Self-harm Scars

Self-harm is used by some as a physical way of trying to cope with emotional distress and I know that many people then want to try to hide those scars in order to avoid any comment from those around them.

Of course, it is vital that anyone considering or practicing self-harming is offered the right psychological help, but here, I will focus on what we can do to manage the physical scars that result.

The most common sites for self-harm scars are on the non-dominant arm, the thighs and the abdomen and we have a number of potential treatment options.


There are some medical grade camouflage makeups that can be colour matched to your skin and prescribed by your GP. They are water resistant so will not disappear if you go swimming and can be used by men and women.

The drawback to this treatment, is that of course the makeup needs to be reapplied each day. You can get more information on services local to you at www.skin-camouflage.net or www.changingfaces.org.uk


This process involves creating tiny holes in the skin which alters the collagen and helps to blend scar tissue into the surrounding skin


There are a number of different types of laser that we use to reduce the appearance of scars. They are most effective when the scar is still pigmented as the laser is absorbed by the pigment.


Sometimes we can excise a scar and the surgical scar that is then formed is less obvious. We can also use artificial skin products to cover the original scar making it less prominent. We can also use your own skin from another part of your body to perform a skin graft. Sometimes we use a technique called tissue expansion, where we place a small balloon under the skin, under anaesthetic, and then the balloon can be gradually inflated at subsequent outpatient visits. Once the skin has been stretched sufficiently, the scar can be removed and the stretched skin used to cover the area.

Curated by

Dr Dawn Harper
Dr Dawn Harper is a practising NHS GP and has worked in the NHS for over 30 years. A member of the Royal College of Physicians she is also a TV presenter and member of the Hidden Strength Advisory Board: Dr Dawn says “Working as an NHS GP, I have seen a worrying increase in the number of young people suffering with mental health issues in recent years. The effect of the pandemic has sadly exacerbated the problem, so I was delighted to join the team at Hidden Strength to help combat the issue with such an innovative solution.”