Tattoos are not the only form of skin art. Branding and scarification (when the skin is cut in ways that produce particular scar patterns) techniques have been around for a while but are now beginning to catch on in a big way.


Scarification has been around for about ten thousand years. Different tribes around the world use scars for beauty, and to signify different stages of life: In some Pacific Island tribes, scars were given to girls at puberty to show they were now able to bear the pain of childbirth.

And scarification is painful. A deep cut is made in the skin, but as skin is pretty good at healing, they have to make it worse. The bottom of the cut needs to be scratched (the word scarification comes from Latin – to scratch) and irritated so that the body produces scar tissue. Some scars also have dye rubbed into them to give permanent colour. It’s kind of like a tattoo, but turbo-charged – the scars are raised, making them the ultimate in 3D body art.

Although the process is incredibly painful, the results are often beautiful (if you like this kind of art). Traditional scars can look like everything from wings to water to scales. Not the kind of scales that weigh things, but the kind that are found on fish or reptiles. Some tribes create scars that mimic crocodile skin, and these are considered a great source of personal power.

In Western culture, scarification is relatively new as a widespread fashion trend. There have been extreme piercings for a long time, and other body modifications (like the fashion of piercing and looping ribbons through the holes to create a corset effect down the middle of the back) but scarification is only now arriving in the mainstream consciousness.

As well as art, scarification is sometimes used as a way to cover old scars. This has been shown to be a hugely positive experience for people who feel disfigured by the scars from old accidents, or, tragically, self-inflicted ones. It’s a bit like reclaiming the body, with deliberately scarred designs being used to wipe away the evidence of past pains.

Branding is a whole other form of body art. The process is done in more or less the same way we brand cattle – only without the corrals! A series of brand shapes are used to piece together a particular design (rather than creating an entirely new brand for a single design). The metal is heated with a small blowtorch and the brand is pressed into the skin for long enough to create a third-degree burn.

If the brand heals properly, the result is a silvery scar in the desired design. The downside of branding is the potential for infection (burns are notoriously difficult to heal well) and the loss of feeling in the scar – a third-degree burn kills the nerves.

Fans of branding love them though. Not only are they still unusual (and what fan of body modification wants to be just like everyone else) but they’re also relatively subtle: A silvery design is nowhere near as obvious as a colourful tattoo.

Branding, scarification, and ‘invisible tattoos’ (they can only be seen under UV light) are just another trend in the search for the coolest way to decorate your skin. Love it or hate it, body modification has been with us since the dawn of mankind, and it’s not going away in a hurry.

If the idea of permanent branding or scars is a little too much, try a Henna tattoo in Marrakech. Renting apartments in Marrakech is one way to save on accommodation, freeing up more cash for body art experimentation.