Keloid scars

What are keloid scars?

When a wound heals, it leaves a scar. A keloid scar is one that becomes thick, lumpy, raised and larger than the original wound.

A keloid scar is an enlarged, raised scar that can be pink, red, skin-coloured or darker than the surrounding skin.

They can develop after very minor skin damage, such as an acne spot or a piercing, and spread beyond the original area of skin damage.

What do keloid scars look like?

Keloid scar in the beard hair of a man with dark skin
Anyone can get a keloid scar, but they're more common in people with dark skin, such as people from Africa and African-Caribbean and south Indian communities.
A large keloid scar on a the shoulder of a woman with light skin
Keloid scars are more common on the upper chest, shoulders, head (especially the earlobes after a piercing) and neck, but they can happen anywhere.

Do keloid scars hurt?

Keloid scars are usually:

They can last for years, and sometimes do not form until months or years after the initial injury.

Keloid scars are usually painless, but some can cause:

What causes keloid scars?

Experts do not fully understand what causes keloid scars, but they happen when there's overproduction of collagen (the skin's protein).

They're not contagious or cancerous.

If you have had a keloid scar before, you're more likely to get another.

Who gets keloid scars?

Keloid scars can affect anyone, but they're more common in people with dark skin and it's thought they may run in families.

Younger people between the ages of 10 and 30 are more likely to develop them.

Can you prevent keloid scars?

You cannot completely prevent keloid scars, but you can avoid any deliberate cuts or breaks in the skin, such as tattoos or piercings, including on the earlobes. 

Treating acne will reduce the likelihood of acne scars appearing.

Avoid minor skin surgery to areas more prone to keloid scarring (the upper chest, back and upper arms) if possible.

Treatments for keloid scars

There are several treatments available, but none have been shown to be more effective than others.

Treatment can be difficult and is not always successful.

Treatments that may help flatten a keloid scar include:

Other options include:

If you're bothered by a keloid scar and want help, see a GP.

Find out more about how to treat scars

Page last reviewed: 5 June 2019
Next review due: 5 June 2022