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What is It

This involves, scratching, burning, etching or superficially cutting designs, pictures or even words into the skin for permanent body modification.


Scarification is not a precise practice; variables, such as skin type, cut depth, and how the wound is treated while healing, make the outcome unpredictable. A method that works on one person may not work on another. The scars tend to spread as they heal, so outcome design is usually simple, the details being lost during healing.

Why do people do this

Although there is some chance of infection, scarification is still common place. Usually, it is more visible on darker skinned people than a tattoo would be.

People will claim to feel a huge rush of Endorphins that will be released during the scarification process, these Endorphins can induce a euphoric state.

There are also aesthetic, religious, and social reasons for scarification. For example, scarification has been widely used by many West African tribes to mark milestone stages in both men and women’s lives, such as puberty and marriage. It is also used to transmit complex messages about identity; such permanent body markings may emphasize fixed social, political, and religious roles.

Scarring on the abdomen of women in many tribes is used to denote a willingness to be a mother. Her ability to tolerate the pain of scarring was an indication of her emotional maturity and readiness to bear children.

Some groups in Northern Ghana like the Dagomba use scarification to treat certain ailments such as convulsions, measles, pneumonia, stomach pains, and so on. It is believed that these sicknesses originate in the blood, so the skin is cut by a traditional healer and powder or potion is then applied to the wound so that it may travel directly to the bloodstream.

Most people in certain regions of Africa who have “markings” can be identified as belonging to a specific tribe or ethnic group. Some of the tribes in Northern Ghana who use the markings are the Gonjas, Nanumbas, Dagombas, Frafras and Mamprusis.

How's it done

Scarification is not a precise practice; variables, such as skin type, cut depth, and how the wound is treated while healing, will make the outcome unpredictable. Something that produces one result on one person may produce another on another person. The scars can also spread while they heal, so the fully healed design is better to be kept simple, especially as a lot of the detail can be lost during healing.


The most common practice for healing a scarification wound is use of irritation.

Generally speaking, the longer a wound takes to heal, the more distinctive the scar will become. Therefore, to make the scar pronounced, it can be best to keep the wound open for an extended amount of time. This is by abrading or picking at the scabs and irritating the wound with chemical or natural irritants (seek expert advice for best methods). Some scarification practitioners will suggest the use of tincture of iodine which has been proven to cause more visible scarring (this is why it's no longer used for treating minor wounds). With this method, a wound may take months to heal, others have suggested toothpaste or even citrus juice.


Keloids are raised scars. Keloiding can be a result of genetics, skin colour (darker skin types are more prone to keloiding), or irritation. Keloids are often sought for a visual, 3-Dimensional and for tactile effects. Always refer to medical advice.


If a scarification does not heal to yield a prescribed outcome, secondary scarifications may be carried out. An alternative view is described by the acronym LITHA, meaning Leave It The Heck Alone. In body modification this is often considered the best way to reduce the risk of infection and the pain of healing. Always refer to medical advice.


Scarification, obviously, causes harm and trauma to the skin; bearing this in mind, it is considered to be unsafe by many. Many are concerned by the risk of infection. Something else obvious is, it of course hurts, ALWAYS make sure the equipment used for creating the wounds/scars are 100% sanitary, the scar needs to always be kept clean and hygienic, the use of antibacterial solutions or soaps could assist the process of keeping things healthy, this is assuming they are readily available in the country you live in. Another thing that is worth considering, making sure you maintain a good level of personal hygiene. It is too easy for a local infection to develop around the area of the wound, especially if it is being irritated. Something else to check; does the scarification worker have a detailed knowledge of anatomy, the human body and of human skin. This is important to make sure the person performing the cuts doesn't cut too deep, or burn you with too much heat, or burn you for the wrong length of time. One thing worth checking, for Scarification or Branding workers; does the worker wear a medical mask, because it is possible for diseases to be passed from the skin into the air when the skin is burning, that can lead to death from the tool they use.

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