From the simple to the elaborate, tattoos are as unique as those who proudly wear them.
But some are getting tattoos they hope no one can see: medical tattoos that are used to hide scars from surgery.
Suzanne Herzner is hoping to mask a scar with skin-toned ink.
"I'm not comfortable wearing v-neck shirts, it's hard during the summer wearing a bathing suit because it's a topic of conversation at the pool club, people always ask me, oh what's that, how did you get that? I always try to cover it up as much as I could, and it just doesn't work," she said.
Artist Melany Whitney describes what is involved with the invisible ink.
"It's basically tattooing, but I'm using permanent cosmetic pigment and not tattoo ink. I mix and blend camouflaged colors to match the skin around the area that is not hypopigmented, under pigmented or lost its color," she says.
There are many uses for medical tattoos: covering scars from surgery, blend areas discolored by vitiligo, and nd replace brows and lashes lost to alopecia. They also restore parts of the body taken by cancer.
Frank Harmon had breast cancer and needed life-saving surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. All of it left its mark.
"I have a scar across my chest, armpit to armpit, and resigned myself that I'm going to look pretty weird for the rest of my life," he said.
That changed when Frank got a medical tattoo.
"I never had a tattoo, I had no desire to get a tattoo, so I don't want to show it off," he says.
With specialized pigments and in less than an hour Tammy Wedel created a more natural look for Frank's chest.
"It's different from regular tattooing," he said.
In both men and women, Tammy recreates the nipple region called areolas. This kind of medical tattoo often follows reconstructive surgery.
"Some have implants above the muscle, so I have to use a lighter machine. The color depends on where their skin graph comes from. Depends if they had a skin graph. If they don't have a nipple, I put in a 3-d so it looks like they have one," she says.
Frank says he is happy with his results.
"As far as what Tammy had done, I see it as kind of putting back what's been taken away. I'm glad to have it done," he said.
Patients must return for follow up treatments -- treatments which boost the spirit and give hope.
"When you are working on someone, usually when you are working on someone, it's because something bad has happened. You have to have some compassion. It's not putting in a little bit of color or putting in some hair strokes. It's going to complete what they think was a long journey," Tammy says.
A journey marked with ink helping make the body whole.
For more information:
Affinity Wellness and Aesthetic Center
6822 West Waters Avenue
Tampa, FL 33634
Breast Cancer Survivor / Author
"Real Men Get Breast Cancer"
Komen Rally - Denver, Colorado
South Florida • (561) 417-6400