Medical tattooist who helps cancer survivors, torture victims and trans people is 'banned' from social media

By Ella Doyle & Victoria Jones

A medical tattooist who works with breast cancer survivors, victims of torture, and people undergoing gender reassignment has urged social media platforms to stop censoring her work.

Kelly Forshaw Smith wants Facebook and Instagram to stop its algorithms censoring her pictures after she was banned for three months for sharing photos of her tattoos.

She uses the sites to promote the life altering work she can perform for people.

“Our slogan is that we are putting colour back into people’s lives where colour is missing,” Kelly told MyLondon.

She adds that "it's the best job in the whole wide world".

Kelly performs incredibly realistic nipple tattoos on women that have had a mastectomy, which is where the breast has to be removed.

This can be life altering for women.

Kelly says: “Some people have said that [the mastectomy] makes them feel like less of a woman or that they don’t want to look at themselves in the mirror, or that they’re worried about going swimming with their children and in the changing rooms.

“These are all things that are making them self conscious. And so by providing the areola tattooing, you’re bringing that back and you’re making someone feel better.”

But it’s not just breast cancer survivors that Kelly works with. She says: “There’s also reductions, uplifts, male breasts, gender reassignment, everything you can think of.

“Some people simply want to make their areolas darker, more pale, or they’ve been stretched, or they’ve breastfed and afterwards lost the colour in there.”

Medical tattooing is different to cosmetic tattooing as it uses pigment rather than ink, and doesn’t go as deep into someone’s skin.

Post-masectomy, a new breast is designed by surgeons and then patients can choose to have a nipple graft. “Sometimes, people have had enough surgery in their life. Which is where we come into play.”

She explains: “Using highlight and shade basically gives a three dimensional effect to what you see.

“So it looks like it’s actually protruding out with the nipple.”

Kelly has worked as a medical tattooist for 17 years, working to help those with burns, scars, cleft lip, vitiligo and skin grafts.

“Originally I started off doing the eyebrows and eyeliner for the eyelashes when an alopecia or chemotherapy patient had lost their eyelashes and their hair.

“That was obviously fantastic, that’s a game changer all by itself. And then it led on to obviously the breast cancer patients and also scarring.”

“The problem is," Kelly explains, “no one knows we’re out there.”

When Kelly shares her work on Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn, the content can be classed as sexual and pornographic.

“It’s quite an insult obviously to the mastectomy patients who this is being designed for,” she says.

Kelly says posting her work can lead to photos being taken down, or even her account being removed.

She notes Facebook have been cooperating with the World Medical Artists on this issue, and hopes to get verified to help stop it happening in the future.

A Facebook company spokesperson agreed that the photos should not be censored. They said: “Images showing post-mastectomy scarring and areola tattoos are absolutely allowed on Facebook and Instagram.

“We applaud the incredible work medical tattooists do for breast cancer survivors, and know our apps play an important role in helping these communities connect.

“By design, these tattoos often look extremely realistic, which means our technology – and even our content reviewers – don’t always spot the difference, so we do encourage people to make it clear when they’re posting an image that’s a tattoo.

“We understand how frustrating this can be. We’ve been working closely with World Medical Artists and are grateful for their input as we continue to explore new ways to avoid this content being mistakenly removed.”

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