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Scarred for life? -- Only if you take it literally

I started getting body modifications when I was 15 years old.  That was 3 years ago, which may seem like a long time in some respects, but I'd have to say it's only been a short while, especially when you consider all that has come out of those 3 years.  Like most people, I started out with piercing.  My first piercing, other than my earlobes, was my navel.  I suppose that was the stepping stone.  It was shortly followed by other common piercings, and eventually I got to the point where I was getting a new piercing every week.  After a while, I started to run out of room, or so it seemed.  Everyone kept telling me that I had nothing left to pierce.  That's when I started getting surface piercings.  Shortly after, I began getting tattoos.  This held up for a while, but as I continued to add new modifications to my body, I became more and more curious about other forms of body modification.

Last summer, Stigmata, the studio which I frequently visit, started branding.  When I received this news, I became really excited and I decided that I would like to get branded.  There was only one problem, brands are very costly.  Now normally I wouldn't care so much, but this was only a few months before I was going to start my first year of university.

Joan, the owner of the studio, who is also the head piercing artist, knew how much I wanted a brand.  So one day, while I was visiting, she offered to give me a brand as a going away gift.  I decided to get a design on my chest, because I thought that it would compliment my surface piercings very well.  Randy, one of the tattoo artists, designed it for me.  It starts down at my cleavage and branches out to my shoulders.  A few weeks before I left for school, I went to get my brand.  I went after hours, to avoid disturbing any customers, since the smell of burning flesh is not all that pleasant.  I won't say much now about what went on, because I want to discuss what happened the second time.

You see, my brand faded very quickly.  Joan offered to redo it, but we had trouble scheduling it, since I was going to school in Toronto, and Stigmata is in Guelph.  We finally set a date in march, over half a year after I'd gotten my brand originally.

Once again, I went in after hours.  Joan had a bunch of cautery pens ready.  The first time, she had to use two cautery pens.  The cautery pens were disposable, though not all cautery pens are.  Joan explain this to me the first time I got my brand.  That is part of the reason brands are much more expensive than tattoos at Stigmata.  They could've invested an expensive cautery pen, or get multiple one use cautery pens.  Now apparently since the cautery pens reach really high temperatures, all of the flesh from the last person would burn off, but it still isn't a pleasant idea to have a tool burning your flesh that was also used to burn somebody else's flesh.  I suppose that is why they decided on the disposable cautery pens.

Continuing on, I went to the back and laid down on the bench.  My friend Shanna was there to keep me company.  Joan started to heat up the first cautery pen.  At this point, I started to get nervous.  I knew what to expect, having done this once before, but I was still nervous.  In my opinion, branding hurts much more than piercings and tattoos, but it isn't unbearable and it is quite an experience.  She started to go over the light scars left from before, and she kept reminding me to take deep breaths.  I don't know exactly how to describe the sensation, except by saying the obvious, that is, it was a burning sensation.  After a little while, it doesn't hurt so much, but whenever she lifted the pen, and put it back down on my skin, it took a few seconds for me to readjust to the pain.  Anytime that I felt overwhelmed, I asked her for a little break.  I usually don't speak up too much, but she always made sure to ask how I was doing, and if I needed a little break.  She wen t through quite a few cautery pens, because she wanted to make sure that the scars stayed this time, and since the pens die down after a while, it was necessary.  It took about an hour to complete, which is about the same as the first time.

As for the after care, there isn't much you do to "care" for it, as you would with a piercing or a tattoo.  Having said that, I don't mean that the after care isn't as time consuming.  In fact, I'd have to say it is much more so.  Every once in a while, I'd have to pick off the scabs, to ensure that the design would scar into my chest.  This is quite a painful process, and I'd have to say that the first couple of weeks after getting the brand are much more painful than getting the brand itself.  This pain I could deal with though, because there wasn't anything I could do about it.  It was there no matter what I did, so I just had to cope.

Whenever I had to pick off the scab, I soaked in the tub for a while.  This made the scab a little more soft, and it came off easier.  I found that this way, it didn't bleed so much, but I don't really think it reduced the pain.  Sometimes I picked at it while it was dry.  When I did this, it was normally when I was watching t.v., and it was more of an absent minded thing.

I have also heard that rubbing toothpaste on a brand really helps with the scarring.  But I have also heard that this is painful beyond belief, so I didn't have the guts to try it.

As for the final result, it has now been about 3 months, and this time you can really see the scar.  I am really happy with the way it turned out.  There is only one thing that I would like to say, which is a little more on the negative side.  It is very difficult to control scarring.  In some spots, I have keloids, which are much more visible than the rest of the brand.  I would prefer it if the whole design would keloid, or else I'd rather not have any keloids.  If I were to have the choice, I would rather not have any keloids, because my keloids sometimes get really itchy.

Right now, I am looking into methods to reduce my keloids.  I have heard that helichrysum water works wonders.  I have some, but I havn't started using it.  I also have a little bottle of helichrysum oil blend, which is stronger and for reducing scars.  I'm not too sure about the oil, since I don't want the scars to fade, but I think just a little might be good enough to reduce the keloids.  My plan is to start with the helichrysum water, and if I don't get results, I'll move on to the oil.  If that doesn't work, Joan has offered to redo my brand AGAIN, in which case my hopes would be to make the whole design keloid.  Either way, I am happy with my brand, and I am glad that I did it.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 17 July 2002
in Scarification

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Artist: Joan
Studio: Stigmata
Location: Guelph%2C+Ontario

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