AskDefine | Define scarification

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. the act of scarifying - of raking the ground harshly to remove weeds etc
  2. a medieval form of penance in which the skin was damaged with a knife or hot iron

Extensive Definition

Scarifying involves scratching, etching, or some sort of superficial cutting or incision. Scarification can be applied to horticulture, which involves cutting the seed coat using acid, sand paper, or a knife to encourage germination, the cutting of concrete using hydrodemolition, or as a permanent body modification, etching designs, pictures, or words into the skin.

Scarification in construction

Scarification of concrete can be done using hydrodemolition, aka hydro scarification, and high speed scarification. The depth of removal depends on the application, but usually does not exceed 1/4" to 3/4". The use of scarification on concrete is used to provide a better bond profile with an overlay of the same material. Scarification sometimes follows an initial milling of a surface using a large mechanical grinder. The hydro scarification following this process can have the effect of eliminating microfractures produced by the impact of the milling machine. The absence of micofractures and the creation of a better bond profile, both help to create a better bond strength with the concrete overlay.

Scarification as a body modification

seealso Body modification
In the process of body scarification, scars are formed by cutting or branding the skin. Scarification is sometimes called cicatrization (from the French equivalent).


Scarification has been used for many reasons in many different cultures:
  • Scarification has been used as a rite of passage in adolescence, or to denote the emotional state of the wearer of the scars, such as times of sorrow or well-being. This is common among Australian Aboriginal and Sepik River tribes in New Guinea, amongst others.
  • Scarification, by deliberately burning skin, is called branding and has historically been used to mark slaves and criminals, usually with the brand being visible and often letter-coded to reflect the crime.
  • The Māori of New Zealand used a form of ink rubbing scarification to produce facial tattoos known as "moko." Moko were considered to make the body complete as Māori bodies were considered to be naked without these marks. Moko were unique to each person and served as a sort of signature. Some Māori chiefs even used the pattern of their moko as their signatures on land treaties with Europeans.
  • In some cultures, the willingness of a woman to receive scarification shows her maturity and willingness to bear children.
  • Scarification is fairly common in West Africa and New Guinea.
  • Facial scarring was a popular practice among the Huns.
  • Facial scarring resulting from academic fencing is regarded as a badge of honour among the European dueling fraternities, this tradition originating in the 19th century.
  • Scarification is also associated with the body modification movement.


There are many reasons why people may turn to scarification. Aesthetically, scarifications are usually more visible on darker skinned people than tattoos. Also, unlike tattoos, scarifications are a product of one's own body. Endorphins are released in the process of obtaining the scars that can put a person into a high or euphoria.
There are also religious and social reasons for scarification. According to some tribal belief in Africa, producing scars on newborn children helps preventing vision related illness. There may also be religious expressions used in the scarification process.


Scarification is not a precise art; there are many variables, such as skin type, depth of the cut, and how the wound is treated while healing, that make the outcome somewhat unpredictable.
The body creates the scar, not the artist; it is important to keep in mind that a method that works well on one person may not work so well on another. Also, the scars tend to spread a bit as they heal, so scarifications are usually relatively simple designs -- small details can easily get swallowed up in the healing process.


Human branding is one type of scarification. It is similar in nature to livestock branding. ;Cautery branding: This is a less common form of branding that uses a tool similar to a cautery-iron to cause the burns.;Cold branding: This rare method of branding is the same thing as strike branding, except that the metal branding tool is subjected to extreme cold (such as liquid nitrogen) rather than extreme heat. This method will cause the hair on the brand to grow back white and will not cause any keloiding.


Cutting of the skin for cosmetic purposes is not to be confused with self-injury, which is also referred to by the euphemism "cutting." However, there may be borderline cases of artistic self-injury and self-scarification for internal, non-cosmetic reasons.
Lines are cut with surgical blades. Extended cutting techniques include:;Skin removal/skinning: Cutting in single lines produces relatively thin scars, and skin removal is a way to get a larger area of scar tissue. The outlines of the area of skin to be removed will be cut, and then the skin to be removed will be peeled away. Scars from this method often have an inconsistent texture.


Scars can be formed by removing layers of skin through abrasion. This can be achieved using a tattooing device (with no ink), or any object that can remove skin through friction (such as sandpaper). It is somewhat common for people who wish to experiment with performing their own scarifications to scrape away skin into a desired pattern with a needle or pin. This method of self-scarification is not recommended as it is unsafe.
Chemical scarification uses corrosive chemicals to remove skin and induce scarring. The effects of this method are typically very similar to other, simpler forms of scarification; as a result there has been little research undertaken on this method.


The common opinion on healing a scarification wound is that it should be treated with irritation.;Keloids: Keloids are raised scars. Keloiding can be a result of genetics, skin color (darker skin types are more prone to keloiding), or irritation. Keloids are often desired for the visual, 3-D effect they provide and for the way they feel to the touch.
  • If an enclosed space --such as a circle -- is cut or branded, it is possible that the skin inside of the closed space will die off and scar due to a lack of blood flow to the area.
An alternative view is described by the acronym LITHA, meaning Leave It The Hell Alone. In body modification this is often considered the best way to reduce the risk of infection and the pain of healing.


Scarification is intentionally causing harm or trauma to the skin; thus it is not safe.
  • Infection is a concern. Not only do the materials for inducing the wounds need to be sanitary, but the wound needs to be kept clean, using anti-bacterial solutions or soaps often, and having good hygiene in general. It is not uncommon, especially if the wound is being irritated, for a local infection to develop around the wound.
  • The scarification artist needs to have a working knowledge of the anatomy of human skin, in order to prevent tools cutting too deep, burning too hot (or cold), or burning for too long.
  • Scarification isn't nearly as popular as tattooing, so it is harder to find artists experienced in scarification.
  • Precautions are made for brandings, such as wearing masks, because it is possible for diseases to be passed from the skin into the fumes produced when the skin is burning.

External links

scarification in Czech: Skarifikace
scarification in German: Skarifizierung
scarification in Spanish: Escarificación
scarification in French: Scarification
scarification in Italian: Scarificazione
scarification in Japanese: スカリフィケーション
scarification in Norwegian: Scarification
scarification in Polish: Skaryfikacja (modyfikacja ciała)
scarification in Russian: Шрамирование
scarification in Swedish: Scarification
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