Piercing Myths: Do I Have a Keloid? (Spoiler: Probably Not.) April 23, 2021 – Posted in: Informative

Piercing bumps are one of the most common piercing complications. They’re usually caused by things like skin irritation, trauma caused by snagged jewelry, or improper aftercare practices such as inconsistent cleaning and exposure to dampness.

For some reason, these relatively harmless bumps that typically go away on their own are constantly mislabeled in the piercing world as keloids. This is problematic for a number of reasons, namely the fact that keloids are a more serious condition that will likely require treatment.

To help dispel myths surrounding keloids, we’ve put together a quick guide as to what exactly keloids are and why you probably aren’t developing one around your piercing.

What are keloids?

Keloids present as raised scar tissue that usually appears on or around a healing wound or piercing, but it can sometimes appear on healthy skin. They will appear over months after the initial injury or piercing, and they usually spread beyond the edges of the wound and grow significantly. 

Conversely, hypertrophic scars (which are often mislabeled as keloids) appear within weeks, stay within the edges of the wound, and usually aren’t very large. Compared to keloids, they are clinically insignificant.

woman with her child

Keloids are genetic. If they don’t run in your family (or you’ve never gotten one before) chances are good that the bump on your piercing is not a keloid.

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, only about 10% of people suffer from keloids. While dermatologists are still trying to understand what causes keloids, we do know that they are most common among those of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent, those who have a family history of keloids, and those between the ages of 10 and 30.

While it’s not impossible that your piercing bump is a keloid, since such a small number of people suffer from this condition, it’s highly unlikely that you’re developing something so serious. Additionally, keloids can appear after any wound, including small insect bites, so if you’ve never formed a keloid before, and you have no family members who have either, then chances are very good that you won’t develop one after your piercing.

Is my piercing bump a keloid?

As mentioned previously, it’s highly unlikely that your piercing bump is a keloid, unless you’re genetically predisposed to develop them.

But, to put your mind at ease, here’s an outline of the differences between more common piercing bumps, like hypertrophic scars, that are often mislabeled as a keloid.

Identifying a keloid

A keloid presents as raised tissue that appears on or around the piercing during healing. Some key characteristics are:

  • They begin to appear a few months after the piercing.
  • They can grow beyond the piercing point.
  • They’re often quite large, dark, and misshapen.
  • They rarely, if ever, go away on their own.
  • They rarely occur on a piercing that hasn’t fully healed. 

Identifying a hypertrophic scar

Hypertrophic scars are similar to keloids in that they appear as a result of your body producing too much collagen as it heals the piercing. Unlike keloids, they can appear in anyone. (If you’ve ever had a raised scar before, then you’ve experienced hypertrophic scarring.) In a piercing, they usually appear after a trauma, like a clothing snag or sleeping on the piercing. Some key characteristics are:

  • They begin to appear within weeks after the piercing.
  • They usually stay on or near the piercing point without much spread.
  • They aren’t that big; they’ll typically manifest as a small bump or line near the piercing.
  • They usually minimize on their own. 
Person looking through spyglass

Spotting the difference between a keloid and a regular piercing bump isn’t difficult. Keloids are distinctive and usually appear after healing.

Identifying other piercing bumps

Other piercing bumps occur due to poor aftercare practices or skin irritation. Some will form even if you do everything right. These piercing bumps can take on a variety of symptoms, but they’re often small, red, and they might cause a little pain or excrete some liquid. If these types of piercing bumps appear, it’s best to see your piercer about treatment, since it will depend upon a number of factors. Some will go away on their own, and some are symptoms of a larger issue and might require attention. However, none of these complications are permanent, and they will eventually recede.

How to get rid of a keloid in your piercing

In the incredibly rare instance that your piercing has developed a keloid (which, to reiterate, if you’ve never suffered from keloids before now, it’s highly unlikely that you’re experiencing a keloid), you will have to seek medical attention to get rid of the keloid.

Keloids are still a bit of a mystery in the medical world. Although new discoveries are being made all of the time, it isn’t fully clear why keloids appear. Because of this, treatment options widely vary with different levels of success.

Treatment options include compression therapy, laser therapy, steroid injection, and surgery, but the list goes on. Once a doctor has positively identified your keloid, they will be able to educate you on the different treatment options so that you can make the best decision for yourself. 

How to avoid keloids in your piercing

If you already know that you’re one of the 10% who develops keloids or that you have the genetic predisposition to develop keloids, the answer is simple: Don’t get pierced. Keloid treatment is difficult and expensive, and a piercing isn’t worth it.

In the highly likely event that you’re not apt to get keloids, then you don’t have to worry about prevention; keloids are a result of genetics, and if you don’t have the genetics, then you won’t get them.

Bonus: How to avoid piercing bumps

If you arrived at this article because you confused standard piercing bumps for keloids, then you’re not alone. It’s a common misperception.

closeup of woman with nose piercing

Avoiding piercing bumps is as easy as practicing excellent aftercare. Don’t worry, if you do get a piercing bump, they often go away on their own.

Luckily, avoiding piercing bumps is much easier than avoiding keloids. Keep your piercing healthy by following these simple steps:

  1. Clean your piercing 2 – 3 times daily with a piercing aftercare saline solution.
  2. Avoid snagging the jewelry or applying pressure to the jewelry as much as possible.
  3. Make sure that your jewelry is the right size. (If it’s too large and snagging, have your piercer swap it out for a smaller piece, and if it’s pressing against the piercing holes, ask your piercer to put in a larger piece.)
  4. Keep the piercing dry. When you get out of the shower, be sure to gently pat the piercing completely dry.
  5. Keep your piercing away from unsanitary items. (These include unwashed hands, standing water, bus seats, etc.)

Although piercing bumps can be annoying, they’re usually very minor. If you develop a piercing bump, talk to your piercer for possible treatment options (and to confirm that your piercing is still healing well), but don’t stress; more often than not, these piercing bumps will go away on their own.
Get more information about keloids here.

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