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What Is a Tattoo Keloid?

By B. Chisholm
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A tattoo keloid is basically a raised scar at the site of a tattoo which occurs in some people due to an over-production of scar tissue while the tattoo heals. It is not known what makes some people form keloids while others don't. A person who has previously developed a keloid should avoid getting more tattoos.

The process of tattooing, which is the placement of a picture or symbol on the skin of the body, should only be performed by a trained person, under sterile conditions. It involves using a needle to insert ink in the under layer of the skin, or dermis, marking it permanently. Depending on the size and complexity of the chosen tattoo, the process can take minutes to many hours and may involve multiple punctures into the skin.

The process of wound healing and formation of a scar involves numerous processes within the skin, both building-up or anabolic, and breaking down or catabolic. A fine balance needs to be maintained in order for the resultant scar to be as inconspicuous as possible. In the case of a tattoo keloid, or any keloid after an injury for that matter, this balance is off and results in excess fibrous tissue which extends above and around the area of injury which can be disfiguring.

Removal of a keloid is not easy and may not be complete. Medical advice, probably from a plastic surgeon, will need to be sought; they will recommend the treatment likely to have the best effect according to the severity and location of the tattoo keloid. Excision, or cutting out the scar, generally results in reformation of the keloid, but in combination with intralesional corticosteroid injection, may heal more successfully.

Intralesional injection of a corticosteroid on its own, that is, injecting it directly into the tattoo keloid, may be effective. The use of silicon dressing over the keloid and pressure therapy may also help to resolve a keloid. Other treatments which may be effective include laser therapy, cryotherapy and possibly light therapy. Often, though, the keloid cannot be completely removed.

The best way to avoid tattoo keloids is to not get a tattoo. A person who has previously developed a keloid after any type of skin injury is not advised to get a tattoo as they are more likely to develop a keloid after having a tattoo. Should unusual scarring occur after having a tattoo, medical advice should be sought immediately.

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Discussion Comments
By burcinc — On Jun 21, 2013

Some people get tons of tattoos and piercings with no problems and some people get keloids. A part of it is pure luck and the other part is proper after-care in my opinion. Keeping the tattoo clean will help prevent it.

By literally45 — On Jun 20, 2013

@ysmina-- I don't think there is any way to know beforehand. Are you African American? My sister is a tattoo artist and she says that her African American clients seem to be more prone to scarring and keloid formation. I'm not sure if this is true, but it might be something to think of.

Since you already have a keloid, I agree with your mom that you are at risk of getting another one. I know you want a tattoo, but if you get a keloid, the tattoo is going to look bad and it's very difficult to fix.

By ysmina — On Jun 20, 2013

Is there a way to check if someone will develop a keloid from a tattoo before the tattoo is done? Is there some kind of test?

I want to get a tattoo, I've been wanting this since high school. I've even selected my designs. The only thing that's preventing me is that I have a keloid from an injury I had in childhood. I had treatment for the keloid but it's still mostly there.

My my thinks that because of this, I'm likely to get a keloid from a tattoo as well. But the tattoo artist I've talked to said that not every part of the body heals the same way and he has never seen a keloid on his customers. I just wish that there was a way to know for sure.

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