What Is a Tragus Keloid?

Jillian O Keeffe

Keloid scarring is an unusually obvious scar at the site of an injury, which affects some groups of people more than others. A tragus is the small protrusion in front of the ear canal, which some people pierce to wear jewelry in. When a person has a tragus keloid, it poses no risk to health, but may be cosmetically unappealing for the patient. Options for treatment include steroids, laser therapy or nitrogen freezing.

Steroid injections can help with keloid scar tissue.
Steroid injections can help with keloid scar tissue.

A tragus is made of cartilage, like the rest of the outer ear, and sits in the front part of the ear as a protective wall in front of the ear canal. It is flexible and tough, despite its small size relative to the rest of the ear. In most people, a piercing produce a small hole with no visible scarring, but some people are genetically predisposed to develop a more obvious scar, called a tragus keloid.

A keloid scar poses no health risk, but can look visually unappealing.
A keloid scar poses no health risk, but can look visually unappealing.

Any open wound or puncture can result in a keloid scar, as the body tries to close back up the wound and fix the damage. Most people produce only a small scar to mark the initial site of a wound, or in the case of ear piercings, no mark at all. When a keloid scar occurs, however, the way the body chooses to fix the damage is to produce lots of collagen, which makes the scar tissue raised and colored a reddish or pinkish color. This tragus keloid scar may appear obvious to the person who has one, and so the affected person may seek medical treatment to remove or reduce the scar.

Some people suffer from keloid scarring more than the general population, such as people with African ancestors, South Asian people and those with Hispanic ancestry. Keloid scars are not dangerous to health, but if a person suspects the lump may be due to other causes, such as skin cancer, then a doctor's advice should be sought. If left alone, a tragus keloid scar may shrink or flatten over time, but may also become darker due to sun exposure. Sunscreen use in the first year of the tragus keloid's appearance can prevent the darkening.

As the keloid scar developed because of a wound in the first place, surgical removal is not a practical option. Some people have their keloid scars frozen with liquid nitrogen, irradiated to prevent growth, or lasered to reduce the intensity of coloration of the scar. Steroid skin applications can help minimize the appearance of the tragus keloid.

When people have a tragus keloid, they may use laser therapy for treatment.
When people have a tragus keloid, they may use laser therapy for treatment.

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Discussion Comments

Has anyone had a keloid form from a pimple? Will a scar cream or something like vitamin E oil help?

@literally45-- If you've had a keloid from piercings before, there is definitely a high risk that you'll develop keloids with future piercings.

Keloids can be very unpredictable. I have people in my family who get keloids often, so I've always known that I am at risk for them. But when I got my ears pierced the first time, nothing happened. I kept the piercings clean and did salt water soaks for a long time until they healed. So when I decided to get a tragus piercing, I though that everything would be fine again as long as I kept it clean.

I did everything that I had done with my previous piercings and despite that, I still developed a tragus keloid. It's quite big, itchy and painful.

So you never know when a keloid is going to develop. There is no guarantee, especially if you're prone to them.


I had a small keloid inside my nose when I got my nose pierced. After I took the piercing out and my nose healed, the keloid disappeared on its own after about a year.

Now I'm considering getting a tragus piercing. What is the likelihood that I will get a keloid there as well?

I don't want another keloid, especially because a keloid on the tragus will be much more visible than a small one inside the nose. At the same time, I really want a tragus piercing. What should I do?

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