PHOTOS: Is Body Branding the New Tattoo–and Is it Legal?

Branding is a form of scarification. We know that ranchers often brand their cattle, and we know that slaves were often branded. It’s still used in certain parts of the world as torture. So, why is this type of scarring becoming so popular?

People are growing tired of tattoos now that everyone has them. Because of this fact, it seems branding is increasing in numbers.

The way a person gets branded is according to two different methods: hot and cold branding. Hot branding is just as you’d expect it to be–the burning of hot flesh to create a mark, usually using a metal instrument. Cold branding is usually done using liquid nitrogen which eats away at the skin and has a similar result as hot branding.

Which is the preferred method? You’d have to base that answer on what kind of results the person is looking to achieve. According to ranchers, most prefer freeze branding because of the lack of any keloid (raised) scars and because it’s less traumatic to the animal.

A person getting branded may actually want to have keloids for texture on their body art so they would choose the method based on their desired outcome. As for one method hurting less than the other, both methods bring on different levels of discomfort, but the pain is usually less severe than a burn accident, such as touching a hot oven, because during the branding treatment, the nerve endings are destroyed.

As for safety, this method does bring on risks of infection, nerve damage and other problems during the healing of the traumatized skin.

The legality of this type of body art is murky, too, especially for the people who offer the services. According to Mashable:

In 1997, a man was convicted of grievous bodily harm for branding the letter W on his wife’s buttock with a hot knife upon her request. When she sought medical attention a few days later, the examining doctor reported the injury to the police. The judge in the case finally let the man off the hook, but this speaks to the gray area in which body branding and scarification fall under.

The laws on scarification often differs from regular tattooing too, and they are different in each state. You can see what your state’s status is if you click here. As it stands now, however, scarification branding is illegal in New Jersey, Kansas, Oregon, and South Carolina.

Alaska, Arizona and California do not address the legality of scarification in the books. So, it’s neither legal nor illegal.