yes, I still go to a pediatrician. Anyway, my point is, he's a good doctor. I've been going to him my entire life, and I trust him. We've all heard the saying, "doctors are not piercers"—but they ARE trained to deal with deep wounds. It's something he has undoubtedly encountered before. I found out from my mom that my grandfather once inadvertently sliced off a chunk of his skin during a particularly dramatic slide to second base and his doctor gave him the same instructions. I messaged Sean explaining this method of healing and he told me he would start advising that to clients. (I was very impressed that he listened to me, I should add.) I think that all artists who do flesh removal scarifications should research this. It's unlikely for these scars to get infected but I think the risk of a skin graft and muscle tissue damage should be more than enough to convince people to scrub the scabs off. Of course, there is no absolute right and wrong with healing things—there may well be an even better way than this in several years--but judging by how much faster my scar healed I feel strongly that more people should try this. I looked up deep wounds online and found the same instructions on a number of health websites. When I get my next scar I'm going to do this from the beginning and give an update.

I've read some stories on here and for some reason people seem to think that scrubbing scabs off makes for an uneven or keloiding scar. In actuality, though, my doctor said that if I DIDN'T scrub the scabs off my scar would be more likely to keloid. Likeliness of keloiding is also dependent on the deepness of the cuts. Scarification is an imperfect art. Some sections are likely to be a little deeper or shallower than others, even if a very experienced artist does the scarification. For example, small sections of my scar were almost third degree (just the two little spots that required silver nitrate) so they took awhile longer to totally grow a new layer of skin. I'm not sure if it will make a difference in the long run in terms of keloiding or an even surface. Time will tell. However, I doubt it will be noticeable.

Anyway, I encountered a small problem after scrubbing off the scabs. I had been bad and had not worn a bandage out of fear from my prior bandage experience. With the enormous scab, my scar wasn't bleeding much during the day. All the blood would just stick to the scabs and make them higher. So, a little blood would soak through the cracks of the scab to my pants, but it for the most part didn't noticeably bleed.

My doctor did not specifically tell me to wear a bandage, so I naively and idiotically went to school without one on. Bad decision. The scar pretty much had no top layer of skin except on the small circular parts of the symbol. First period I looked down and noticed blood gushing from my legs. There was too much blood for me to avoid going to the school nurse. I had no choice.

A few of my friends saw me and were shocked by the amount of blood on my pants. They helped me walk to the nurse's office. Things ended okay but I got a long lecture/screaming at from the nurse (to be expected) and I got a lecture from my doctor about how I have to wear a bandage for the protection of myself and others. I realized he was right—it's one thing for me to risk a deadly infection for myself, and another to potentially be exposing other students at school to my blood. What I did was completely irresponsible. However, I got better non-stick bandages and soaked them in the bath instead of just the shower and they came off much more comfortably. After that first day my scar started growing new skin very quickly. Within about a week all but two tiny parts of the scar had grown a layer of skin.

For the next few months, I wore only a few pairs of very loose fitting pants/sweat pants and bought one long flowy skirt once spring came. The scar was sore for a while, and I'm just now (almost six months later) able to wear any clothing I want in complete comfort. I must also add that I spent a good deal of time holding my pants/skirt away from that spot on my leg. That helped a lot.

I will say this about the overall pain of healing the scar: Intuitively, I know it hurt. However, I have some consolation for anyone considering a flesh removal scarification: I don't really remember what it felt like. I try, but I just can't.

I know I want another flesh removal scarification at some point. I feel like I have to prove something to myself again. I have to prove to myself that I haven't gotten completely soft. I want something to take care of that will beautify my body.

Now, in late September (I got the scar early March) my scar is barely sore. Most of the scar is still red and raised and bumpy, as it has been but certain sections (especially around some of the edges) have faded to white and are not as raised. I'm going to miss the huge red bumps.

It's tremendously fun to show people my scar. I get mixed reactions—usually of shock, disgust, and/or awe. Occasionally people are really indifferent. Personally, I love it. I don't think I will get the same intensity of reactions after the scar is completely healed, so I'm enjoying it while I can. I'm also excited to see what it will look like as the healing continues to progress.

Lastly, I just want to do a short plug for Sean. This scar has boosted my self-esteem tenfold and is one of the only things I like about myself. I owe that to Sean. Even my mom comments on what a great job he did. Sean has truly dedicated his life to body modification. If you are looking for a scarification, I highly encourage you to seek him out.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 Oct. 2004
in Scarification

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Artist: Sean+Philips
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