How To Get Rid Of Piercing Keloids
Scarring is a common concern for people who are thinking of getting a body piercing. Though, not every type of scarring is the same.
One type of scarring you might not know much about is known as keloid scarring. Keloids are unusually prominent and visible scars that can form when your skin is healing from a piercing or other types of wounds.
What Are Keloids?
A keloid is a raised scar, but what makes it different from other forms of scar tissue is that it doesn’t just cover a wound. Instead, it spreads beyond it, usually growing much larger than the injury itself.
In some rare cases, keloids will appear spontaneously, unrelated to any damage to the skin.
Keloid scars are also unique in how long they take to form. While a wound will scar over fairly quickly, a keloid scar might only appear months after the skin had been initially injured. Once it has appeared, it can also grow larger, sometimes spreading further across the skin surface for years.
Keloids take on bizarre shapes. Unlike more typical scars, keloids can look almost like melted plastic that has solidified.
They also vary in their coloring. Some are very light pink, while others will have a far darker pigment, often much darker than the rest of your skin.
Are Some People More Likely To Get Keloids?
While anybody is able to develop keloids, some people do appear to have a higher likelihood based on certain factors, including:
- Genetics: If somebody in your immediate family has keloids, you’ll also be more likely to get them.
- Age: People under 30 are more likely to get keloids compared to older people.
- Skin color: People are 15 to 20 times more likely to get keloids if they have darker skin.
- Location: Areas of the body under tension tend to get more keloids (jaw, chest, earlobes).
How to Get Rid of Keloid Scars
There are multiple ways to get rid of keloid piercing scars, but which one you use will depend on a few factors. You should consult with a Board Certified dermatologist. They will help you decide on the best procedure based on the keloid’s location, the size of the scarring, and how long you’ve had it.
One of the least invasive and lowest impact ways of treating keloid bumps is by regularly applying moisturizing oils to it, such as avocado oil.
These oil treatments, if effective, will soften the scar tissue and make them appear less prominent. Note, however, that they will not eliminate keloid scar tissue. The strategy is to massage the oil into the scar tissue to help break it up and soften it.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the scar tissue to lighten the scar tissue and make it less visible.
As this just makes the keloids a bit more discrete rather than getting rid of them, they’re best suited for small ones, like the ones that form as a result of acne. Cryotherapy is not the treatment of choice for anyone with skin of color as it also damages pigment cells and can cause a white scar.
Corticosteroids and Other Medical Injections
Several medications can be injected into the raised scar tissue to treat keloids, including interferon, verapamil, fluorouracil and various forms of steroid injections. Their effectiveness and use in treating keloids, however, has not been studied extensively.
Corticosteroids are the only medicines that have been subject to a lot of studies and are commonly used to treat keloid scars. These steroid injections are often used alongside another treatment, like cryotherapy.
Surgical intervention at the piercing site might be required to deal with larger keloids.
Cutting away the keloid scars, however, will leave you with a surgical incision that can itself cause a larger keloid to develop if you are prone to them. To prevent keloids from reoccurring after surgical treatment, follow the advice in the section below on ‘preventing keloid formation.’
Radiation therapy is another option for treating and eliminating keloids. This, however, is considered a bit more extreme than the alternatives. Due to the risks of cancer that come with radiation therapy, it’s usually offered only as a last resort, after all other methods have failed to significantly reduce the scar tissue.
No Sure-Fire Method
It’s important to keep your expectations in perspective before attempting to get rid of keloids.
There is no sure-fire way to get rid of these types of scars, no matter how big or small. Treatments can minimize their appearance, but even then it’s common for them to return to a piercing site after they have been treated.
Everyone’s body and every keloid scar is different. That means not every treatment will have the same results across different cases.
Can I Treat Them at Home?
While there aren’t any clinically proven home remedies that can fully remove keloid scars, there are a select few treatments you can use in order to try and reduce their appearance.
Some clinical studies show that silicone gel application can improve the texture of keloids and fade their color. One study even found that 34 percent of raised scars (hypertrophic scars, not keloids) became much flatter after silicone gel was applied daily.
Not only do silicone gels potentially improve the appearance of keloids, but studies have also shown that silicone can actually help to prevent keloid formation, too.
One study discovered that the application of an onion extract gel can reduce the height of raised scar tissue, although the overall appearance of the scar didn’t show huge improvements.
Not everyone is susceptible to developing piercing scars such as keloids, and whether you are or not largely depends on genetics.
First, your ethnicity plays a role. Keloids are a more common form of scar tissue in skin of color, so they’re more prevalent among people of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent.
If your biological parents have keloids, you are also more likely to develop them when healing from skin damage. In fact, one study found that more than half of people who develop keloids have at least one family member with a keloid scar.
Age is also a factor. You’re most susceptible to keloids between the ages of 10 and 30. Once you pass the 30-year mark, your likelihood of developing these kinds of scars drop.
Okay, so those are all the factors that are beyond your control, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. If you know you’re susceptible to keloids, fall into one of these higher-risk categories, or just want to be careful, there are some steps you can take to reduce the chances of a keloid scar developing.
When you sustain any wound, there is a three-step process you can follow to prevent keloids from forming.
Step One: Bandage the wound as soon as possible. Ideally, you should use a non-stick bandage and spread a layer of petroleum jelly on the inside of it (that is, on the side that will be placed against the wound).
Step Two: Wash the affected area on a daily basis, and replace the bandages to ensure that they stay clean.
The best aftercare product I’ve personally used is the After Inked Piercing Aftercare Spray. Not only is it vegan, but it’s also completely alcohol and additive-free. The solution works well on all skin types including sensitive skin, and it comes in a generously-sized mist-spraying bottle for easy application. When using it from the very start of the healing process, the spray helps to decrease healing times and aims to eliminate any lingering pain or soreness.
Step Three: Once your injury has healed, use a silicone gel bandage or a self-drying silicone gel. You’ll need to use this frequently. Keloids can take a few months to develop, so that means you’ll need to wear these bandages daily for at least two months (preferably three). Compression and avoidance of trauma are the most important things to prevent keloid formation.
Some people find the bandages difficult to keep on, depending on the location of the injury. If that’s the case for you, use the self-drying gel instead.
Common Keloid Scar Symptoms
Pain and Discomfort
Not everyone experiences problems with their keloid scars, but some people do claim to feel some pain, discomfort, and itchiness. The discomfort can be worse when the keloids rub against your clothes and become irritated.
The discomfort and itchiness that comes with keloids can be upsetting, but nowhere near as much as the reduced mobility that affects some.
Keloid scars can be very thick and very large. If they grow near any of your joints, like your shoulders, elbows, or wrists, you might find it harder to move those parts of your body.
While this is especially challenging for athletes (who need all the flexibility they can get) and those whose work requires a lot of dexterity (artists, for example), it’s not something anyone wants to live with.
If your keloid feels tender or painful when it’s touched, or if it’s warmer than the skin around the piercing wound, it might be due to an infection.
If the infection is discovered early enough, it can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Keloid infections that are left untreated, however, can ulcerate and may form pockets of pus or pus may ooze out of them. If the infection gets to this point, it’s too late to treat it with antibiotics and you will need to see a doctor immediately to receive appropriate treatment. Do not attempt to pop the keloid/bump under any circumstances.
Confidence and Self-Esteem
It’s important not to overlook the costs to self-esteem and self-image that come with keloids, especially if they are highly visible and in a location that isn’t easy to cover up.
Having keloids can make people self-conscious, which can in turn undermine their confidence and make them feel unattractive. While this is not strictly speaking a medical issue, it can still be detrimental to a person’s well-being, and that’s worth taking seriously.
Unless you develop an infection, especially one that goes too long without being treated, you can live with the keloid while taking steps to minimize its appearance, or eliminating it completely.
Not everyone develops keloids, and not every piercing will result in a scar. Still, it’s important to know about them so you can make an informed decision and act quickly if one begins to develop.