As the body’s largest organ and its first line of defense in fighting infections and any invasion from external elements, it’s safe to say that our skin is under constant assault. Not to mention, exposed to a lot of superficial damage and abrasion injuries.
Beyond the usual suspects like chemicals, scrapes and sunlight, some people suffer from even worse conditions, such as cystic acne, eczema, psoriasis and keloid scarring. But out of all those skin conditions, keloid scars are the one skin issue that predominantly affects young women of color, from agees 10 to 20 years old.
Even if you’re not familiar with the technical name keloids, you’ve definitely seen these thick, raised scars that are often irregularly-shaped, shiny and pink or dark purple in color. Because keloids disproportionately affect individuals of African descent, we turned to dermatologist Dina Strachan of Aglow Dermatology in New York to find out what causes keloids and how to treat the scars.
1. So, what are keloids exactly?
According to Dr. Strachan, keloids are scars that grow outside of the normal boundaries of a wound, and there’s a genetic tendency to get keloids if someone in your family already has them. Keloids can be detected by any doctor or dermatologist with a visual exam.
“Keloids are the result of an abnormal scarring reaction, in which the healing process does not shift down once the wound is healed,” Dr. Strachan tells ESSENCE.
Basically, when a wound heals, it leaves a scar. But for those who are prone to developing keloids, the scar isn’t like a scab that eventually disappears. No, a keloid continues to grow—sometimes even larger than the original wound or area of the skin that was damaged. Keloid scars can last for several years.
2. Are there any symptoms associated with keloids?
Unlike other skin disorders or conditions that cause severe itching or irritation, keloids aren’t particularly painful or uncomfortable. The common complaint associated with keloids is how the scars look, due to the fact that they’re large and discolored.
However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, while a keloid is growing it can feel tender and slightly itchy, especially scars growing on the chest or near the joints. But once it stops growing, the symptoms stop.
3. Is there a way to treat keloids?
Bad news: Since keloids are genetic, there is no specific cure, unless you take into consideration beauty blogger and face support specialist Sarah Fremgen’s advice.
“The best cure for keloids is confidence,” Fremgen tells ESSENCE. “Scars are not a struggle, they’re a statement. I would rather my face give people something to think about, rather than something to like.”
Dr. Strachan also suggests the following standard treatments for keloids: steroid injections, silicone sheeting, pressure earring and excision. We should note, though, that cutting a keloid scar out of the skin can lead to a bigger one developing later in its place. And Dr. Strachan says applying makeup over the scars is only useful in covering up any skin discoloration.
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