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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, November 30 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.

Sophie
November, 8 2022 at 11:13 pm

Hi, I have been struggling with mental health and self harm for a while now. And just earlier I saw your website and I was like "oh my god, a website that doesn't paint self harmers as attention seeking or sick or whatever" So thanks for that:)
As we are going into summer where I live and I graduate next week, I am freaking out about how I am gonna be able to hide my sh. Especially on my arms, it looks so obvious bc I have been harming in the same sort of spots for months, and it is not just my wrists so I can't really just cover it up with jewelry.
I am really stressed about it, because it looks so sus to wear sleeves in warm weather. I know literally nothing about make-up, so if I was to try to use it, what should I sort of get?
I am so worried lol, I can hide the scars on my torso and hips and upper legs alright, but the ones up and down and across my arms?... ahjhhhjff
Also, does self harm have to be particularly deep to leave lasting scars? Like, I can't tell if mine are healing bc I keep going over the top of them again, but... will they go away? I hate the disgusted looks I get from people if my sleeves ever fall down a bit.
Thank so much in advance:)

November, 9 2022 at 11:30 am

Hi Sophie,
I'm so glad you found the website a helpful resource! I'm by no means in charge here, but I am grateful to contribute what I do to the self-harm blog—and I'm happy you found value in what I've shared here.
As for your cover-up options... For makeup, you'll want a foundation and/or concealer that matches the skin tone where your scars are. If you're planning on swimming or doing anything that will make you sweat, look for waterproof options or sporty brands if you can. Depending on how much you can spend on this option, you might even want to look at theatrical makeup that's made specifically to resist being sweated off or rubbed off, if that's a very big concern for you.
Also, be sure to patch test any makeup you buy—this means putting a very little on, usually on the inside of your wrist, and leaving it for a few hours to make sure your skin doesn't have a bad reaction to it.
Regarding depth—no, they don't have to be deep to last. Whether scars fade or not depends on a lot of things, but I'll use myself as an example here. My wounds were relatively small and shallow on my arms—but at the time, I thought I *wanted* scars, so I did certain things to try and make them last. I'm not sure if those actions had any effect or if my scars were going to last no matter what—but ten years later, they are quite faded but still visible if you know where to look.
I will say that if you keep tracing over the same spot, they are much more likely to become permanent. The obvious answer is that if you can stop self-harming and let your skin heal, you're more likely to get them to go away—but I know that isn't an easy decision to make, or to stick to. Still, I hope you are able to stop someday. It's worth it just to not stress over whether every new scar will fade or not—not to mention all the other good reasons to get clean, of course.
I hope that helps. I'm here if you have any more questions or concerns you'd like to share. Take care!
Sincerely,
Kim

ezra
October, 19 2022 at 8:05 pm

hello, i have freshly scabbed scars near my inner elbow and im not sure how to hide them from my parents. i would come out to them about it but im scared about how they'll take it, is there any way i could hide them??

October, 26 2022 at 3:18 pm

Hi Ezra,
Thanks for reaching out. In general, I think it's best to come out to your parents if you feel you are safely able to do—but I understand that this is not always possible. So, that being said, yes, you do have some options for hiding them. I've listed many of the ones I've tried in this blog post; I've written a few others on the topic as well, which I'll link down below:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/3/hiding-self-harm-sca…
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/9/self-harm-scars-in-t…
The good thing about your scars being fresh is that they might only be a temporary problem; depending on a few factors, you may be able to get them to fade entirely in the near future. I've written a bit about this in another post:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2020/3/do-self-harm-scars-e…
Beyond the options I've listed in my blog posts about hiding scars, I'm afraid I don't know of any other options. In your case, it sounds like makeup MAY be a good bet, if you're able to apply it without tearing up the scabs and interfering with the healing process. (The fact that they have scabbed is a good sign; it means they're healing.) Depending on where you live, the weather may be getting cooler soon—maybe you can get away with long sleeves until they finish healing? Or if you can think of some excuse that would be plausible and match the appearance of your scars (nothing too elaborate, something like falling off your bike or a friend's pet accidentally scratching you), that can sometimes be a short-term solution, though one I'd use only as a last resort.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions or concerns, feel free to reply again here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be reading.
Sincerely,
Kim

Anna
October, 18 2022 at 12:52 pm

I have a big problem in family im the mom and my mom and my siblings are my kinds. To feel better I cut myself, my friends tell me to don't. They understand my situation but they don't know how I fell. I Wana talk to my teacher but I know she will tell my mom...

October, 26 2022 at 3:11 pm

Hi Anna,
I'm sorry to hear you're struggling. It's not easy when you feel like you have no one to talk to who fully understands what you're going through, especially when it sounds like you have so much responsibility weighing on your shoulders.
Is there anyone else you might possibly reach out to besides your teacher who might be able to support you without talking to your mom about it? You might try calling a hotline or exploring one of the resources on this page, if you're not sure where to start:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
You might also want to look and see if there are any local support groups you can attend, or even perhaps an online one (I've never participated in one, myself). Online therapy might also be an option, depending on what your financial situation is like—some platforms offer financial aid options for patients who don't have a lot of disposable income, when insurance isn't an option.
I'll also be here, if you'd like to continue this discussion here or elsewhere on the blog. Just know that you are not alone, and that there are people (including your friends, and myself) who hope you will eventually be able to find other ways besides self-harm to cope with everything you're dealing with—and some of us do, at least to some extent, understand what it's like to feel like self-harm is your only option. But please, believe me when I say it's not.
Sincerely,
Kim

Alannah
October, 14 2022 at 3:49 am

Hello, the most noticeable scars i have are on the TOP of my hand and i dont know how to cover them up without ANYONE knowing. i have work, so i can use fake tattoos and stuff because its not professional, and its too far up from my wrists to be able to use bracelets. im really freaking out because ive already used the bandaid trick and told everyone its a scab but that can only last a few days and ppl will notice its not a scab and scars. but i really dont want people from work noticing. hiding it at home is quite easier than in public, but im really struggling to find something to cover up for them. i used the bandaid trick on them a week ago so i cant use it again. please help me :(

October, 17 2022 at 12:59 pm

Hi Alannah,
Thanks for reaching out. I can definitely understand your worries and your frustration, and it makes sense that you wouldn't want to use fake tattoos in this case. But would you perhaps be able to use makeup instead? Assuming your scars aren't too puffy (and are fully healed), covering them up might be as simple as finding a decent-quality foundation and/or concealer that matches the skin tone where your scars are.
Another option, depending on your work and dress code, might be to wear gloves (regular or fingerless). If you work in a cooler setting (maybe an office where they blast the A/C so it's a bit chilly?), you might get away with simply telling people you have poor circulation in your hands and they get cold easily. (I actually do have this problem, so it's definitely a believable excuse!)
You might also just want to keep yourself armed with some decent excuses in case someone does see them (or in case these options don't work for you and you can't cover them up all the time).
I hope that helps. If you want to talk through this more or have other comments/questions/etc., please feel free to reply here or comment elsewhere on the blog. Take care!
Sincerely,
Kim

Anna medley
August, 28 2022 at 9:58 pm

I have fresh scars on my upper arms (scars on lower arms are old) and upper thighs, I have a sort practice for the next 2-3 months how am I supposed to keep them hidden
, From cowches players and watchers, I'm really scared someone could find out and tell my parents

September, 12 2022 at 3:48 pm

Hi Anna,
I'm sorry to hear about your new scars, and that you're in such a stressful position. I hope it's not too late for my reply to be helpful. While I don't believe anyone should feel like they HAVE to cover their scars, I know it's not always a safe option to open up about your self-harm to everyone involved, either. So here are a couple of ideas.
I'm afraid I'm not much of an athlete, so take what I say here with a grain of salt—but perhaps there's a makeup option that would work for you? Most cheap options won't stand up to the heat/sweat/etc., but if you can afford to, some professional makeup (especially high-quality theatrical makeup) might be able to stand up to the wear and tear of sports. Some might even work in the water, but you'd have to do your research to find options made specifically for that. (This will work best if your scars are relatively flat/thin... thicker, puffier scars or more extensive scarring might be too much to hide, even with good makeup.)
I can't tell from your comment what sport you're practicing, so I'm not sure if this is an option or not, but is it possible to wear slightly longer sleeves/shorts that might cover your scars without being too obvious (or making you too hot to practice safely)? Or maybe you could wear sweatbands, at least to cover the ones on your upper arms?
Depending on how your scars look, you might also be able to come up with some excuses just in case someone does notice your scars. (I imagine the arm ones would be easier to write off as being the fault of a pet or some sort of an accident—upper thigh ones are a little harder to explain away.)
I'd also urge you to reach out for some extra support, not just for coping with the self-harm itself but also for more extensive guidance for situations like this—because this may not be the first or last time you face something like this. Here's our resources page, which includes some websites and hotlines you might want to check out:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
I hope that helps, and I hope things go well with your practice sessions and that you're able to maintain your privacy as well as your safety. If you have more questions/concerns, reply here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be around.
Sincerely,
Kim

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?

June, 6 2022 at 10:47 am

Hi Ray,
I shared most of my good ideas already in this post, but I will add: if the wounds are fresh, the best thing you can do is take really good care of them and the skin around them to promote healing and minimize the chance of long-term, noticeable scarring. Every body is different, so I can't tell you how fast your skin will heal or whether you can 100% prevent scars or not, but if you haven't already, please check out this post for more info:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2020/3/do-self-harm-scars-e…
You can also check these posts and see if you can find any more inspiration there:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2022/3/hiding-self-harm-sca…
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/9/self-harm-scars-in-t…
I suppose it goes without saying (but it bears saying anyway) that the best way to avoid this situation is to avoid hurting yourself in the first place. I know it isn't easy, and I don't know where you're at in your personal journey (if you've already begun trying to heal, or are thinking about it, or not feeling ready yet) but I do hope that eventually you are able to find other, healthier coping mechanisms. If you haven't yet, please consider reaching out to a mental health professional for support—or even just someone you know and trust whom you can talk to about this—and take that first step towards healing. I'm sure it will be a huge relief to you, not to have to worry about hiding your wounds anymore.
I hope this helps! Feel free to reply here or comment elsewhere on the blog if you have any further questions, comments, concerns, etc., and I'll reply as soon as I can.
Take care,
Kim

Kir laybourn
June, 15 2022 at 5:57 pm

Hi I have fresh cuts in my arms and hands and I am scary just in case my mum see it

June, 27 2022 at 3:43 pm

Hi,
I hope things turned out all right; I'm sorry I wasn't able to reply sooner. Please take good care of your wounds; keep them clean and avoid disturbing them more than necessary to keep them from getting infected and minimize the chances of scarring. Would it be possible to talk to your mom about what you're going through? If not, I hope there is someone else you can reach out to, whether a friend or family member and/or (ideally) a medical professional, to help you through this.
Here's a list of resources, including some hotlines you can call, in case it helps:
https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…
If you have any further questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to share them here or elsewhere on the blog. I hope this helps, even a little.
Sincerely,
Kim

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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