There’s always a desire to enhance our beauty, but sometimes we consider extreme measures just to have a certain look, including cutting designs into the skin.

Scarification on the left arm.
Scarification on the left arm.

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with tattoos because of their high popularity around the world. But have you heard of a little thing called scarification? Okay. Let’s not call it little. The process of scarification is anything but little. But what exactly is it? Shockingly, It’s a body modification that involves cutting, burning, scratching, or branding the surface of the skin (dermis) to create images or designs that will turn into scars.

History Behind Scarification

According to Lovetoknow: “The earliest evidence of scarification is the archaeological site at Ain Ghazal, in Jordan, where two headless figurines of Paleolithic (8000 B.C.E.) fertility goddesses were found with thick scarification lines curving around the buttocks and abdomen.”

Throughout history, scarification was practiced for many reasons in different cultures. In African culture, people would implement them as a part of their identity, religion, joining adulthood, or to represent their specific tribe. It was also a representation of beauty to most and a tradition to certain African cultures.

Scarification was also adopted by primitive and punk subcultures, where people would use it as a part of their identity. It became a popular extreme alternative to the standard tattoo. The process is more painful and requires no ink.

Today, people continue to modify their bodies with scarification for most of the same reasons. Though others simply like the way it looks on their skin. Many consider it a way to express themselves and show off their artwork in an extreme way. But, because it is an extreme modification, it comes with risks.

Scarification Risks


If the procedure isn’t done properly, there is a high risk of infection. The procedure is usually done with a medical scalpel, lasers, or branding irons. However, proper measures need to be taken to assure the safety of the person receiving scarification. During the procedure, it’s important to make sure:

  • The practitioner is a licensed professional.
  • The practitioner is wearing gloves.
  • The procedural equipment is properly sterilized.
  • The person who is receiving the procedure has no underlying illnesses.

If not done properly, scarification can transmit certain infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or even HIV. Additionally, it’s possible that an inexperienced practitioner could cut too deep within the skin, which can be potentially dangerous. Unnecessary swelling can also occur, making the healing process longer. There is also the possibility of disfigurement, especially if the practitioner does not fully know what they’re doing.

Should You Really Consider It?

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Altering your body in any way is completely up to you. Though, if you’re continually debating getting the procedure done, it may not be a good idea—at least for now. Scarification is in no way like a paper cut. Depending on the size of the art, it can potentially take up to a year to heal.

You also have to keep in mind your tolerance for pain. The scarification process feels different to everyone; however, numbing cream can also be administered. When the procedure is over, you’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief as you marvel in this representation of the pain you endured. At least, that’s what it should feel like after you literally just got done getting carved up.

As for me, I’ll probably stick to getting tattoos. They definitely hurt sometimes, but most importantly, I get to keep my flesh. I’ll simply admire those who were brave enough to withstand something that seems so scary.

If you’re considering scarification or any type of extreme body modification, always make sure to put your health first. You should never do something to your body just because it looks cool. In the end, it’s your body that decides if it can withstand anything you do to it. And if you do tackle the procedure, make sure to show off that beautiful artwork.