Photo of Bright Underskin Tattoo on Burned Hand Sparks Online Controversy

A photo of a tattooed man’s hand with the top layer if skin damaged by a minor kitchen burn sparked a heated debate on social media site Reddit last week. That’s because the section where the skin was burned off revealed a tattoo so bright you could swear it was just inked.

The photo, posted by Reddit user uhmodijia, reportedly shows the hand of a “friend of a friend” who had just suffered a minor burn which only affected the top layer of his skin, exposing the dermis. The man had a blue rose tattooed on his skin a while ago, and like all tattoos do in time, it had started to fade. However, the patch of burned skin that had peeled off because of the burn revealed a much more vibrant copy of the same tattoo on his dermis. Apparently, tattoo guns reach deep into the skin, and while the tattoos on the first layer begin to fade just months after they’ve been inked due to multiple factors, they remain vibrant under this first layer of protective skin.

Photo: uhmodijia/Reddit

However, not everyone’s buying this theory. Many Reddit users have claimed that the photo is photoshopped, arguing either that the burn itself looks fake, or that the white pigments on the dermis tattoo are the first to fade and don’t go deep into the skin. To he honest, that tattoo does look suspiciously vibrant, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake. In fact, there is scientific evidence to sustain that tattooed people have permanently vibrant copies of their artworks on their dermis.

“This is actually super cool and not at all photoshopped because bodies do really weird stuff,” Reddit used cowsarehotterthanyou commented on the popular photo. “The reason this isn’t fake is because it happens to dead people all the time! Whenever there is enough decomposition in a person, something called skin slippage happens. It basically just means the top layer of skin slips off the bottom layer of skin. When you get a tattoo, the pigment is permanently embedded into the dermis which is under the first layer. If something like a burn, death and decomposition, or something similar happens, the top layer of skin slips off revealing a beautiful tattoo!”

The same Reddit user also links to an Instagram post by pathologist Nicole Angemi, who two years ago posted a photo of her husband’s tattooed arm exhibiting the same kind of bright dermis tattoo. He too had suffered a burn that revealed the bright inking on the deeper skin layer.


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A post shared by Nicole Angemi, MS, PA (ASCP) (@mrs_angemi) on

“My husband @ange_261 recently suffered a fairly large 2nd degree burn on his arm,” Angemi explained in her Instagram post. “The burn removed the top layer or epidermis layer of skin, and now you can see the true tattoo present in the dermis. This photo shows how the epidermis layer of skin holds our skin color- so you can see his olive Italian skin tone. The dermis that is exposed shows no pigmentation, so if you are black, white, or olive- the dermis is always a pale pink. Unless you are tattooed!!! Tattooed people have the brightest dermis because that is where the tattoo pigment lives! If only we could walk around with no epidermis and have such bright tattoos all day!!!!”

The guys at ScienceAlert also chimed in on the controversy surrounding the viral Reddit photo, but their explanation is well, a bit too scientific, so I’ll let you check that out for yourself. The bottom line is that we can’t rule out the possibility that the photo is genuine, in fact, there’s more than enough evidence to suggest the opposite.

One thing is for sure, though, you don’t want to be burning your top layer of skin just to touch up your fading tattoos. It actually hurts a lot and it makes you vulnerable to dangerous infections. So better call your tattoo artist for a touch-up instead.

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