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These are the beautiful ways people are showing off their scars

Scarred and stronger than ever.

01 Aug 2019

Google the word 'scar' and it will tell you that it’s a “mark left on the skin after a wound or injury has healed.” Despite the negative connotations (synonyms for scar include maim, traumatise or blemish), when you think about it, a scar is a symbol of healing – of having been through something painful and coming out the other side. Of surviving.

The wave of body positivity in recent years has sought to break apart established beauty ideals (white, skinny, blonde, unblemished) and called for a re-evaluation of what’s held up as beautiful. Flawless, no longer makes the cut, because where’s the spice in being immaculate? We’re asking to see women who look like us, who we relate to and recognise. We want to see signs of a life lived – scars and all.

But still, we live in a world where bodies that stray from those traditionally deemed desirable are being erased. Take the experience of photographer Sophie Mayanne, for example, who in April 2017 established a photography campaign, #BehindTheScars, to document and celebrate “scars of all shapes and sizes and the incredible stories behind them.” Last month, Facebook removed Behind The Scars from Facebook for ‘violating their terms and conditions’ after deciding those featured needed censoring.

She’s continued her work over on Instagram, proudly working with men women and children who have experienced cancer, car accidents, cesareans, skin conditions, burns, bombs and more – and emerged stronger than ever.

She’s not alone. Here are the beautiful ways people are showing off their scars

Hannah Witton

Last year, Hannah underwent an ileostomy after suffering from a critical case of ulcerative colitis. Part of her colon was removed and she had a stoma bag fitted. She's spoken out about how comforting it was to seek out images of other women with the same condition as her and how important it is for her, in turn, to contribute to normalising bodies with stoma bags. She notes that after everything her body has been through, "I think I look like a complete bad ass."

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Another milestone reached! Sunbathing & swimming in a bikini with my scar & stoma bag visible. To be honest, I think I look like a complete bad ass 🌴☀️

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Slyvia Mac

Sylvia created Love Disfigure, an Instagram account dedicated to those with scars out of a need to "raise awareness and support to those living with hidden and visible differences, bodily & facial." Despite being burned at the age of 3, it took her until the age of 48 to finally bare her scars for the first time. Since then she's been working tirelessly to celebrate bodies in all their beautiful shapes and sizes.

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Stretching is difficult, hence why I normally steer away from the gym however I’m pushing myself to the limits so I’m in ship shape for my Big Swim Challenge this coming July. When I stretch to full capacity I’m often left with pain in my neck and back which can last for the rest of the day. Something I’ve noticed as I was growing up (touching on #mentalhealthweek ) was that I were always quite resilient and tough when it came to ‘getting on with it’. My pain has been lifelong and I don’t expect to start complaining about it now. I’m not hiding it...I’m talking about it but this Challenge is important to me. I’m doing this for everyone who suffers with their mental health who cries every day, anxieties, depression. I want to show that we can still achieve. Our body is our shell and our inner self ‘our beautiful souls’ are what really matter. Let’s not let anyone put us down. Let’s be strong and I’m not talking about physically strong. Being mentally strong is what gives me this power. This power what you see in this picture and my posts #thisisme my mental wellbeing is what will 80% get me through this challenge. Top by @nunude_official #mentalhealthawarenessweek #ariereal #bodyequality #bodypositivity #metoo #showus

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Iesha Palmer


When Iesha was around 12, they discovered their young niece pulling a hot of pot oil off the hob. After moving her out the way, Iesha took the impact of the oil and suffered 3rd and 4th degree burns. After nine years of keeping their body covered, a holiday last year where they stepped out wearing exactly what they wanted, marked a turning point. "I decided that my scars would not define me and that uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. I am proud of who I am and of who I am yet to become," they say. "For all of my survivors of whatever it may be. Our scars are more than scars, they tell a story of strength, beauty & resilience, if there’s anything to be proud of it’s that."

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PROUD. Proud to be black , Proud to be queer and Proud of my body. This holiday was a huge turning point for me, for the first time in about 9 years I wore what I wanted with no care or insecurity. I decided that my scars would not define me and that uniqueness is what makes us beautiful. I am proud of who I am and of who I am yet to become. For all of my survivors of whatever it may be. Our scars are more than scars , they tell a story of strength, beauty & resilience, if there’s anything to be proud of it’s that. ..... A special thank you to some incredible ladies who’ve used their platform to constantly promote true body-positivity and self care. 💕💕 @alexundone @anniewadesmith @sophiemayanne #bodypositive #selflove #queer #proud #scars #scarsarebeautiful #lilsnaxx

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Juliet Fitzpatrick

Juliet was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016 at the age of 54. She battled through a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and Herceptin and in April 2017 was confirmed cancer free. A year later, to celebrate, she enlisted the help of her friend for a topless photoshoot, "to celebrate my new body shape and that I'm still here." Since then she's gone on to feature in several topless pictures as well as encouraging other cancer survivors to bare their scars in order to promote body acceptance.

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NEW BLOG POST - how the weather is in my mind and body. Link to full post in biog. Mental wellbeing status Is sunshine and showers – which is brilliant because that is what it is. I think it’s safe to say that cancer is a head fuck. Especially if, like me, depression and anxiety were companions before the arrival of cancer. And I’m lucky. ✨ My oncologist told me that he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t see me again after the five years were up. Do I believe him? Can I believe him? What’s that ache in my chest? Pain in my groin...definitely secondary bone cancer. Can I get an appointment to see him? ✨ I saw my surgeon earlier this month and reported a strange sensation where my cancerous left breast used to be. It was a feeling of fullness, and I’m aware of it as I sit here writing. Turns out that it’s phantom body part sensation. Which makes sense as I have had amputations. ✨ My anxiety must have been apparent, and I was sent for an ultrasound to check that there was nothing sinister going on. Of course there wasn’t. But it just shows that fear and worry bubble away in the back of my mind. It is getting better the further away from diagnosis I get. ✨ Anxiety is often around for me and has been for many, many years. I’ve accepted that I’m an anxious person and I’m learning to live with the emotion rather than fight it. I have weekly psychotherapy sessions and am working through a Headspace meditation programme, aimed specifically at anxiety. ✨ No holidays here The most tangible manifestation of my anxiety is my inability to go on holiday at the moment. I love planning where and when to go but I’m unable to actually make a booking. Last year’s trips amounted to two nights in Kent and one in Oxford...I had planned to visit Spain, France and South Africa. I even pulled out of a weekend away in Yorkshire on Friday. The pull of my home and its safety is very strong right now. ✨#breastcancer #mastectomy #livingflat #anxiety #exercise

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Bianca Lawrence

Bianca developed keloid scars at the age of 13 after suffering from severe acne on her face. A reaction with the medication she was prescribed transformed her acne scars into keloid scars (which spread beyond the original area of skin damage). Now she regularly shares pictures on her Instagram account. "Years ago I got told I was ugly and shouldn't exist because I have a skin condition. Now I'm trying to embrace my skin condition," she says. And while she's been open about her journey to feeling fully confident, she's not afraid to celebrate her body, even painting her scars different colours to emphasise and define them.

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I was on the phone yesterday talking about my scars & it made me think a lot. Even though I’ve come so far being confident, I still don’t hold myself confidently in person.I feel people see my scars as something different I’ve never figured out what they must see and I never will. I decided today to colour them in to represent how I feel when people stare at them as they must see something different. Mentally pushing through your comfort zone daily is so difficult. One day I will get there, and so will everyone else struggling. My mental health hasn’t been stable for the last few years, this year has taught me so much and getting myself in track is the best feeling ever! If you don’t like my posts that’s your problem , I’m doing this for me 🙌🏽 Would of coloured my face in but it’s too sore 😭 Ps ; glitter went everywhere as you can tell 💙💛🧡💜💚 . . . . #keloid#keloidscar#colourfulkeloids#colourful#outrehair#scarredprincess#keloidkingsandqueens#curlyhair#mdvmodelsearch#positivevibes#confidence#unique#selflove#bodypositive#dollbeauty#bambi

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Loving My Dots

Nathalia was born with a birth mark covering 40% of her face and scalp. The condition, congenital melanocytic nevus, only affects 1 in 500,000 babies. She was bullied in school and called named like "Freddy Kruger", "ugly face" and "monster". But "it does not define me," says Nathalia. "I can do whatever I want. When I decided to love the way I look, everything became easier. Loving my dots helped me find joy and freedom to be who I am."

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WHO LOVES LIPSTICK RAISE YOUR HAND 🙋🏽‍♀️💄 | Quem aí ama batom levanta mão! #nationallipstickday . . I grew up watching my mom do make and always putting lipstick on. Just mascara, eyeliner and RED lipstick. I always thought she looks so beautiful! 🥰 👄 . That’s probably why I LOVE a very colorful lipstick. . What’s YOUR favorite color?👇🏽 . Mine is red, pink and nude. (The one in the picture is @sephora Rouge Mat) . . #lipsticklover #batom #selfcare #selflove #beyourself #selfesteem #autoestima #amorproprio #birthmark #nevus #nevuslove #cmn #scarstory #model #inspiracao #makeup #lovetheskinyouarein #bodypositive #beautiful #mondaymotivation #followme #iamenough #iweigh #selfie #inspiration #sephora #sephorabrasil #showus #transformationtuesdays

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Sophie Mayanne

Having spearheaded #BehindTheScars and taken over 470 photos celebrating scars in all their shapes and forms, Sophie is working on an ambitious plan to push the project forward.

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I'm going to be announcing some updates for the project on the 1st August at 7.00pm! I've been thinking of lots of ideas about what's next for the project, and been super busy bringing the website all up to date. I have an ambitious idea in mind, which I will share then! I set a goal of capturing 1,000 portraits in total, and so far we are at an incredible 477! In the meantime I'd love to hear from you about what you'd love to see from the project. Are their certain stories you'd love to see? Places you'd like the project to visit? Takeover topics you'd like to see? People you'd love to see involved in the project?

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