Have you noticed an acne scar that just won't go away? Is it getting bigger, darker and seemingly taking on a life of its own? No, it's probably not a mole...or some alien life force. However, it could be a keloid, a harmless overgrown mass that many have but rarely talk about—celebs included.
How can we get it: Keloids can form anytime the skin is injured (think: a surgical procedure, a tattoo or piercing session, when you cut yourself shaving, even a popped pimple). As the skin repairs itself, there's an overproduction of collagen and, as a result, more scar tissue, noted New York-based dermatologist Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton. Think of it as "skin not having a turn-off switch so it keeps healing," she added.
Where can we get it: These discolored masses grow beyond the area of your initial injury. They can appear anywhere on your skin but most commonly grow on the chest, shoulders, upper back, back of the neck and earlobes.
Who can get it: Anyone can get them, but those of African or Asian descent are more prone to them. "Dark-skinned individuals form keloids 15 times more frequently than do their lighter-skinned counterparts," according to a study published by the Baylor College of Medicine. However, there's no genetic pattern to it, added Dr. Ingleton. "It's more random than anything."
What's the best way to remove them: Unfortunately, there's not much you can do. Unlike other scars, keloids don't disappear with time; though, they can flatten out. If the tissue layers are thin, you can try applying over-the-counter silicone gel sheets, which will compress the mass, noted Dr. Ingleton. For larger keloids, steroid injections (which will thin out the fibers) or surgical removal may be more effective options. If you opt for the latter, however, "there's no telling if you would heal abnormally again," she warned. If you cut one off, another could grow in its place. Of course, it's best to consult your dermatologist with any concerns.
How do we prevent them: Keloids are so unpredictable that "the only real prevention is not to traumatize the skin," said Dr. Ingleton.
Perhaps we'll rethink that next piercing.