People get tattooed for various reasons. Many get them because they're fashionable. Others get them as a reminder or something or somebody special. But some get them for the opposite reason, to cover up something they'd rather forget.
Check out this list of tattoo cover-up stories compiled by Bored Panda to read about the events that inspired people to get inked. Some had surgery scars and dog bites they wanted to hide, while others decided to get tattoos to cover injuries inflicted by abusive partners or the painful results of bets gone wrong. They'll make you think twice the next time you see somebody with a tattoo. (h/t: 22words, buzzfeed)
#1 A Bluebird Covering Scars From Multiple Surgeries
My sophomore year of high school I fell during a trampoline routine at gymnastics practice and shattered my left arm. After eight months of surgeries… I was left with an arm that not only hurt constantly and didn’t work, but also didn’t look like my own. Surgeries to remove dead muscle and scar tissue had distorted my forearm, and the scars scattered across my arm and hand felt unsightly and ugly. This tattoo, my first, was a present to myself when I turned 18 as a way to reclaim my body after it had been irreparably damaged, and to turn my scars into something beautiful. I didn’t want to cover up the surgical scars because they were, and are, such an important part of who I am now, but I wanted to transform them into something I was proud of. The bird is an eastern bluebird.
#2 Blooming Peony Tattoo Covering Scars From Self-Harming
My grandpa sexually abused me since I was a small child. For a long time, I felt like my body didn’t belong to me. I could feel his eyes burned into my skin, or the ghost of his hands brushing against my thighs. As retaliation, I began self-harming. I carved up my ribs, my breasts, my thighs. They were all the things he loved too much, and I wanted to destroy them. The worst of the scars were on my ribs. After recovery, my mom bought me scar cream and they faded. Even still, I felt a disconnect from my body. I started letting boys toss me around and abuse me. I saw myself as nothing but a sex object. Earlier this year, I relapsed. I was so angry and embarrassed at how weak I still was… So after some thought and saving, I went into a tattoo parlor and got a blooming peony on my sternum and ribs. I wanted to plant something beautiful where something ugly used to be. It’s still not finished, and needs coloring when I can afford it, but for now, it’s a great comfort to see in the mirror. I’m taking my body back, one flower at a time.
#3 One Word Next To A Spinal Surgery Scar
Instead of hiding my scar, I decided to show it off. Last July I had scoliosis spinal reconstruction surgery, placing two titanium rods on either sides of my spine and fusing two-thirds of my spinal vertebrae into one large bone. This left me with a noticeable two-and-a-half-foot scar down the center of my back. I got the word ‘strength’ tattooed next to my scar. The ‘S’ is a tracing of my actual spine from an X-ray before my surgery. It took a lot of strength to recover from such a hard surgery and I want a constant reminder of that.
#4 Watercolor Pheonix Tattoo Covering Forearm Scars
These forearm scars are (pretty obviously) from self-harm and they're from almost 14 years ago. Been wanting to cover it with a tattoo for half my life, but I guess just recently developed the metaphorical balls to finally do it. So happy!
#5 A Feather Covering Scars Resulting From An Abusive Relationship
I got this tattoo to cover a scar from an abusive boyfriend. He broke my arm and I had a metal plate put in it. I still went back to him many times. That scar reminded me of how weak I was and I wanted something beautiful instead. My cousin whom I was really close to committed suicide a couple months ago and I wanted to honor him. He called me unicorn.
#6 Flowers Covering Self-Harm Scars
She was so embarrassed, she told me how much pain it brought her when people would question her about them or make comments, which is completely understandable. As I’ve said in the past no one should ever have to feel like a public museum for people to ridicule. The things these people have fought through is admirable and they deserve to know that. People will immediately label self-harm as an act of weakness. I think to crawl out of that abyss and still be here, in this life that honestly is already so brief, and to have changed your life around into a positive is commendable.
#7 A Straight Spine In Celebration Of Overcoming Scoliosis
So let me start by saying my real spine has never looked and will never look like this. When I was 15 years old I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis — a 65-degree curve in my spine in the shape of an S. It was beyond correction with a brace and I was told that I would need surgery in order to live into adulthood. The surgery was incredibly invasive and involved straightening my spine and surgically planting two titanium rods on either side of my spine attached by 15 screws which were screwed directly into my vertebrae. The tattoo is from a medical textbook and spans 17” up my back, over my scar, which you can barely see. It is a symbol of my recovery and strength. My spine has never looked like that, nor will it ever look like that, it is simply the spine that I should’ve had.
#8 Colorful Lion Covering Scars From Self-Harm
When I was a kid, I was picked on multiple reasons; to me the worst of which was for simply being the big girl. I was 2 feet taller than everyone in my class and easily outweighed most kids my age. By the time I was a teenager I was neck deep in depression and taking it out on myself seemed like the only relief. Now that I’m older and much better equipped to deal with my mental health, I decided to cover up my years of self-harm scars. A lion was the first thing I thought of when I wanted something representing strength, plus we put in lotus and azalea blossoms in the mane for their symbolism of overcoming struggle. Instead of seeing a painful reminder of where I was, I get to look at this badass symbol of where I am :)
#9 A Ribbon Covering A Tumor Removal Scar
I had a bone tumor in my knee removed when I was 10. This is my ribbon that looks like it’s lacing me up.
#10 Black Feather Tattoo Covering Scars From Self-Harm
I got this one to cover up scars from self harm. I had a really bad one that stuck out and I felt like everyone could see it and was judging me. I got it on a Wednesday night after another friend died from an intentional overdose. I wanted to remember my friend and it goes with another tattoo of blackbirds I have from the Beatles song “Blackbird”. “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” Today I am 3 years free of self harm!
#11 Cat Scratch Tattoo Covering The Scar
I got cat scratch disease from a cat scratch and had to have the wound removed. Covered the scar with this.
#12 Beautiful Tattoo Covering Scars On Wrist
Nobody has ever brought up my scars for the years I’ve been doing it. My little brother is 8 and everyone knows I am his biggest role model. One day he asked me, “What happened?” and pointed to my wrist. I made up a story, but I didn’t want him finding out what it really was and thinking it was an okay thing to do because I’ve done it. I instantly made an appointment to get them covered up. I feel so much more proud of myself now than I ever have.
#13 Willow Tree Tattoo Covering Scars From Self-Harm
After suffering from severe anxiety and depression which resulted in self-harm, I decided to get a willow tree tattoo over my scars. I chose the willow tree because it is a well-known symbol of adaptability due to its ability to not only survive, but also thrive in some of the most challenging conditions.
#14 The Scars Are Gone & Covered With Beautiful Work
At a point in my life (September 2015) I was suicidal, and I was sitting on my front porch just burning myself with a cigarette over and over. My mom sent me to a mental hospital which honestly didn’t help me. What helped me was coming back home. Once the scars healed, and I was okay, I decided to get a traditional rose to cover up my burns. I have to still go back and get a touch up on some parts where the scars are still slightly visible. It may not be the most beautiful tattoo, but it represents growth. I love my tattoo. It’s beautiful to me, and it’s the only tattoo my mother approves of because of its meaning.
#15 A Gecko Over A Scar From Exploded Appendix
This tattoo covers up a very gruesome scar that I received when my appendix decided to blow up. Turns out it had been leaking toxins into my body for months; which was slowly killing me, and needed to be removed immediately or id be dead by morning. I was stuck in the hospital for a week since they had to basically give all my insides a good cleaning, which meant one ugly scar! I had to wait 3 years after the incident to get this tattoo and I’m so glad I did! Can’t even tell what happened to me.
#16 The Symbol For Ovarian Cancer Following A Lumpectomy
On August 22, 2013, I had a mass removed from my right ovary. Three months later I got this tattoo not to cover my scar but to highlight it. I was lucky enough to have my results come back benign. My teal ribbon (a symbol for ovarian cancer) serves as a reminder for me to never forget how lucky I am. My experience made me a stronger person and shaped me into who I am today.
#17 This Ethereal Profile Covering A Dog Bite
It’s covering a scar from a childhood dog bite.
#18 Heart On Scars
When I was 10 I fell off a motorcycle and shattered my femur. They put in an external fixator to hold everything together while it healed. It left four scars on my leg. On most people they fade, but I scar badly and they still look fresh so I made them pretty. The scars themselves didn’t hold the color but I’m happy with how they came out.This picture shows the scars toward the top of my leg near my hip. The scars near my knee are more spread out and each have their own matching heart.
#19 Leo Constellation Tattoo
After several years of dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide attempts and self harm, I got my tattoo of the Leo constellation, my zodiac sign, around my self harm scars along my thighs. There’s a quote that says, “stars are the scars of the universe,” so I view my body as the universe and my scars as the stars. The tattoo really helped me to reclaim by body and learn to love it, scars and all.
#20 White Ink Heart Shaped Tattoo Covering The Scar
I used to cut myself when I was younger and I cut this heart into my hand. Instead of letting it fade, I decided to memorialize and got it traced in white ink. It’s a reminder to love myself.
#21 Anchor Covering Scars Resulting From A Bone Marrow Transplant
I had a bone marrow transplant when I was 9 years old. The scar has faded a lot since I was a kid but it always bothered me. My grandfather passed away when I was 14 and I got an anchor to commemorate him and remind myself to stay down to earth and grounded.
#22 Beautiful Tattoo Covering My Scars
For about two years I have worn my scars without a care of who saw, what they thought or what they said. I wore my scars with pride and embraced them, because their story was my story and because it was a part of me. I still have my story but now I have a beautiful piece of artwork that marks a new beginning and a second chance. A second chance and never looking back at what was, but rather focusing on what is and what will be.
#23 Tattoo Covering Two Scars From Self-Harm
This is only covering two scars from self-harm, but it means a lot to the rest of them… it represents that even when you feel deeper than rock bottom there is always the potential to start a new life once you reach out. I was going to get a full sleeve tattoo to cover everything, but I decided not to hide my story. I love the tattoo though because now when people ask what happened, whether it’s a customer, a stranger, classmate or date, I can just say “shit happened, but I grew from it” and 9 times out of 10, no further questions.
#24 Rose Tattoo Covering Scars From Self-Harm
I struggled with self harm for 6 years and got my tattoo almost two years to the day after I stopped. The tattoo reminds me that your past doesn’t define you and that beauty can come out of pain.
#25 A Sleeve Piece Done To Cover Burns
I lost a bet in high school and let someone burn me with the metal end of a Bic lighter on my arm. It left a really noticeable scar so I started a half sleeve to cover it up.
#26 A Heart And The Word Itsumo (Forever) Tattoo Covering From Self-Harm
This is just start of a sleeve, but it was the most important part. Since the age of 11 I’ve been through so much death, depression, and things an 11 year old really shouldn’t have to deal with. By the time I was 18, I turned to self harming. It’s my biggest regret in life. I decided to cover the scar this year, (I’m 27 now) because I feel like I can finally close that chapter on my life. I know it will always be there, but at least people won’t ask me about it. I choice a heart and the word Itsumo (forever) because Heart Conditions run in my family. And a strong heart and family got me through the dark days and will always get me through the dark days.
#27 Tattoo Covering A Few Self-Harm Scars
I got this to cover a few self harm scars, which are barely noticeable in the photo, but I got it to remind myself that I need t keep moving in a positive direction. It’s also a tribute to Monty Oum, who died last year, he was an amazing creator and visionary, and one I hope to live up to one day. I plan on getting several more tattoos, some to cover more scars, some just for their meaning, but this one holds a special place in my heart and always will.
#28 Tattoo With The Phrase “A Time To Mourn A Time To Dance” Covering A Scar From Self-Harm
The phrase “A time to Mourn A time to Dance” with a semicolon, on top of some of my scars on my wrist from when I used to self-harm in the midst of an eating disorder shortly after my lupus diagnosis in 2006, when I was 16 years old.
#29 An Anchor With A Red Flower Covering A Scar From An Injury
This is an anchor for my late grandfather who served in the Coast Guard, which covers a big ugly scar from an injury I got when I was 16.
#30 Something Sad Into Something Beautiful
I’ve been dealing with self harm for 5+ years now and when I saw this drawn up at the Vancouver Tattoo Convention, I knew I had to get it. My artist turned something sad into something beautiful for me.
#31 Tattoo Covering Self-Harm Scars
This tattoo stands for so much. It’s for my grandma who passed away. She was so strong and I miss her everyday. I truly hope she smiles when she looks down on me. This is also for one of my favorite bands, Of Mice & Men. They got me through a rough point in time and I’m so thankful for them. I really hope I get to show them my tattoo at warped. Lastly this tattoo stands for recovery. This tattoo is covering up old self harm scars and it’s the final step in my recovery process. I am strong. And I love my tattoo.
#32 Manipura Chakra Symbol Tattoo Covering A Scar From Self-Harm
My freshman year of college, I cheated on my boyfriend with whom I had been having arguments because he was in the navy and the distance was causing major issues. It broke his heart, and I hated myself for it so I cut myself on my left arm. Last year, I decided I was tired of looking at my scars, and since I will be graduating this year and then working in a school setting, I decided I would rather my students and their parents see a tasteful tattoo rather than three slits. The compass symbolizes having a sense of direction, the mandala represents the search for self-unity and completeness, and the Manipura Chakra symbol in the center reminds me that my self-esteem is important, that I must respect myself at all times, my confidence is key, and to be proactive rather than reactive. I got it done in brown ink to mimic a henna tattoo. I have no regrets.
#33 A Demon Cupcake Covering Cancer Treatment Scars
I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was 21 and didn’t get diagnosed until I was at stage 4 with a slew of other complications that resulted in a three-week hospital stay. Well, I beat the cancer but had lots of scars, the one on my arm being the most visible for me. I started painting again about a week after being cleared of cancer and this was the first thing I painted. About two years later I was preparing to start my full arm sleeve and covering the scars from those months of anguish with something that brought me back to myself seemed like the perfect match.