Most, if not all, people in the world have moles, freckles and/or birthmarks on their bodies. It’s part of what makes each and every one of us unique – an identifier, so to speak. Now, if you’re thinking of getting inked, you’re probably wondering if it’s okay to get a tattoo over moles, freckles, and birthmarks. Read on to find out if it’s fine!
What are the differences between moles, freckles and birthmarks?
Moles occur when skin cells known as melanocytes grow in a small cluster, instead of getting spread uniformly in the skin. Melanocytes produce melanin, which give skin its natural colour (the more melanin in the skin, the darker it is).
There are 3 types of moles:
- Congenital – moles that appear at birth
- Acquired – moles that appear after birth, usually up until age 40
- Atypical – irregular moles (also called dysplastic nevus)
Common moles (both congenital and acquired moles) can either be flat or raised. These usually come in a single colour (brown, black, pink, tan, even red) and are usually less than 5 millimetres in width (any more than 5mm and you may have reason to be suspicious). In terms of shape, common moles are usually round or oval, and have a distinct edge/border.
Atypical moles, on the other hand, have an odd shape and are usually larger than 5mm. These moles are often a combination of two or more colours. These are commonly mistaken as cancerous, but they’re not.
Freckles are commonly found on people with fair skin, usually appearing on parts of skin that get frequent sun exposure. These are brown, small spots that are formed from an overproduction of melanin, in reaction to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Freckles are generally harmless.
From the word itself, birthmarks are ‘marks’ that appear on skin at the time of birth – or shortly thereafter. There are two types of birthmarks: pigmented and vascular.
Pigmented birthmarks result from an overabundance of pigment cells in one area. One example would be congenital moles.
Vascular birthmarks, on the other hand, result from malformed veins or a cluster of veins in a particular area.
Is it safe to tattoo over a mole?
Alright, I’ll get straight to the point here. No, it’s not safe to tattoo over a mole. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
- You won’t know if your mole develops into melanoma
Moles – whether it be congenital, acquired, or atypical – can become cancerous, especially when exposed excessively to sunlight. Remember, moles are made up of tightly packed melanocytes.
Now, melanoma (a rare but dangerous type of skin cancer) starts in the melanocytes. Exposure to UV rays dangerously accelerate melanocyte reproduction, which causes moles to grow in size and change in shape. This is why it’s NOT advisable to tattoo over moles – it’s an important health indicator.
Sure, your mole may not be cancerous now, but if you’re not vigilant with sun protection, then chances are it can develop into melanoma. Here are the melanoma signs to watch out for:
- A – asymmetry (the sides don’t match each other)
- B – border irregularity (the mole’s border is uneven or ragged)
- C – colour variations (most moles are singular in colour)
- D – diameter (mole is larger than 6mm)
- E – evolution (over time, the mole may increase in size, change in colour, becomes itchy all of a sudden, and you may experience pain and soreness in the area)
Here’s an infographic to help you remember the ABCDE guidelines:
As you can see, covering up the mole with a tattoo may result to you not recognising any changes to its shape and form. It may have turned cancerous right before your very eyes, and you would have no clue.
- It may cause excessive bleeding
Tattooing involves blood, yes, but not excessive amounts of it. In fact, depending on the tattooist’s skills and the area being tattooed, the bleeding can be downright very minimal. But when tattooing over a mole, it’s a different story.
Even accidentally cutting a mole can result to excessive bleeding. Imagine tiny needles puncturing a mole hundreds or thousands of times. Blood may not gush out, but it won’t be the light bleeding you’d expect from a normal tattoo.
Related article: Can You Donate Blood With A Tattoo
- It’s difficult to get the colour right
Moles are said to absorb ink differently from normal skin. It can distort a tattoo’s colour and can make it look pigmented. So, it’s a bit tricky for tattooists to ensure the right colour appears on the mole.
Is it safe to tattoo over freckles?
Unlike moles, it’s perfectly fine to get inked over freckles! Technically, tattooing over freckles is the same as tattooing over clear skin. It won’t bother your tattooist and you don’t need to worry about excessive bleeding.
Is it safe to tattoo over birthmarks?
It depends on the type of birthmark. Remember, moles are a type of birthmark too (and it’s not safe to tattoo over moles). Some birthmarks disappear well before adulthood. But for those that survive until your 18th birthday (when you can be legally tattooed), it’s best to seek medical advice from your GP or a dermatologist.
Still thinking of getting a tattoo on your mole?
Now that you know getting a tattoo on a mole isn’t advisable, here’s what you can do instead:
Tattoo around the mole
This is actually an ingenious solution. You’re not harming your mole in any way, shape or form. You just need to think of a tattoo design that will put that mole to good use. Here’s an example:
As you can see, the mole is hidden well in the design. Can’t see it? It’s the dot above the letter “i”. Pretty cool, right?!
Have it removed surgically
Whether it’s benign or cancerous, mole removal is an option nowadays. If you really, really want to get a tattoo on the spot right where your mole is, then consider having the mole removed. It may end up in a bit of scarring, but fortunately, your tattoo will hide it well and no one will be the wiser!
It’s not advisable to get tattooed directly over your mole or birthmark (freckles are fine). But if push comes to shove, you can either have it removed surgically or you may ask your artist to tattoo around the mole.