How to Cover Your Tattoo: Cheap and Easy Alternatives

Covering up your tattoos every day for school or work can be a time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating process. The bad news is that there are still many workplaces that do not allow or encourage visible tattoos. The good news is that, if you're a newbie and having a mild panic attack over what to do, your options are more varied and less expensive than it might first appear.

These are the tattoos (and the legs) we will be working with for demonstration purposes.

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The main reason for this is that a quick Google search or a visit to a tattoo shop will encourage you to buy expensive brand name, made-for-tattoos products.  You really, really don't need them if you're just going for a quick and easy fix.

  • The first piece of advice you usually get when searching for a way to cover a tattoo - after of course wearing an article of clothing that will hide it - is to cover it with makeup. If this works for you, that's awesome, and here are a few tutorials on how to do that if you would like to try. There is a wide range of products sold, including those by Kat Von D, Dermablend, Tattoo Secret, and Tattoo Camo.

This is a tube of Kat Von D's makeup. It is very small, and not overwhelmingly cheap - ie not recommended for use on a shoestring budget.

There are also a good number of reasons why some people don't go for that method, though - not being skilled with makeup is one (just the words 'sealer' and 'setting powder' are enough to send some people running), with others being time constraints, lack of money, or worry of sweat and friction rubbing the concealer off. (For these reasons, something as usually conspicuous as a face tattoo may be easier to conceal with makeup than something out of the way but susceptible to wear and tear, like a foot tattoo.) Moreover, no matter how good the makeup job, tattoos tend to be slightly raised - meaning that close inspection could still show the telltale pattern on the skin.

There are also temporary tattoo covers like Eclipse Tattoo Covers by Tatjacket, available for abour $10, but they have varying results and often work best on small, lighter-colored tatoos.

A fast and fairly hidge-podge makeup job, but enough to see the effect. From afar, near perfect, despite the color mismatch due to hasty shopping. From up close, makeup applied quickly and without sealant starts to crack, rubs off somewhat even after dry, and shows the bump of the tattoo underneath.

  • So what's left as an alternative? There are a number of places that sell professional-grade tattoo tape, including Tat Skin by Tat2X for $12/roll plus shipping. (Beware of putting this on body hair. Think of a bandaid, and you'll get the idea.)

The leftovers of a roll of Tat Skin. Each cut piece was good for a few re-uses.

The Tat Skin works on bare flesh or under flesh-colored tights.

This is without a layer of foundation over the cloth, hence the extreme skin mismatch. A year old at this point, the Tat Skin had started to curl somewhat.

The other option is to pick up a roll of light-flesh-colored sports tape at almost any convenience store for less that $5, available in a number of sizes, and cut it to your preferred length and shape. If it's not the right color for your skin, buy a cheap (it can be the crappy dollar kind, as it's not going on your skin) foundation and paint on a thin layer of it to match.

Most sports bandage is often wider and lighter than products like Tat Skin, not as stretchy but good for cutting to size. On the left, is is shown pasted on without any foundation to match skin tone.  On the right, it has been cut from a long roll into multiple tattoo-size pieces, ready to be used.

  • For those who either have larger tats or are going to be engaging in some type of exercize that might dislodge or jostle sticky tape, there are also 'sleeves' that will cover a larger area of skin. These do well in the full-coverage, no-slip department, but often come bulkier and less skin-matching than advertised. Some of the most popular brands are Ink Armor by Tat2X for around $15, and Tatjacket for $15 to $20.

This is a calf sleeve from Ink Armor. As you can see, the top no-slip edge is somewhat thick.

Ink Armor would be useful for exercise but is somewhat bulky on the seams and not very inconspicuous. It would be somewhat awkward to wear under clothing.

The sleeve is large and the color stands out fairly strongly, and would take a skin-colored dye to match exactly, rather than just a smear of foundation.

If you're not the type to buy some flesh-colored fabric and sew one for yourself, stretch self-adhesive bandages for $5 at the drug store could suit you fine. Don't wrap it too tightly - be careful of cutting off circulation - and for short athletic excursions, it should be no issue. They can also be used multiple times, and are fairly durable.

This is the remains of a roll of self-adhering bandage from the drug store.

This is some local drug store self-stick bandage. Warning: Don't use these on any part of your body that might rub against another (ie if you have a thigh tattoo, for example). The rough surface will scratch your skin and could leave you with something similar to a rug burn, or even bleeding scratches.

The double weap makes the bandage somewhat bulky, but it can be fitted to the exact size and shape of tattoo and limb.

Happy tattoo covering! :)