The ancient beauty ritual of Scarification

Scarification is the practice of creating elaborately patterned skin through scarring. It is another ancient custom dating back several thousands of years. It was practiced as an aesthetic way of communicating ones' identity and social standing in the tribe. 

It combined artistic talent with the wisdom of the healer. It was performed using a sharp instrument (a stone, twig, crystal or knife) by plucking the skin in intricate patterns and then sprinkling the open wound with ash.

The result is a three dimensional artwork of raised or indented dots or ridges , highlighted with subtle changes in skin tone. These designs traditionally held great sensual appeal for the Karo men of the Omo valley and the simple touch of a woman's textured skin was considered greatly arousing.

Centuries before vaccines were developed in Europe, scarification and its stimulation of the skin produced protective antibodies vital for the societies trading along riverbanks infested with waterborne diseases.

For a number of generations, sacrification served to prove the female's resilience and devotion during the right of passage. Around the age of 10, Karo girls in Africa had their bellies scarred to reinforce their ability to later tolerate the physical and emotional demands of childbirth. 

It was used to enhance one’s best features. It indicated the identity and also was used to ward off the evil eye.

It is a precursor to the current tattoos that are so popular.  There is so much to be learned from the ancient rituals. We'll explore other ones in BOA's journey of exploration of ancient rituals future blogs.


Source: Peter Schoenborn- Beholding Beauty series

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The BOA Skin Academy Blog hopes to bring you educational, insightful and interesting reading material on the topics of skincare, beauty, rituals, self-care and wellness. All topics are chosen and written by the BOA team, with credits where credit is due. If you have a suggestion for a topic or a question about what we have written, we would love for you to get in touch. Please email us at and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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