How to Hide Your Self-Harm Scars – Permanent and Non-Permanent Solutions

Updated on September 12, 2017
Virginia Matteo profile image

Virginia has had a couple of self-harm incidents and has learnt to hide her scars in ingenious ways. She shares this experience with you.

As a self-harm survivor, I know how shameful self-harm scars can be. For me, the most harrowing aspect of self-harm wasn't the act itself but the months and years of finding silly excuses to skip the swimming pool, wearing ridiculously long sleeves in hot weather, and explaining to friends and family what I was struggling to understand myself.

No-one should be ashamed of their body. Unfortunately, self-harm scars are socially inappropriate. They can make your life difficult during a job interview or at social gatherings.

Coming to terms with your scars can take years. If you are not ready for disclosure or public scrutiny, covering your scars up may be necessary on your journey to self-acceptance.

Clothes

Clothes can cover most scarred areas during wintertime. During summertime, they can also work miracles.

If you have marks on your legs, opt for light, long harem pants. Women can also choose from a variety of long skirts, dresses, and dark tights. Make your camouflage into your style.

Covering arms is more complicated. ¾ sleeves may do the trick for scars in some places. But wrists are more difficult to hide in the summer. Light shirts with long sleeves are a good option for some days, but wearing them throughout the summer may raise suspicions.

Jewellery is a better choice for covering up wrist scars.

Concealing Your Wrist Scars With Jewellery

Choose one wide bracelet or a variety of smaller ones. There are chic bracelets for men, too. Both genders can benefit from a nice, wide wristwatch.

Another option is DIY. As I am into crocheting, I made my own bracelet, which covers the most scarred area. This is a budget option and reflects your interests. Plus, you get to choose an appropriately wide pattern.

Remember that jewellery doesn’t have to cover every single inch of your scars. People usually don’t notice much, anyway. You’re probably more aware of your scars than others.

That would do the job.
That would do the job.

Treating Self-Harm Marks With Oils and Creams

Oils can render scars less noticeable. I especially recommend Bio-Oil which I bought about a year ago. I have used it every day, and my scars went from flared up and red to pallid and even in a couple of months.

Bio-Oil has to be applied two times a day for a minimum of three months, but one bottle lasts for much longer. You can treat your scars until you’ve run out of it. I sometimes apply the oil more than two times a day, and it does have a therapeutic effect as well – it’s like replacing self-harm with self-care.

The company states that fresh scars respond much better to the oil. My scars were a couple of months old but still red and swollen when I started the treatment. At first, it seemed that not much was changing, and you shouldn’t expect a miracle overnight. But after a couple of weeks, the colour and swelling improved significantly. After about four months, the scars were much less conspicuous overall.

The company claims that even very old scars will benefit given enough time. However, I cannot vouch for it personally.

Please note that Bio-Oil won’t make your scars vanish completely. It can be used to increase the efficiency of non-permanent concealment methods, such as jewellery or makeup. It can also be used to reduce the swelling before having a tattoo to provide a better coverage. Give this treatment three to six months for the best results if your scars are relatively fresh. If they are very old, give it a year or more.

Hide Your Self-Harm Scars With Makeup

Concealing self-harm marks with makeup is difficult for amateurs. I tried it once, and it resulted in a mess, didn’t match my skin colour 100%, and didn’t provide full coverage.

But there is good news for people living in the UK. The British Red Cross runs a service called Changing Faces, which provides makeup services for people with disfiguring conditions, including self-harm marks.

The service is free of charge (although donations are welcome), and all you need is your doctor’s referral. In case of any problems with your GP, call the Red Cross for advice.

The people performing this service are fully trained, sensitive, and discreet. During the appointment, the volunteer will find the perfect colour match for your scars and apply the right waterproof cosmetics. Then, you’ll have a go at applying yourself.

All the products offered by the Red Cross are available on prescription. The volunteer will furnish you with a prescription request you’ll have to take to your doctor. You will also receive written instructions as to what cosmetics you should use and what is the appropriate tone for your skin.

This is a perfect solution for those who want something more durable than clothes and less permanent than a tattoo.

Changing Faces can be contacted on 0300 012 0276 and skincam@changingfaces.org.uk. To find out more information or find a clinic in your area, click here.

Getting a Tattoo

Tattoos are a permanent solution. Some people opt for covering only part of their scars, leaving a reminder of the hard times and the recovery they’ve made.

Depending on the skill of your tattoo artist, the scars can be incorporated into the design, rendering them virtually invisible. However, in some cases, the scars can be still slightly visible. You may need prior treatment to reduce bumps and swellings for better coverage.

Tattooing can have therapeutic effects. It’s a way of reclaiming your own body and putting a definite end to self-harm. People choose meaningful designs, reminding them of their strength, beauty, or a loved person. Click here to see what tattooed scars can look like.

Things to remember when choosing a tattoo artist:

  • Choose a reputable tattoo studio, which specializes in tattooing scars.
  • Read reviews of the chosen studio, especially those relating to tattooing scars.
  • Discuss in detail the design with your tattoo artist, who may advise you on how to achieve the best coverage.

Tattoo artists sometimes offer their services to people with self-harm scars for free. A famous example is Australian tattoo artist Whitney Develle who set up the Scars Projects. She doesn’t accept requests anymore, but you may be able to find a similar offer in your local area.

Fancy a tattoo?
Fancy a tattoo?

Accepting Your Scars

Self-harm scars are, first and foremost, psychological scarring. The journey to self-acceptance can be long. Here are some things that might help:

  • Opening up to the right person
  • Joining a support group
  • Getting a tattoo with a powerful, positive message
  • Starting your day by listing 10 things you like about yourself
  • Visiting a psychologist

A word of caution about advice on the Internet, though. If someone encourages you to continue self-harm, run. Join groups focused on changing this unhelpful strategy and dealing with the scars.

If you can’t stop self-harming on your own, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health practitioner.

Sources

http://www.recoveryourlife.com/plugins/p2018_news/printarticle.php?p2018_articleid=4

https://www.selfharm.co.uk/get/facts/dealing_with_scars

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/the-scars-project-whitney-develle/7304854

https://www.changingfaces.org.uk/skin-camouflage/how-it-works

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