Self-Harm Scars: The 5 Things You Need to Know

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Self-Harm Scars, what we will cover in this blog

Self-harm scars are about more than just the visual element of scarring. So, in this blog I’ll be sensitively talking about other elements of self-harm scars, for a more supported approach. I have treated many clients with self-harm scars, as a Scar Specialist, and of the many things I’ve learnt from these incredible women, the biggest take away has been the importance of feeling safe and secure throughout their scar transformation programs. 

Of ALL of the scar clients I’ve treated over the years (and there’s been hundreds, if not into the thousands now), my self-harm scar clients are the bravest. Not only are we dealing with the physical element of treating their scars, but I am acutely aware that treatment can be triggering and traumatic, in and of itself.   I won’t be sharing client photos in the blog, but if you are considering treatment, I have some amazing clients that have give permission to privately share their photos to others considering treatment. 

5 Things we'll focus on

Here are the 5 things we’re going to cover in this blog about self-harm scars. 

  1. What are self-harm scars.
  2. Can they be removed or improved?
  3. WHY is having treatment important to you. 
  4. Things to consider before treatment. 
  5. Beyond treating the scars.

Treating self-harm scars goes far beyond the physical act of treatment, as far as I’m concerned. It’s often an emotional journey for my clients, and one that ultimately leads them to living a much happier and more fulfilling life, but it’s not an easy time for everyone. 

Self-Harm Scars, what are they?

Self-harm scars are scars that form as a result of wounds that have been self inflicted. They are often cuts or burns on the skin, but I have also treated other forms of self-harm scaring, such as acid burns. After the wound has healed, a scar is left behind, that tends to be lighter than the surrounding skin, and often raised/sunken. 

As with most wounds, the healing process takes around 6-12 months, but can take up to 2 years.

In some cases, the scars may be red/purple and raised beyond 12 months. If this is the case, then they may be hypertrophic scars or keloid. A quick scar assessment will help me to determine which type of self-harm scars a person has, but the majority are NOT hypertrophic or keloid. 

As self-harm scars are typically more superficial than surgery, full thickness burns and accident scars, they do tend to respond very well to non-surgical treatments. 

Can they be removed or improved?

The answer is yes, MOST self harm scars can be treated. If your scars are hypertrophic or keloid then they may need specialist treatment from a  Dermatologist. You can click HERE  for information on specific treatments for scarring. 

Whilst it’s not possible to completely remove all scars, self-harm scars tend to respond very well to treatment, as they are typically more superficial than surgery scars, for example. 

It is a long process though, as most clients need between 5-8 treatments (occasionally more). Treatments are spaced around 6 weeks apart, to give the skin a chance to heal and work it’s magic between treatments. The results are permanent, so once a course of treatment is completed, that’s it – no need to return. 

I know a lot of people consider medical tattooing – skin camouflage, for scars.  As a Medical Tattooist, it’s not something I’d personally recommend, as the results can be unpredictable and you’ll require treatments around every 12 months for maintenance. Happy to have a chat with anyone considering this as an option. 

What's your WHY?

I’m ALWAYS going to ask you WHY you’d like your self-harm scars treated (and what’s your expectation from treatment).  The reason I ask you WHY you’ve reached out to me, is so we can have an open conversation about whether it’s the right time to start treatment, and whether I’m the right person to help you. 

This might sounds like a silly question, but it’s really important.  Going through treatment can be triggering and traumatic, as the scars will look like wounds after treatment,  during the first few days. This can be really distressing, and something we need to manage carefully together. 

If you can focus on WHY you reached out in the first place, then that can become your positive focus to help you cope with those post treatment moments. It’s also really important that it’s YOUR decision. I’ll never forget a young woman I treated that burst into tears in the middle of her first treatment – it turned out that she didn’t want treatment at all, and her grandmother had really pushed her to do it and was paying. That said – she as an absolute superhero, and she completed her course of treatment and her confidence went through the roof, as she embarked on life at uni! It could have gone a very different way though. 

Things to consider before treatment

There are a few things that it’s important to consider, before starting a self-harm scar treatment program. These are all things we cover on the initial Zoom consultation, but worth giving some thought before that. 

  1. Are you in good health? It’s important you’re healthy when you have treatment, so your skin can recover and heal from treatment. 
  2. Are you sleeping 7-9 hours a night? Your skin repairs at night time, so if you’re not sleeping well, it will affect your healing.
  3. Are your stress levels above a 5/10? Stress negatively affects the bodies ability to heal. 
  4. Do you feel emotionally and mentally able to cope with treating your scars? If you feel you may be triggered, working with a talking Therapist can help.
  5. Are you able to commit to a course of treatment, which typically lasts 9-12 months?

I have supported so many clients through their scar transformation programs. Seeing my clients scars improve, their confidence grow, and their lives flourish is SO rewarding. But, it’s essential that the time feels right for you.

Beyond having treatment for self-harm scars.

The actual treatment for self-harm scars is just the beginning, and only one small part of a much bigger picture (in my opinion, and experience!). 

Always have your WHY to mind is more powerful than you might think. Most of us have scars that we try and cover up or hide (me, included, in the past). Without knowing it, we make decisions about the clothes we wear, the hairstyles we have and the social situations we’re comfortable being in. 

The greatest joy from treating self-harm scars is seeing how much lives change. I had an amazing client that desperately wanted to be a teacher, but felt she couldn’t apply because her scars might be seen. After her treatment, she applied to do her teacher training and hasn’t looked back!  

Another client walked through my clinic door shy, quiet and withdrawn. The summer after her treatments had finished, she emailed me to say she’d been on a girls weekend away AND had worn a short sleeved top.  These things matter, they are SO powerful. 

Is there something you’re stopping yourself doing, because you’re worried your scars might be seen? Make that your goal, and let that be your focus.

Self-harm scars & Autism / ADHD

This is another topic in itself. But I feel it’s relevant to mention here. There is a strong link between autism & ADHD (neurodivergent – ND) and self-harm. Many of the clients I’ve treated have been neurodivergent, turning to self-harm to cope with a world that they were struggling to feel a part of. 

I’m an autistic ADHD’er myself, so I can understand and support anyone that is ND and would like to reach out for treatment. 

My ND traits are super helpful in my work, as it means I’m really geeky and knowledgeable about my treatments and programs, but I also have an immense amount of empathy for anyone needing support. 

My clinic is always a safe, confidential, and friendly space, so you can feel confident that not only are you receiving the best treatments, you have my full support and understanding. 

Would you like to improve your self-harm scars?

Nikki Butler Skin Clinic

I hope you’ve found my blog on self-harm scars helpful. 

You might also find my blog on scar revision treatments helpful too. I’ll pop a link below, so just click on the button to read it. If you’d love to improve your scars, once and for all, then please get in touch. 

My aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I am on the Hampshire/Surrey border, 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham. I’m also at the end of a direct line from London Waterloo, and a 5 minute walk from the station. 

If you have any questions at all, then click on the ‘get in touch’ button. If your scar is over one year old, you can also book a consultation with me HERE. 

I  look forward to hearing from you. Best, Nikki 

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