The Art of Healing Tattoos Beyond Aesthetics in Medical Reconstruction


In a world where tattoos are often celebrated as expressions of art and individuality, there’s a lesser-known side to the inked canvas of human skin. For many individuals, tattoos go beyond aesthetics; they are transformative tools of healing, empowerment, and self-confidence. This fascinating journey into medical tattooing explores the stories of two remarkable women, Lisa Wilt and Cindy McGrady, and their encounters with Certified Permanent Cosmetic Professional Robin Hays.

Beyond Artistry: Medical Tattooing

The process begins with courage. Both Lisa Wilt and Cindy McGrady, following double mastectomies, embarked on the path of reconstruction. After mastectomies and the placement of breast implants, a pivotal choice arises—whether or not to recreate the areola, the circular pigmented area around the nipple lost during the mastectomy.

While some individuals opt for nipple reconstruction by their plastic surgeons, there is a growing trend of embracing choices. Robin Hays, a Certified Permanent Cosmetic Professional in the Chattanooga area, is no stranger to this evolution. She has witnessed women who decide not to replace the nipple with an anatomical replica but instead opt for unique, personalized artwork. Whether it’s a whimsical smiley face or ornate designs, these tattoos symbolize individuality and personal expression. When clients choose these artistic endeavors, Hays graciously refers them to traditional tattoo artists.

However, Hays’s specialization extends far beyond aesthetics. Her expertise lies in medical and cosmetic tattooing, offering a wide array of services that encompass the realms of healthcare and self-esteem. Among her services, she provides 3D areola tattooing, scar camouflage, permanent eyeliner, eyebrow restoration, and lip-blushing. With offices in Chattanooga, Dalton, and Atlanta, Hays touches the lives of many by contributing to their physical and emotional recovery.

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Different pigments sit on a shelf in Robin Hays' workspace.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Different pigments sit on a shelf in Robin Hays’ workspace.

Areola Restoration: Artistry with Heart

For Lisa Wilt and Cindy McGrady, the healing journey took them to the comforting realm of Robin Hays’s areola-tattooing services. While some individuals choose to have their plastic surgeons recreate their nipples during the reconstruction process, others prefer a different path. In cases where clients opt not to reconstruct the nipple anatomically, Hays employs her expertise in 3D tattooing techniques. Through her skilled hand, she brings to life lifelike areolas that appear to be “popping out of the skin.”

In 2021, Wilt received her areola tattoos from Hays, and the results exceeded her expectations. “Some people I’ve talked to say, ‘I wouldn’t want to fool with it,’ but I think it helps with our self-esteem,” Wilt shares. “It helps get us back to a sense of well-being if we do those things so that when we look at a mirror, we look normal.”

Crucially, Hays highlights that under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, insurance providers are mandated to cover all stages of breast reconstruction following a mastectomy, including areola tattooing. For those without insurance, unilateral areola restoration costs $400, while bilateral areola restoration costs $800. Hays has also forged partnerships with nonprofit organizations to ensure that women without insurance can access these vital services.

Scar Camouflage: A Blank Canvas for Renewal

Hays’s canvas extends beyond breast reconstruction into the realm of scar camouflage. Her clientele includes individuals seeking to conceal surgical or trauma-related scars. For some, the journey to symmetry is deeply personal, as with clients born with cleft palates. After plastic surgery to create lip symmetry, Hays aids in restoring that symmetry through the art of tattooing.

Her approach to scar camouflage depends on factors such as the age of the scar and its characteristics. For older spots that have lost pigmentation, Hays employs her skills to reintroduce pigment, ensuring the fault harmonizes with the surrounding skin. This approach also addresses hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation, where the skin’s natural tone is uneven, creating a more uniform appearance.

However, for fresher scars or fine lines from self-harm, Hays employs microneedling to encourage skin regeneration and restore color without artificial pigmentation. Scar camouflaging ranges from $250 per 30 minutes, with maintenance costs between $300 and $400.

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Medical tattoo artist Robin Hays uses a variety of different pigments to do areola reconstruction and scar coverage.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Medical tattoo artist Robin Hays uses various pigments for areola reconstruction and scar coverage.

Eyebrows: Restoring Identity

The journey through medical tattooing isn’t limited to breast reconstruction or scar camouflage; it extends to the realm of eyebrows. Eyebrow tattoos offer not only a cosmetic enhancement but also an essential aspect of identity restoration.

Lisa Wilt, having faced breast cancer, made a proactive choice to have her eyebrows tattooed during her journey. She understood the significance of this decision when her cancer recurred, and chemotherapy led to hair loss, including her eyebrows. “Boy, was I glad that I had them when chemo came around,” Wilt reflects. “It’s already bad enough, and then you look at yourself without eyebrows.”

Cindy McGrady, too, recognized the value of eyebrow tattoos. Although she did not lose her eyebrows during chemotherapy, she underwent eyebrow tattooing to maintain their appearance and cover grays, enhancing her confidence.

Unlike areola tattooing, permanent eyebrow tattoos fall into the cosmetic category and are typically not covered by insurance. However, for clients facing eyebrow loss due to chemotherapy or conditions like alopecia, several nonprofit organizations partnered with Robin Hays offer financial support. Hays also extends pro bono services to eligible clients, demonstrating her commitment to helping those in need. The cost of eyebrow tattooing is $600 in Chattanooga and $700 in Atlanta.

Robin Hays: An Artistic Journey of Healing

The reach of Robin Hays’s services extends across Chattanooga, Dalton, and Atlanta. She dedicates herself to making an arduous journey more pleasant for her clients, leaving an indelible mark of empowerment, healing, and artistic expression.

To inquire about Robin Hays’s services in Chattanooga and Dalton, contact her at 423-505-3223. For assistance in Atlanta, reach out at 404-822-3061. For more information, visit her website at

In the tapestry of tattooing, Robin Hays stitches stories of resilience, identity, and the remarkable power of artistry. Each tattoo carries not only pigment but also a piece of a profound and inspiring journey.

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