the user-led self-injury organisation.

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Telling your friends and family

Image by YourCherryBombWhether or not you cover your scars will depend upon the specific situation you are in, who you are with, and where you are.

Often people will ask quite innocently ‘what happened to your arm?‘ This may immediately make you defensive, as it is difficult to answer, and you may feel that it isn’t anyone else’s business.

We suggest you only show your cuts / scars if you feel comfortable answering questions about them. Your scars will often appear worse to yourself than they do to others.

When a query comes up, you could say a variety of things ‘It’s a long story’ or ‘I don’t want to discuss it right now‘ or simply be honest and direct before changing the subject ‘I did it‘ ‘I hurt myself‘. If they persist you can always go on to say ‘ I was going through a really hard time in my life‘, or ‘I don’t want to talk about it‘. Be polite but firm, it is a personal question, so don’t feel you have to explain yourself or be over-polite. While it sometimes seems easier to make excuses (e.g. the cat did it), lying can backfire.

Children are naturally inquisitive and freely ask questions. It can be difficult knowing how to explain scars to children, and what you say to them will depend on your relationship with them, their age, and their maturity. Remember that children can copy behaviour without understanding it; you don’t want to influence a child’s behaviours.

Sometimes showing your scars can actually make you feel stronger and freer than constantly hiding them away, especially if it has been a long-time since you self-injured. Choose your attitude – how important are scars anyway? Scars can tell a story but they do not define who you are, just a part of your life that you have dealt with or are dealing with – everyone has scars of one sort or another.

Remember that recent cuts should always be covered with the appropriate dressing to prevent infection. Injuries should be kept clean and bandaged, in accordance with First Aid procedures. Recent cuts, rather than scars, are more upsetting for other people to see. So you might want to cover up when you have cuts but choose to have your scars visible when they have scarred over.

As your skin tans, white scars become increasingly visible. So if you have to wear short sleeved as a uniform, or prefer to hide your scars as far as possible, it’s best to stay out of the sun even within the privacy of your own garden.

Cover-up ideas

Scars on wrists can often be covered by bracelets or watches. For scars on arms long-sleeves are the obvious option, but there are other choices.. In the summer when it is hot you might prefer a vest top with an open shirt so that your arms are still covered.

Another option is to wear the sort of elasticated bandage that people use for sprains, or tubi-grip bandages. This means you can still wear short sleeves and cover your scars in a way that other people won’t be too curious about.

For scars on legs jeans, trousers, long skirts and tights can be worn. Some people might suggest that you’d be cooler in the summer wearing less, so be prepared for such queries.

Covering up in general, ensures that you’re in control of who knows, and who talks to you about SI, but if you do show your scars, you will find that attention is given to them, so consider how you feel about that.


  • Bri

    I hid my arms in sweatshirts until someone raised my sleeves without me knowing…

  • Emma

    Lucy , I also dance and to avoid questions about scars I found that long sleeve cropped tops over a leotard if you’re allowed , wrap round or ballet Cardi arm warmers or make up .
    I also have a few long sleeve leotards which are a great option too .If you can’t do any of these maybe just have the conversation with your teacher and see if they would let you . Hope that helps :)

  • Lucy

    I do a lot of dance, so I am forced into wearing my leotard which is spaghetti strapped but I have a lot of scars and sometimes wounds on my arms, is there a way I can hide them? :)

    • Addi

      You can try makeup, but personally I like showing my scars. That’s only if you’re comfortable with being asked questions tho

  • Ivy

    I personally can’t handle wearing long sleeves constantly, so what I do instead is wear a T-shirt and fingerless gloves. Whenever somebody asks about the gloves and I’m not comfortable with telling them, I say that I like to wear them and at this point, if I’m not wearing them I feel exposed. That is technically true, just the reason I feel exposed is because my scars might be seen.

  • Ard

    I’ve been clean for 3 weeks and I’ve just recently become comfortable with my most recent scars. I’ve been struggling with self injury this past week and seeing this website and all the amazing people that really care and want to help in a healthy way (which I’m not used to at all) is amazing. It’s really encouraged me to be strong and keep going!

  • Joseph

    Start by wearing a shirt that shows your arms around at home, when you are by yourself. you will need to learn to come to grips with what you have done personally before you can start being comfortable around others.

  • morgan

    i have a lot of scars on my arm and i don’t want to just were a short sleve shirt right away how should i start with getting comfortable with myself and my scars

  • Babette

    When children are involved and they start asking questions I try to be honest whit them. But I am not sharing every detail of course. I am the babysitter in my community, so enough children who could start asking questions. I found out that only the kids older than 4 asked these questions, younger kids will see it but they think it just something that belongs to you. They don’t know that you had a smooth skin before the self-injury, mostly because they didn’t remember you before that time. Mostly I start asking questions to them.

    Have you ever been really angry or in a fight whit your sibling(s), parents or friends? Mostly they say yes. And when you where that angry, did you feel like you would like to hurt them, by hitting or kicking them? Some kids might answer whit yes, others don’t but most children can relay to this. If they say yes, I ask if they regret what they did and if they were proud that they hit or kicked someone? Almost every kid answers whit yes to the regretting and that they weren’t proud of doing it. After there answer I start explaining that was really angry whit myself, or in a fight whit myself. And that I did hurt myself, only not by hitting or kicking myself but that I gave myself other wounds. And that I regretted that I did it, just like they regretted hitting or kicking the other person. And that I aren’t proud of myself that I wound myself, lust like they weren’t proud of hitting or kicking someone.

    I learned that kids can understand this way of sharing. I prefer having this conversation whit children when the parents are around, if they are not I explain the story I tolled their kids because they asked about my scars. Cause I believe the parents should be prepared if their kids start questioning them.


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