When tattoo artist Ryan Ashley was approached by a 19-year-old woman requesting a cover-up tattoo for her self-harm scars, he agreed to the work free of charge.
Ashley launched a project called Scars Behind Beauty and has been helping people cover their self-harm scars free of charge since February when the project launched. The young woman who approached him, Aoife Lovett, had a large rose and a dagger tattooed over her scars and spoke with Independent to talk about her experiences with him.
“I think what Ryan is doing is brilliant because it’s very hard to get someone to tattoo over it and it’s so meaningful to me to get them covered and get them covered well. It’s very hard to find an artist who will do that and is passionate about it,” Lovett said. “A lot of artists just won’t cover them because it’s a lot of work and they’d just not rather take the risk of it looking bad.”
She added that when it comes to self-harm scars, there is a lot of shame surrounding the issue, especially when it comes to family members. “Ryan is helping people move on. It’s putting something beautiful over something ugly,” Lovett said. “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 questioned a lot about it.”
Ashley said the project stemmed from a customer who came to his shop asking for their scars to be covered. “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,” he told Independent. “It kind of felt like it meant more to her than that.”
He added that he started the project partly due to the fact that he had lost a friend of his to suicide.
From there he transitioned into doing similar work once a week. However, he said that once he posted his work on social media, the project really took off and now he has close to 300 people on the waiting list.
“A lot of tattoo artists avoid doing tattooing over scars. Understandable to a certain degree because obviously if you want your best piece it’s going to be better on flat skin,” he said. “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.”
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