PEOPLE are performing DIY surgery on themselves to get rid of unsightly skin blemishes, in a trend that’s today slammed by experts.
Because those who do adopt the so-called ‘rubber band method’ of scar removal risk disfigurement, flesh-eating bugs and potentially even death.
So says the British Skin Foundation, who warn there’s a growing number of tutorial videos on YouTube.
They show people who’ve developed what’s known as a ‘keloid’ – a raised blister-like scar which can form at the site of even minor cuts.
It’s estimated that around 10 per cent us are prone to suffering keloid scarring.
The sufferers – who have typically developed a keloid as a result of an ear piercing – are seen wrapping a rubber band tightly around the keloid, cutting off the blood supply to the affected area.
Over time, the keloid turns black and eventually falls off entirely – a method similar to the one employed by farmers to castrate lambs.
One recent vid, ‘How to remove a keloid (with rubber band)’, has been viewed almost 155,000 times.
But now skin specialists are urging Brits NOT to copy the dangerous method, as it won’t just cost you your skin, it could even cost you your life, as the open wound that’s left behind is highly susceptible to infection and ‘necrosis’.
Dr Anton Alexandroff, Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson, said: “This is a very unhelpful practice which is very painful and can result in infection.
“It can also result in further disfigurement in certain areas because it can cause necrosis in an uncontrollable and unpredictable way.
“More importantly, keloid scars frequently recur and often grow even bigger than the original scar.”
While the precise reasons why keloids form is still not know, it’s thought they arise due to an overproduction of collagen – the skin’s structural protein.
A keloid, which can also be prompted by acne, can appear within three to four weeks of a skin wound but can take a year or longer to appear.
It may continue to grow for months or years, enlarging beyond the edges of the original skin damage.
Those with darker complexions are at a higher risk, occurring in around 15 – 20% of individuals with African, Asian or Latino ancestry.
And key problem areas include the upper chest, breastbone, shoulders, chin, neck, lower legs and earlobes – especially after ear piercing.
Scar reduction specialist Peter Batty, spokesman for the scar-reducing gel Nourisil™ MD Silicone Scar Gel, said the tutorial videos are concerning in the extreme.
He said: “These videos are deeply disturbing. I’d advise in the strongest terms possible that no-one should attempt to follow the instructions.
“And what they illustrate is a real lack of understanding about both the prevention and the treatment of keloid scars.
“Around one in 10 of us are susceptible to keloids forming, and it’s a condition which appears to run in families.
“If there’s a history of keloids in your immediate family, you should think twice before having your ears pierced or being tattooed.
“Likewise, keloid scarring can also be brought on by laser tattoo removal.
“And if you were to attempt a DIY removal of a keloid, you’d merely be running the risk of the keloid returning even larger than before. Thankfully there are other, far more effective, remedies available.”
While there’s no outright ‘cure’ for keloids, treatment is available, in the form of specialised gels, silicone tapes, steroid injections and cryotherapy.
The British Association of Dermatologists suggest around 5-10% of Europeans with keloids have a positive family history – i.e. at least one other member of their family has keloids.
They recently issued a tattooo warning for those with a history of keloids.
A spokesperson said: “People with risk for getting keloids are advised to avoid skin trauma such as tattooing, body piercing and unnecessary surgical procedures or cosmetic skin surgery, particularly on high-risk areas such as the chest or earlobes.”
Dr Alexandroff added: “Keloid scars are rare but can be very disfiguring.
“Risk factors include family history and they’re most common in those aged between 10 and 30 years old.
“We see it more commonly in young females than young males, probably due to the prevalence of ear piercing.
“And Keloids can affect any part of the body but most commonly upper chest, back and shoulders.
“Even temporary tattoos are known to cause keloids if patients react to the tattoo.”
Experimental treatments to remove keloids include injections of the anti-cancer drugs 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or bleomycin, though these are not routinely available on the NHS.
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