What is Self Harm?


If you have harmed your skin, you may have scars. Some people find that their scars remind them of a difficult time or give them painful memories. Accepting your scars can be an important part of recovery. This can take time, but it is important not to feel bad about yourself because of them.

How can I deal with questions?

If people see your scars they might ask what happened. They may not realise that you have self-harmed. They are likely to be genuinely concerned rather than trying to make you feel uncomfortable on purpose. You have a few options, and there is no 'right' way to respond. You might deal with things differently depending on who asks you.

Being honest

You may want to tell people that your scars were caused by self-harm. You can do this in a way that feels comfortable. Don’t reveal more than you are happy to. Don’t feel under pressure to tell anyone anything.

It might be worth deciding in advance what you want to say if someone asks you.

Avoiding the question

If you don’t want to tell someone you can say:

  • "it’s a long story",
  • "everything’s OK now", or
  • "I was in an accident".


If they press you for more details you could say "I'd rather not talk about it if that’s OK."

In the end it’s up to you what you say. You don’t have to explain or justify your scars to anyone. It isn’t anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of. It might be worth thinking about some responses you are happy with. Waiting until someone asks can put you on the spot. In those situations you may not say what you wanted to.

How can I reduce my scars?

There are ways you can treat and disguise scars if you want to. Not all of these will suit every type of scar. You can talk to your doctor about your scars and how to deal with them.

  • Clothes - Long sleeved tops and trousers can hide scars.
  • Corticosteroid injections – these are small injections into the scars to help reduce any swelling. They won’t make them disappear completely.
  • Scar Plasters – these are silicone plasters you stick directly onto your scar. A popular one is called hydrocolloid dressings. It can reduce swelling and redness which make it less noticeable but it won’t disappear completely.
  • Surgery – depending on the size of the scar and where it is surgery may help. This is usually if the scar is causing issues with your movement or health.
  • Dressings – some bandages may help to reduce the swelling of scars. This is used more when there is a large area such as a burn or skin graft. It won’t make the scars disappear but will help them become smoother and softer.
  • Make-up – You can use special makeup for scars such as Varma Cover Cream or body makeup. Scar cover cream can be a bit more expensive than normal makeup. If you want to consider this you can do some research on the internet and see what suits you. There are some online and telephone self harm services you could ask if they have any more information. Their details are in the Useful Contacts section.
  • Laser therapy – this can be useful for light scarring. If you have heavy or deep scars this might not work for you. If you want to discuss this option make sure the professional is medically trained.
  • Scar creams and oils – there isn’t a huge amount of research into how effective creams like vitamin E, Bio oil or coconut oil are for reducing scars. However, the massage effect of rubbing them in and the moisture for the skin are good at softening scars.

You should not use scar plasters, make-up, creams or oils on fresh wounds. If you have a fresh injury you should use first aid to keep it clean and infection free. If you get good first aid or care for your wound in the first place, this can reduce scarring.