Self Harm Scars - More Information

Dr Helena Torpinski|General dermatology
21 February 2023


Those scars don’t need to stay with you

Not everyone feels their scars spell “survivor”.

For some, the scars of self harm are a constant reminder of a time of turmoil or trauma. They feel that the scars are holding them back; that they are the reason their life is not yet on track; that future employers or future partners will see and recoil; that they will lose opportunities; that they will miss out on accolades so valiantly fought for; that they will be judged and found lacking.

We are here to help

The team at Neutral Bay Laser & Dermatology Clinic can help with the physical side of things. Our clinic is experienced at treating self harm scars. The staff are empathetic, discreet and supportive. You will not feel judged or uncomfortable.

We have an extensive stable of lasers which can manage the different types of scars that skin can produce.

Vascular lasers can be used to reduce the redness in scars. Pigment lasers can blend the colouring of your scars. Whilst fractionated lasers can even out the texture of your skin.

Treatments usually take less than half an hour and are quite bearable because they are done with numbing to minimise the discomfort.

Most scars require several treatments and the results keep getting better for up to 12 months due to collagen stimulation.

Dr Terence Poon at Neutral Bay Laser & Dermatology Clinic has wide ranging experience in treating self harm scars.  He also has a compassionate and empathetic team who will treat you with dignity and put you at ease. We have a range of lasers at our disposal including vascular, pigment, ablative and fractionated lasers, which can be used to address issues of colour and texture, to blend the scar into the surrounding skin and reduce its visible appearance.

If you have discovered your child is self harming

  • Calmly provide first aid to any injuries – no fussing.
  • Get medical attention for anything that looks serious.
  • If it looks urgent, ring 000.
  • Seek support from a professional, such as your GP, a school counsellor or a psychologist.
  • Google Beyond Blue or Black Dog websites.
  • Seek help for yourself.

You may be distressed or want to discuss the effects of your child’s behaviour on you.  Looking after yourself can make it easier to support your child.  It also gives your child an example of appropriate behaviour, i.e. seeking help when you’re distressed or when things aren’t going well.

Long term complications of self harm

A blogger, who previously self harmed, states: “You either spend the rest of your life trying to hide the remnants of your past, or you stop caring. In the second case, you may have to face some indiscreet questions and stares from people who don’t know.”

Scars from self harm most often take the form of cuts to the arms and thighs. They can, however, also be burns, penetrating wounds, disrupted tattoos and areas of self-inoculated pigment. They may also be superimposed areas of grafting with mismatched skin.

The scars can be red and raised or pale and flat, pigmented, keloid, hypertrophic or dented. There may also have been attempts at concealment with artistic tattooing or medical tattooing.

Consider this before tattooing over self harm scars

  • Cover up your scars if YOU need to hide them. DON’T do it for the sake of others.
  • Be realistic: the tattoo will mask your scars, it will not make them go away. With time, the tattoos covering the scars will degrade at a quicker rate than unscarred skin. The ink will blur and bleed more easily so the tattoos will need frequent refreshing to look OK.
  • Wait until the scars have matured – they are easier to work with. It also gives you a chance to be in the right frame of mind to make lifelong decisions about your ink.
  • Pain thresholds are personal and fluctuant. Scarred skin is more sensitive to have tattooed because it is less elastic. There is also the associated emotional pain, which may be just below the surface or already well managed with time, support and therapy.

Other options for the treatment of self harm scars can be specific lasers (some of which are also used for tattoo removal!).

At Neutral Bay Laser & Dermatology Clinic we specialise in the treatment of self harm scars (and laser tattoo removal!), so if you need more information, you can make an appointment.

You can read more about what’s involved in a scar treatment appointment on our self harm scar treatment webpage.

For more information

As mentioned above, we recommend seeking professional help for self harming cases. Your GP can be a great first step and will have all the necessary information.

If you’d like to book a consultation with our dermatologist to talk about treating self harm scars, please call our receptionists on (02) 9953 9522. A GP referral will mean you can receive the Medicare rebate, which covers a portion of the cost of your consultation. Our receptionists will have more details.