Keloids on Tattoo: How to Prevent and Treat

According to Healthline, Keloids form when skin is injured, and scar tissue grows excessively to form hard smooth growths. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explains that when one gets a wound, skin cells and fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) multiply to repair the damage.

For a scar to be made the connective tissue, deposited by the fibroblast in the skin, holds the wound closed. For a keloid to form, the fibroblast continues to multiply even after the wound is filled in. This makes it appear above the skin surface to form large scar tissue mounds.

Keloids can affect any part of the body, are not harmful but are considered cosmetic concerns. They occur mostly after minor injuries including tattooing, piercings, pimples and insect bites. Those with dark pigment skin are more prone to them.

Can you get keloids on tattoos
Can you get keloids on tattoos


What is it?

This is when the keloid forms on the site of the tattoo as it heals. People who have previously developed them after previous injuries should avoid getting tattoos.

To get a tattoo done, a needle is used to insert ink in the skins under layers to make it permanent. It will then have to go through the process of wound healing and scar formation. Very many processes are involved in the wound healing process and a balance has to be maintained for the scar that forms to be inconspicuous. When a tattoo keloid forms, this balance is off and excess fibrous tissue disfigures the tattoo area by extending above and around the injury area.

Hypertrophic scar tattoo

There is a difference between a hypertrophic scar tattoo and a keloid. It does look like a keloid, but it doesn’t get as big. They also fade with time and occur in every race.

Can you tattoo over keloid scars?

Tattooing over scars is a common practice, where they are used to hide scars. There are health concerns over the issue since it could worsen it or cause skin conditions, but it’s a great way to conceal scar tissue. Various artistic aspects like layout and color are used to disguise it, therefore, drawing the eyes away from it.

You can tattoo over a keloid scar, but you must make sure that you are working with a professional experienced with tattooing on scars. Check out previous work they have done with people with scars before you decide to have it done. Also, make sure it’s done by a professional with sterilized equipment.

Remember too that, any injury can trigger an eruption of keloids at that same point of injury if one is prone to them. These scars also tend to get irritated after a tattoo, so the artist should take caution so as to minimize this risk. Most people have no adverse effects on the keloid scar tattoo and it will normally heal well if done with correct care.

How to prevent them?

There are precautions one can take if you are prone to keloids and want a tattoo done.

  • Any injury, even though minor, if it reaches the dermis layer of the skin results in its formation. Make sure, therefore, that the artist does not get the needle in too deep or do it roughly.
  • People prone to keloid scars have a high chance of getting a scarred tattoo. If you want to it in this area again, wait for at least six to twelve months so that it completely heals before you can touch up the tattoo or add to the design.
  • Use silicon gel pads a month after getting the tattoo to pressure dress the site. Leave it on for 24 hours a day.
  • You can also use a steroid impregnated tape on the site and leave it on for 12 hours a day.

Treatment options

Those with a family history of keloid regrowth have to take precaution and make sure that the treatment used does not trigger more growth on the injured part. Surgery, for example, is not a good option since it will cause injury to the already injured area, triggering regrowth.

One of the best options is cryosurgery or cryotherapy. In this method, liquid nitrogen is applied to the keloid using a cotton swab or spray. The liquid nitrogen breaks down the tissue fibers; it damages cell tissues leading to its flattening.

Cryotherapy can also be used in combination with steroid injections. In this case, a light application of liquid nitrogen is done to soften the keloid scar, and then it is injected with the steroid. This is a much more effective method.


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