Hiding Self-Harm Scars in Swimsuit Season

March 3, 2022 Kim Berkley

Whether you're dreading a spring break beach trip or a long, hot summer full of pool party potential, swimsuit season can be daunting for anyone with scars, but especially those of us whose scars were self-inflicted. Let's talk about how to hide self-harm scars in swimsuit season—and whether you really need to.

How to Hide Self-harm Scars in a Swimsuit

Hiding self-harm scars in a swimsuit can seem like an impossible task, but don't worry, you don't have to swear off swimming forever if you don't want to. Depending on where your scars are and how visible they are, you may have several options for covering up.

If your scars are subtle or in a place where they're not immediately noticeable, you may be able to simply wear a cover-up outfit over your swimsuit—when you're ready to hit the waves, rip it off like a bandage and run for the water. Everyone will be too busy diving in with you to notice. When you're ready to dry off, make a beeline for your towel and put your cover-up back on immediately after. (This method works best if the company you're in is aware of your scars, and it's just that you don't want to draw attention to them.)

Similarly, you can choose more modest clothes to wear in the water, such as a rash guard shirt, a onesie-style swimsuit, longer swim trunks, or even a dress-style suit. If anyone asks, you can always (honestly) say that the style you've chosen will help you protect your skin from sun damage.

Waterproof jewelry or other accessories can also help. For example, bracelets, armbands, or a few scrunchies can help hide scars on your arms without typically raising too many eyebrows.

Waterproof makeup is an option, too, although how effective this will be, depends on a few things. First, if your scars are raised or puffy, makeup won't hide that—it will only blend the color in with the surrounding skin. Second, if you're planning to be athletic—lots of swimming, volleyball, or even just rough-housing—friction can wear even the best makeup off if you're not careful. Third, not all waterproof makeup is actually all that waterproof. Take it from someone who's gotten raccoon eyes from cheap waterproof mascara more than once—if you want waterproof makeup you can count on, make sure to do your research by reading reviews and trying it out on your own before wearing it to an event.

One more thing to keep in mind is sunscreen. While most sunscreen won't be very effective at hiding your self-harm scars, it is a vital tool for helping your scars heal, which will make them less and less noticeable as time goes by.

Do You Need to Hide Your Self-Harm Scars in Swimsuit Season?

Before you go out and buy a new suit or a fresh makeup palette, I want you to take a moment to ask yourself: do you really need to hide your self-harm scars this swimsuit season?

In some cases, the answer will be yes. You might be around people who don't know and may not understand your history of self-harm. Maybe you're hoping to go swimming during a fancy company retreat, or you'll draw unwanted attention if you don't get in the pool at the next family reunion. It's okay if you need to cover up; there's nothing wrong with protecting your privacy.

However, if you're going to be around people you love and trust—and especially if those people know about your scars already and are accepting of them—it's worth considering whether you need to hide after all. If you don't want to talk about your scars, it's perfectly acceptable to tell someone, so if they bring it up—and keep in mind that they might not bring it up at all.

If the reason you're hiding your scars is that you're ashamed of them or because they make you feel ugly, this might be the perfect opportunity to push back against those feelings by wearing and doing what you want to despite them. You can always bring a backup swimsuit or makeup with you in case the situation becomes too overwhelming; you don't have to put your scars on display the whole time if that's too much for you.

And of course, it's also important to consider whether this event is worth attending. If it's an important personal or professional event, or if it's a gathering you'd be looking forward to if it weren't for your scars, you should make the effort to go. But if it's not an event you have any interest in, if the people aren't people you want to spend time with, or if you're physically or emotionally not up to attending at this time, know that it is okay to decline the invitation. Setting healthy boundaries is a vital element of self-care and recovery.

Do you have any suggestions for covering self-harm scars while wearing a swimsuit that I didn't cover here? Feel free to share your tips, tricks, or other thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, March 3). Hiding Self-Harm Scars in Swimsuit Season, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

June, 20 2024 at 3:39 pm

Mine are on my upper/inner thighs, nobody knows or has seen except my boyfriend but I’m not sure how I can keep it hidden from my friends or family without having to try too hard

March, 10 2024 at 1:59 pm

I have my scars on my lower leg so it's very hard to cover them up. The best way for me is to take knee socks (with a neutral colour), cut off the foot-part so you just have a long "tube" and wear that on my lower leg (I can have it on all the time regardless what I'm doing). Off course this only works if the people around you is aware of your self harm, but the most people think about it as a bandage and don't pay any attention to it

March, 5 2024 at 11:21 pm

I’ve got my spring break coming up, any ideas of what I should do? My parents don’t allow me to have any makeup, and since we’re going somewhere like 60 degrees warmer it’ll be expected that I wear short clothing, and like it’s on my thighs and idk at all

June, 3 2024 at 10:22 pm

You can get longer shorts, like basketball shorts, or caprees (these wont draw attention in hot weather). Or you could just wear jeans with a short-sleeved shirt, tell your parents you want to look stylish, lots of people wear jeans even when it's hot, I do.

November, 26 2023 at 6:36 pm

it's currently summer and my family always goes swimming and it would be weird if I suddenly didn't as only my parents know about my self harm. my scars go all the way down my thighs and shorts don't cover them however they are purple red scars and I don't really know what to do.

June, 22 2024 at 9:09 pm

I have the same problem myself personally what I do when going to the beach or just swimming in general I do I under layer of verry protective sunscreen to prevent the scars from getting darker and then put concealer on top of that. (The concealer most likely won't stay the whole time but it helps make it less noticeable in the beginning). Besides that when just standing or sitting I try to keep my hands or a towel over my legs where the worst scars are.
Hope this helps❤️

November, 21 2023 at 5:30 pm

I need help right away I have them just above my ankles and I have swimming at 10 on a Wednesday aka tmro

September, 14 2023 at 3:25 pm

Mine are in my lower forearms! I’m going kayaking this weekend, and I usually wear tank tops! Won’t it seem suspicpus if I’m suddenly obsessed with wearing long sleeves?

September, 27 2023 at 11:25 am

Hi Alyssa! I hope I'm not too late. With the weather, it might not be. Just say it's a bit chilly, and that the water is cold. Hope this help.

August, 24 2023 at 6:55 pm

I have many (newer) scars on the tops of my thighs, and i swim competitively, so i was a bit worried starting this season. I found some swim shorts that were tight that looked like they were part of my one-piece swimsuits from Lands' End, and those work really well for me. I just wore them over my normal swimsuits. Hope this helps!

July, 18 2023 at 3:06 am

Wearing shorts under your swimsuit or having a dress type swimsuit that has shorts attached too! And a lot of people nowadays realise that covering up in the pool is better protection from the sun so wearing a baggy top over or shorts/leggings you can say it’s sun protection! Also the tunics and loose material that people wear over their suits so having one by the pool as you get out can help make you feel more comfortable.
My more concern used to be people staring but now I cover for my kids , I don’t yet want to have that conversation with them, I have used many scar creams over the years which has helped reduce the redness but I still feel everyone will notice! Plus I think when you love yourself and accept yourself you don’t feel the need to cover them up as much.. I’m still learning to love myself so maybe one day in the future I won’t feel the need to cover up so much!

May, 24 2023 at 6:08 pm

Thank you. This was really helpful.

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