Tattoo artist offers free tattoos to cover self-harm scars

A tattoo artist in Ireland is dedicating his time to help those who’ve struggled with self-harm by covering their scars with beautiful works of art for free.

Ink Factory artist Ryan Sean Kelly founded Scars Behind Beauty earlier this year after he met a client who couldn’t find a tattoo artist who would work with her.

"A girl just randomly came in looking for a tattoo to cover up some scars and I got talking to her and she started telling me her story and at the end of that it didn’t really feel right to charge her. It kind of felt like it meant more to her than that,” Kelly told the Independent.

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Kelly said tattoo artists often refuse to work on scarred skin. His project is important because for those who’ve struggled with mental illness, their scars are often a painful reminder of a dark time.

"A lot of tattoo artists avoid doing tattooing over scars. Understandably to a certain degree because obviously if you want your best piece it’s going to be better on flat skin. It can take a little bit more time sometimes, but for me it means a lot more than that because you're helping someone move on from a difficult time," he said to the Independent.

Word spread about Scars Behind Beauty and Kelly now has a waiting list of over 300 people wanting to get inked.

One of Kelly’s clients, 19-year old Aoife Lovett told the Independent her scars brought back bad memories from a difficult period in her life, so getting them covered has helped in her recovery.

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"It’s very hard when you’re a couple of years clean from doing it and every day you’re constantly reminded of what you did. It brings back memories of how you felt then…Ryan is helping people to move on. It's putting something beautiful over something ugly. It gives you a new sense of freedom and you get your confidence back because it’s very hard to go into jobs and wear t-shirts with scars because you get looks and you get questions a lot about it,” she said.