Childhood scars spur tattoo artist to help others

A woman who was scarred by a childhood accident is using her skills as a tattoo artisan to help others.

Tattoo therapy

11 years ago
Duration 2:22
Scarred by a childhood accident, a Toronto tattoo artist is now helping others.
A kitchen accident left Basma Hameed badly scarred when she was two. (CBC)

After a horrific childhood accident left Basma Hameed badly scarred, the Toronto tattoo artisan took matters into her own hands. She taught herself the tattoo techniques to conceal her scar and is now offering free help to those with similar scars but no money for expensive surgeries.

Her story began when she was just two years old. While playing with her brother in the kitchen of the family's home in Iraq, a pan filled with hot oil fell from a stove top onto Hameed’s face. The accident left the left side of her face badly burned. Raw, red tissue extended from her left eyebrow to her jaw line and her eye was seared shut.

Her injury left Hameed facing multiple plastic surgeries including skin grafts, laser resurfacing, tissue expansion and a hair transplant to replace her left eyebrow.

Hameed would enter every surgery hopeful it would help her appearance, only to be disappointed when she saw the results. In total she had more than 100 painful procedures.

'I just had to make it better'

"I tried all kinds of makeup to hide it but nothing worked," the 26-year-old woman said. "I knew I had to live with this the rest of my life, but I just had to make it better."

Unhappy with the results of the hair transplant, she had a tattoo applied to replace her missing eyebrow. It then occurred to her that her entire face scar could be covered by a skin-coloured tattoo. She then devoted herself to studying how it could be done.

"This idea came to my head. I thought 'why can't we just get skin tone colours, something that will match the rest of my face, and we match it to the burn?' At the time nobody was sure about it. I did whatever I needed to do to understand it."

After going to aesthetician school and learning the trade, she began to tattoo her face herself and liked the results.

"When I saw after each session the result, I would get so excited," she said. "It would push me to do more. Ever since then the result, I've been so happy with it. Before I had done the cosmetic tattooing, there was no way I could look someone in the eye or even have a conversation with someone. I was really insecure."

Five years ago she started her own clinic. Hameed uses tattooing to help her clients clear up scars from burns, birthmarks or surgery.

She said because tattooing doesn’t require surgery, there is almost no recovery time.

Ontario’s health insurance doesn’t cover the procedure and many can’t afford it.

To give back, Hameed is offering to perform free tattooing for clients for the week of May 21.

"I've been given a second chance to live and I'm grateful for everything and I feel like this is another life for me. I think I was put here for a reason and I want to give back as much as possible."

Hameed's business is growing. She's moving to another location in the summer but says she will continue trying to help as many people as possible.

With files from CBC's Marivel Taruc