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What Happened When I Tried to Camouflage My Self-Harm Scars

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

I was recently given the opportunity to go to a skin camouflage clinic. I had seen a lot of heavy duty foundations and creams online that promised to cover up tattoos and “any skin blemishes,” and it is something that very much intrigued me. As a performer, I am always very conscious that my skin and my scars will make me more of a spectacle than something enjoyable and very much limits my likelihood to be cast in productions. So, a “cover-up cream” was something I was willing to give a try.

In my quest for one that wouldn’t break my bank account and would be available in Scotland, I stumbled across a skin camouflage clinic operating within my city. It was NHS funded and offered the chance to not only get the creams on prescription (so they would be free) but would also give me the opportunity to meet with a specialist who would demonstrate the best way to apply them and match correct tones to my skin. I was immediately interested and referred myself straight away.

My consultation came through relatively quickly and I arrived for my appointment nervous and unsure of what to expect. The meeting was casual and judgment-free; I actually enjoyed it. Coming from somebody who never wears makeup and knows less than nothing about it, I found it all really interesting and was shown how to apply it in a very easy way. I was immediately in love and got my prescription request granted.

The creams were said to last for three days, and they did, gradually fading each day until I looked the same way as I usually do. And the joy I felt when I first looked at my arms after the creams had been applied dissipated as the creams dissipated. I had never seen my arms without cuts, scars or mark in about 10 years, and suddenly… there they were. It was incredibly bittersweet. I longed for it to be real. Nevertheless, I was immediately shamelessly taking pictures and sending them to my parents to show off my new look.

However, once I got my prescription, they sat in the bag and I didn’t feel much, if any, desire to actually use them. I am getting married in a matter of weeks and I always pictured myself with clear arms on my wedding day and this makeup seemed like my saving grace. But, as I looked at it, I didn’t want it. And this is why.

When I saw my arms clear, I actually felt a bit uneasy. It felt wonderful, it felt sad, it felt heartbreakingly right and “normal”… but it didn’t feel like me. I hate the way my scars look; I hate that I have them and I hate what I’ve done and gone through to lead to their existence, but they’re mine. They’re my journey and my story and my memories, even if those memories aren’t good. I am proud and grateful I have the option to cover up my scars for occasions like job interviews or auditions, or just if I’m feeling like I want to that day, but despite what I first thought, I have no intention of using the cream all the time.

I am not happy with my body; I don’t think I ever will be. I wish more than anything that my scars were not there, but it felt strange when they suddenly went away. Over the three days where they gradually faded back, I felt more at ease, almost like I had been looking for them. I do not like them, but I have accepted them. And, finally, that’s enough.

Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Originally published: November 23, 2018
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