How to Get Rid of Keloids

Medically reviewed by Catherine Hannan, MD on October 16, 2017Written by Adrian White on October 16, 2017

What are keloids?

Keloids are raised buildups of scar tissue on the skin. They usually form and grow after a wound, puncture, burn, or blemish.

For some people, this scar tissue is more pronounced and darker than the rest of their skin tone.

Picture of a keloid

keloid

What are ways to get rid of keloids?

Depending on appearance, some people may want to get rid of the keloids they have.

There are a few ways to do this. You can try a few of these home methods first before contacting a dermatologist for prescription or over-the-counter approaches.

Home remedies

Aspirin

A 2013 review and a 2015 study suggest that the topical use of aspirin pills may help treat keloids. Research found that aspirin prevents scar-promoting cells from entering the keloid site when applied. This way, both pigmentation and keloid size are reduced.

To try this remedy:

  1. Crush three to four aspirin tablets.
  2. Mix them with enough water to form a paste.
  3. Apply them to the keloid or wound site. Let it sit for an hour or two, then rinse.
  4. Repeat once every day until desired results are achieved.

Garlic

This root vegetable works much like aspirin, according to a 2011 dermatology report. It blocks certain enzymes from entering the site that contribute to tissue and pigment buildup. Over time, application may help lighten scars.

To use this method:

  1. Take two to three fresh garlic cloves and crush them.
  2. Apply to the keloid area and let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  3. Wash off with water and apply moisturizer.
  4. Discontinue use or reduce application time if the garlic burns your skin.

Honey

Honey contains anti-inflammatory compounds that may help reduce keloids. Honey was mentioned in a 2015 review for its healing potential with keloids specifically. It’s an appealing natural alternative without potential harmful side effects found in corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin.

For this method:

  1. Dab a bit of raw honey — organic honey is recommended — on the site. Let it sit.
  2. Rinse off later if the site gets sticky.
  3. Reapply as often as needed. It’s recommended that you use it at least two to three times per day until you get your desired results.

Onion

Quite a few studies support the use of onion for keloids. A 2013 study found that the use of onion extract stopped fibroblasts — the cells that produce the scar tissue — from entering the skin.

Another study in 2012 found onion extract gel sped healing and reduced scar height. In a 2011 trial, it reduced pigmentation. This is most likely due to its quercetin content, a flavonol with antioxidant properties.

To use this remedy:

  1. Cut a small onion into small pieces. A red, white, or yellow is fine to use.
  2. Squeeze out the juice by compressing it with a clean cloth.
  3. Apply the juice to the keloid area and let it sit until dry.
  4. Rinse. Apply three to four times per day until you see your desired results.

Medical treatments

Retinoid cream

Retinoid cream is a derivative of vitamin A, or retinol. Much like natural remedies such as garlic or onion, the cream has been clinically proven to reduce keloid appearance.

Make sure to follow the directions on the retinoid cream product you purchase.

Silicone

Silicone gel or sheets may be a go-to recommendation from your doctor. A 2013 trial found them just as effective as retinoid cream. Follow instructions or directions on the silicone product you purchase, or those given by your doctor.

Steroid injections

Injections of steroidal anti-inflammatories have been known to help with keloids. However, these have been shown to be more effective following major treatment for keloids. This includes surgical scar removal, laser treatment, and more, as noted in a 2014 study.

A combination of different injected steroids has also been shown to be more successful in a 2012 analysis. An 80 percent recurrence rate was reported, however. Talk to your doctor about using injected steroids in combination with surgery, laser removal, or other operations.

Preventing keloids in the future

If you’re aware that you could develop keloids, there are ways you can prevent them from happening. If you’ve already developed keloids, certain measures can be taken to prevent more from developing.

Avoid cosmetic surgery

While some surgery is necessary, avoid procedures such as cosmetic surgery. Surgical modifications to the skin can cause keloids. If you’ve had keloids from surgery or think you might get them, rethink surgery. This is especially the case if the surgery isn’t to save your life or needed to improve your health.

Avoid (more) tattoos or piercings

Tattoos and piercings are a very likely cause for keloids. In a way, they can be considered an unnecessary surgery. Think thoroughly about whether you want keloids or not if you invest in more tattoos or piercings.

Avoid skin picking and pimple popping

Try to prevent yourself from picking or popping acne on your skin. The inflammation caused by these exacerbations can lead to keloids.

The takeaway

Keloids are completely harmless. Having them shouldn’t affect your health. Their impact is purely cosmetic. They result from an exaggerated form of natural processes of scarring in the body.

Home remedies can help quite a bit with keloids. They can reduce size and pigmentation, making them less noticeable. This is especially the case if you use home remedies right after getting a wound, puncture, or burn.

If keloids don’t improve with the help of home remedies, talk to your doctor about more other treatments. They may include over-the-counter or prescribed creams and gels.

Surgical or laser removal are also successful treatment options if other methods don’t work. However, keep in mind that no matter the method used to treat keloids, once they occur, they have a very high chance of returning.

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