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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Kelvin Goh and Dr Eki Wari on April 21, 2023

Natural Ways To Deal With A Keloid Scar

A keloid scar can be embarrassing and painful to deal with. These tips can help you heal from one and prevent them from coming back in the future.

Keloid scar min scaled

A keloid scar is a type of scar that covers an area bigger than the original wound. It can be unsightly and embarrassing to deal with. They can also cause discomfort.

They can appear anywhere, but they’re most common in the upper body, such as ear piercings. You’re more likely to get a keloid scar if you’re of Asian, Latino, or African descent.

You’re also at an increased risk if you have darker skin, are under the age of 30, or have a family member with one.

Read on to learn what causes a keloid scar and how to prevent and treat one.

What Is A Keloid Scar?

An image of a keloid scar on a man's arm
A keloid scar can develop anywhere on your body, but it’s most common on your upper body parts.

Scarring is a normal process of wound healing. Our immune system acts to seal the gap by growing scar tissue composed of the protein collagen.

In people who don’t get keloids, the scarring is limited to the area of the wound. In keloid-prone individuals, skin scars are large, slow-expanding skin growths. It is very rare for a keloid scar to be successfully removed without recurrence. 

This condition can cause distress if you feel that these scars are unsightly. In some cases, keloids can also cause discomfort, such as itchiness, tenderness, pain, or a burning feeling. A large keloid scar that develops over a joint can even reduce mobility in the joint.

Experts and researchers are still unsure why keloids develop in some people, but they believe it is related to an overproduction of collagen.

How Do You Get Rid Of A Keloid Scar?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician Kelvin Goh, extra scar tissue or keloids form due to Blood and Qi (vital energy) Stagnation.

“Patients who tend to belong to Blood and Qi Stagnation body constitution will have a higher tendency of having keloids. Regulated blood flow is needed to promote a healing environment for the wound. When blood and qi are not well-regulated in the wound area, it creates a stagnated environment. This will prevent good blood flow, and gradually there’ll be a build-up of Stagnation that causes keloids to form slowly.”

TCM Physician Kelvin Goh

TCM herbs and treatments such as acupuncture and gua sha are recommended by Physician Goh to improve keloids. 

Herbal medicine  

As keloids worsen gradually in some cases, herbal ingredients like Chinese yam (shan yao) and longan (long yan rou) can be consumed regularly to slow the condition. These can be consumed raw or cooked in soup.

Several herbs can invigorate qi and nourish blood, promote healthy blood flow, and prevent Stagnation. Patients can consume these herbs to improve their skin condition under the guidance of a TCM practitioner. These include:

Herbs that encourage optimal cell renewal, like bird’s nest (yan wo), are also good for wound healing. Topical herbal medicine may also help.

A 2020 study published in Chinese Herbal Medicines found that a six-herb TCM ointment resulted in shrinking and fading scar tissue in animal models.

Acupuncture and gua sha  

Most keloid scars are not painful, but for those that do cause pain, acupuncture may be able to help. In a 2014 case report, acupuncture helped a 48-year-old female patient suffering from severe scar pain.

Acupuncture treatment will do little to reduce an existing keloid scar, however. For this, physician Goh suggests a gua sha massage around the keloid scar to prevent it from getting bigger. 

Gua sha is an alternative therapy that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve the microcirculation of tissue, which can help prevent keloid formation and remove Stagnation. 

How To Reduce The Risk Of A Keloid Scar  

Being prone to getting keloids doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Here are some guidelines to consider if you already have a keloid or are considering a skin-altering procedure. 

Consider alternatives to piercings and tattoos 

You may want to try earrings, many of which require an ear piercing. However, there are alternatives, such as clip-on or stick-on earrings. Similarly, if you’re interested in skin art, temporary or henna tattoos don’t puncture the skin or cause scarring. 

Test a small area of your skin first

If you’re still keen on a piercing or tattoo, do a test run on a smaller and less visible area of your body. Watch for thickening skin, as this is the first sign that a keloid is likely to form.

Use pressure treatment at first sight of thickening 

For a keloid scar that is just starting to form, pressure treatment may help. The goal is to prevent further keloid formation by applying pressure directly on the affected skin. Wear a pressure earring or pressure garment for at least 12 hours a day for four to six months.

Tend to wounds early

A woman at the beach applying sunscreen to her shoulder
Wearing sunscreen can help prevent skin damage and scarring.

An accidental injury may sometimes cause a keloid scar on the skin. In this case, attending to the wound as early as possible is critical. A wound that heals well is more likely to have a smaller scar.

Avoid using disinfecting liquids that are very drying, such as rubbing alcohol, iodine, or hydrogen peroxide. The dryness can interfere with optimal healing.

Once the wound has healed, use silicone gel or silicone gel sheets to discourage keloid formation. Remember to use sun protection, too. 

Talk To A TCM Physician About Your Keloid Scar

Keloid scars are still a bit of a dermatological mystery. Holistic approaches to health and medicine also help us understand them in the context of internal health. Share this article if you know anyone with keloid scars.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Scars. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11030-scars
  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 2022. Keloid Scars: Self Care. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/keloids-self-care
  3. National Health Service (NHS), United Kingdom. 2019. Keloid scars. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/keloid-scars/
  4. FamilyDoctor.org. 2020. Keloids. [online] Available at: <https://familydoctor.org/condition/keloids/?adfree=true
  5. Chinese Herbal Medicines. 2020. A six-herb Chinese medicine composition ointment as a promising candidate for the treatment of hypertrophic scars. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674638420301301
  6. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. 2014. The Successful Treatment of Pain Associated with Scar Tissue Using Acupuncture. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2005290114000922
  7. Burns and Trauma. 2018. Chinese expert consensus on clinical prevention and treatment of scar. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6154406/

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