What to Know About Keloid Scars

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on April 26, 2022
4 min read

‌It’s normal to get scars when your wounds are healing. These wounds can be caused by burns, accidents, surgical procedures, acne, piercings, or some types of medical conditions. Your body tries to repair the damaged skin by growing new tissue at the site of the wound. It also tries to close any openings caused by the wound. Many scars fade away or become less visible on their own after some time. Keloid scars may be more noticeable.

‌A keloid scar is a scar that, in appearance, looks larger than the original wound, is thick or lumpy, and rises high above the rest of the skin. This type of scar can be seen anywhere on the body. You will mostly find keloid formation on the upper chest, head (especially the earlobes after they’ve been pierced), shoulders, and neck. It’s rarely seen anywhere on the face but may appear on the jawline. They’re not normally dangerous, but some patients may have concerns about how they look.

Keloid scars are usually larger than the original wound, thick or lumpy, and rising above the rest of the skin. They can also be identified by:

  • ‌A shiny appearance
  • Lack of hair on the scar
  • A hard and rubbery feel to the scar
  • Red or purple coloring in the beginning, which then changes to brown or pale coloring
  • A dome-like or irregular shape

‌When a keloid formation is caused by a surgical cut or an injury, the keloid scar tissue may keep growing for a while after the wound has been closed. It may continue to become larger and more visible until it reaches its final size. ‌Sometimes, they do not show up right after your injury. They may appear months or years later, and the scarring can last for years.

‌Experts don’t know exactly what causes a keloid scar to form instead of a typical scar. If the wound takes longer to heal, the patient is at a greater risk of developing excess scar tissue. You have a greater risk of developing keloid scars if you:

  • Have a family history of keloids
  • ‌Have had a keloid formation before
  • ‌Have darkly pigmented skin — people of African, Asian, and Hispanic origin are 15% more likely to get keloid scars
  • Are between the ages of 10 and 30
  • ‌Have done mesh skin grafts, which is a type of surgery used to transfer a part of healthy skin from one part of the body to another
  • ‌Are going through puberty or pregnancy, because the elevated hormones during these times may affect the wound healing process

‌Treatment options for a keloid formation depend on a number of factors, including its size, location, and whether the scar is causing pain or causing difficulty with moving. The treatment may also depend on how old you are and how old the scar is. Typically, treatments may include:

  • Steroid injections
  • Surgery: A surgery is done to cut the keloid out. Sometimes, the scar can grow back. Doctors may do radiotherapy after the surgery to treat the scar.
  • Laser treatments, which help to flatten the skin and make the scars appear less red
  • Applying silicone gel or sheeting for several months
  • Applying steroid-impregnated tape for 12 hours a day
  • ‌Cryotherapy, or when the keloid scars are frozen to prevent them from growing
  • Wearing pressure earrings, which are a special type of earring that helps to reduce the keloid scars in your earlobes   
  • ‌Interferon injections: Interferon is a protein produced by the body to help fight viruses. Interferon injections have been shown to help decrease the size of keloid scars.
  • ‌Fluorouracil and bleomycin injections: Fluorouracil and bleomycin are anti-cancer agents that can be used to treat keloid scars.
  • ‌Radiation treatment

‌Keloids are generally harmless, but you should talk to your doctor if the scar feels painful or tender, or if it’s itchy or infected. Talk to a medical professional if:

  • ‌You see a mole, a freckle, or a growth near the keloid scar.
  • ‌Your keloid scar is causing a feeling of discomfort or making it difficult for you to move.

‌If you’re concerned about the way the keloid scar looks, talk to your doctor about skin treatments that can help make it less visible.

‌Smaller keloid scars are easier to treat than larger keloid scars. It’s unlikely that the scar will completely disappear after treatment, but it may become less visible over time.