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Self-Harm Scar Cover-Up Options that Work

July 8, 2021 Kim Berkley

Your self-harm scars belong to you; it is your choice when, if ever, to show them or hide them from the world. For those days when you would rather keep things under wraps, it's helpful to know what sort of self-harm scar cover-up options are at your disposal.

Self-Harm Scar Cover-Ups I've Used in the Past

Which options will work best for you will depend a lot on where your scars are and how visible they are to the naked eye. I consider myself lucky in that, while the majority of my scars are in a visible place (my arms), they are extremely difficult to see unless you're looking for them. The magical healing properties of time have rendered them small, pale, and almost invisible against my equally pale skin.

But of course, they weren't always that way. Back when I was still healing relatively fresh wounds, I used many of the typical (almost stereotypical) self-harm scar cover-ups.

I wore long sleeves, which is generally pretty effective but not ideal during summer in a tropical city like the one I grew up in. I wore bracelets and wrist bands, which can be effective. However, the bracelets should match your style (otherwise, you're drawing attention rather than deflecting it) and shouldn't get in the way of your usual activities. I wound up sticking mostly with cotton wrist bands because big, heavy bangles and charm bracelets made writing difficult.

I also used band-aids and excuses. I want to be clear here—I'm not condoning hiding your scars from everyone like this. Someone, hopefully a mental health professional (or at least someone who can help you), should know the truth. But it would be naive to ignore the fact that sometimes, you can't physically cover your scars but can't explain them honestly, either. Maybe you're speaking to a boss who could use the information against you, or you're speaking to a classmate who can't keep a secret.

If you need to explain your scars to someone you simply can't be honest with, I've found it's easiest just to make something up. It's awful, but it's true. 

Other Self-Harm Scar Cover-Ups to Try

Another favorite tactic for covering up self-harm scars—one I never quite got up the courage to try—is tattoos. Ink is a commitment, and it can get expensive. Some people, like me, also have health-related reasons why they cannot, or should not, get a tattoo. But if you're open to it and you're well-informed about the potential consequences (it's silly, but some employers are still very closed-minded about piercings and tattoos), cover-up tattoos make for an artful alternative to long sleeves and bracelets.

If you like the idea of a tattoo but not the permanence of it, you might want to consider temporary tattoos, henna, or even—if you're artistically inclined—simply drawing or painting over your scars with non-toxic art supplies. (Just be sure, if you plan to show off your body art at work or school, that you won't be violating any dress codes.)

Similarly, you could use makeup to cover your scars as you would any blemish. Don't assume that you need an expensive, high-end brand—depending on the size and severity of your scars, a simple grocery store concealer might be all you need. However, if you have raised or prominent scars, a specially-designed scar concealer may be necessary to achieve the desired effect.

Laser scar removal and other medical procedures are also gaining traction as more people open up about their self-harm and recovery, and depending on your situation, these may be viable options. However, they are likely the most expensive option and are even more permanent than regular tattoos. Be sure you are confident in your choice before you commit to any such procedure. It might surprise you to know that some people actually grow to like their scars over time.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments if you've tried other self-harm scar cover-ups besides these and, if so, how well they worked for you. You never know who you might be helping simply by speaking up.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2021, July 8). Self-Harm Scar Cover-Up Options that Work, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, May 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/7/self-harm-scar-cover-up-options-that-work



Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

Ray
May, 19 2022 at 3:31 pm

I have fresh cuts on my legs a little higher than my knee and 2 on y calf but my mom makes me wear shorts cause it gets so hot so I have to pull my shorts down low to cover the knee ones but can’t cover the calf ones I’m not good at make up and it would be obvious (I’m scared she will get disappointed) any ideas?

Lexie
May, 18 2022 at 11:15 am

My friends got self harm scars on her upper arm and wants to hide them from her family she can't wear sleeves or use any makeup any recommendations would really help

May, 19 2022 at 11:06 am

Hi Lexie,
Thanks for your comment. First, I would urge your friend to consider coming out to her parents about her self-harm if that's at all possible—I know for many people, this can help alleviate an otherwise pretty heavy secret to bear. However, I do understand that in some cases, this may do more harm than good—I will have to leave that up to your friend's judgment.
If disclosure is not an option, could your friend perhaps try arm bands? I've seen some quite pretty ones made to be worn on your upper arm—looking for adjustable ones might help to ensure they fit well and don't slide down during the day. Many of the ones I've seen are plastic or metal, but elastic armbands are also possibly an option. Temporary tattoos or body art to cover the area might also work, depending on whether she can wear anything like that at all on her skin.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to leave a comment here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be reading.
Sincerely,
Kim

Amara
May, 16 2022 at 11:40 am

I have fresh wounds on my wrist.
I'm seeing a psychiatrist for my mental health.
But I don't want my parents to find out, because I feel like I've let them down.
I'm already wearing self made bracelets, but sometimes they fall down. And when they do, I'm scared someone will see.
I'm terrible at makeup, and I can't wear long sleeves (I literally always roll them up, even in winter).
Is there anything else I can try?

May, 18 2022 at 1:24 pm

Hi Amara,
Thank you for your comment. I'm glad to hear you're getting professional support to help you through this, although I'm sorry you're still hurting. I understand about not wanting to disclose the truth about your scars, to your parents or to anyone else—although I do hope you and your doctor have discussed, and keep discussing, the topic of talking with your parents, because if you are ever able to, it might be more helpful (for you AND for them) than you think. That depends, of course, on your unique family situation, which I obviously don't know much about.
In the meantime, I'm not sure I can think of many options I haven't outlined in this post. I think makeup is still your best bet—it might take some practice, but there are lots of tutorials on YouTube and the internet that can help you get better at using it. Or temporary tattoos—I know it might sound random, but it could be a beautiful way to cover up if you think it would work in your situation. If your bracelets keep falling, maybe try arm cuffs or elastic armbands, for me those always stayed put better than regular bracelets.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions/concerns, I'm here.
Sincerely,
Kim

Maria clare
April, 23 2022 at 2:46 am

I've got fresh self harm scars on my neck, how can I cover them up

April, 26 2022 at 12:50 pm

Hi Maria,
Thanks for your question. Scars on your neck can definitely be tricky. You mentioned these were fresh though; please note that if you mean you have fresh wounds, that's a different thing that having freshly healed over scars. Just in case, I want to touch on both instances.
If you have fresh wounds, please clean them ASAP and check on them daily. Apply an antibacterial ointment to prevent infection, and if you can, keep the wounds moisturized and bandaged until they heal. (You might be able to hide the bandages under a pretty scarf, a high-necked top, layered jewelry, etc.)
If you have freshly healed scars, you still want to make sure the area stays clean and apply aloe vera gel or a moisturizing cream to help them heal. As for covering them, again, scarves, jewelry, or even a turtleneck if it's cold where you are might work. Or, you could use body paint or temporary tattoos—if this is acceptable to wear to your school or work. If you have long hair, maybe you can wear it down to hide them, depending on where they are?
I also want you to consider why you're covering them up—and whether it might be better not to hide them. (Every situation is different, and I know nothing about yours, so you'll have to use your own judgment here. Just know that your scars are nothing to be ashamed of.) And, because you mentioned them being fresh, I would also strongly suggest you find someone to talk to if you can—a therapist or other medical professional, ideally, but a support group or even a trusted friend or family member would do. Just knowing someone is on your side through this can help you build up a resistance to self-harm urges and find motivation to get better, and to keep getting better. Plus, they might have more ideas for how you can hide your scars if and when you need to. :)
And of course, if you have more questions or concerns, feel free to comment here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be reading.
Sincerely,
Kim

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