Salicylic acid warts side effects

Salicylic Acid (Psoriasis or Seborrheic Dermatitis)

Generic Name: Salicylic Acid (Psoriasis or Seborrheic Dermatitis) (sal i SIL ik AS id)
Brand Name: Keralyt

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 14, 2019.

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Uses of Salicylic Acid:

  • It is used to treat psoriasis.
  • It is used to control seborrheic dermatitis.
  • It may be given to you for other reasons. Talk with the doctor.

What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take Salicylic Acid?

  • If you have an allergy to salicylic acid or any other part of salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis).
  • If you are allergic to any drugs like this one, any other drugs, foods, or other substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had, like rash; hives; itching; shortness of breath; wheezing; cough; swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat; or any other signs.

This is not a list of all drugs or health problems that interact with salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis).

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.

What are some things I need to know or do while I take Salicylic Acid?

  • Tell all of your health care providers that you take salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis). This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
  • Certain acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can rarely cause very bad and sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions or very bad irritation. Before first use, you may need to follow certain steps to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction. Use salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) as you were told by the doctor or read the package label. Talk with the doctor.
  • Do not put on open wounds, cuts, or irritated skin.
  • Use care when using on a large part of the skin. Talk with the doctor.
  • Do not use salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) on birthmarks, moles, or warts with hair growth; or cervical, genital, or oral warts.
  • If you use salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) too often, your skin problem may become worse.
  • Use of other skin products while using salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) may cause more irritation.
  • Talk with your doctor before you use other drugs or products on your skin.
  • This medicine may affect certain lab tests. Be sure your doctor and lab workers know you use salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Some of these drugs may catch on fire. Do not use near an open flame or while smoking.
  • This medicine may cause harm if swallowed. If salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) is swallowed, call a doctor or poison control center right away.
  • Do not give to children and teenagers who have or are getting better from flu signs, chickenpox, or other viral infections due to the chance of Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome causes very bad problems to the brain and liver.
  • Use with care in children. Talk with the doctor.
  • Different brands of salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) may be for use in different ages of children. Talk with the doctor before giving salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) to a child.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan on getting pregnant, or are breast-feeding. You will need to talk about the benefits and risks to you and the baby.

How is this medicine (Salicylic Acid) best taken?

Use salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.

  • Do not take salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) by mouth. Use on your skin only. Keep out of your mouth, nose, and eyes (may burn).
  • If salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis) gets in the eyes, rinse with cool water.
  • Clean affected part before use. Make sure to dry well.
  • Do not breathe in the vapors.
  • Wash your hands before and after use. Do not wash your hands after use if putting this on your hand.
  • Put a thin layer on the affected skin and rub in gently.
  • If the product is for use on the scalp, follow how to use as you have been told or read the package insert.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Put on a missed dose as soon as you think about it.
  • If it is close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your normal time.
  • Do not put on 2 doses at the same time or extra doses.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Mood changes.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Upset stomach or throwing up.
  • Ringing in the ears, hearing loss, or any other changes in hearing.
  • Dizziness.
  • Feeling very tired or weak.
  • Diarrhea.

What are some other side effects of Salicylic Acid?

All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:

  • Skin irritation.
  • Dry skin.
  • Burning.
  • Stinging.
  • Peeling.

These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. You may also report side effects at

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

How do I store and/or throw out Salicylic Acid?

  • Store at room temperature. Do not freeze.
  • Protect from heat or open flame.
  • Keep lid tightly closed.
  • Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area.

Consumer information use

  • If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
  • Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else’s drugs.
  • Keep a list of all your drugs (prescription, natural products, vitamins, OTC) with you. Give this list to your doctor.
  • Talk with the doctor before starting any new drug, including prescription or OTC, natural products, or vitamins.
  • Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about salicylic acid (psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis), please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

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Salicylic Acid

8.1 Discovery and roles of salicylic acid

Salicylic acid (SA) is a simple phenolic compound synthesized in a wide range of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, including plants. Leaf and bark of willow tree (Salix sp.) contain large amounts of SA, which was widely used as a medication for pain relief in the ancient world. In 1828, German scientist Johann A. Buchner purified salicyl alcohol glucoside (an SA derivative called salicin) from willow bark. Ten years later, an Italian chemist Raffaele Piria working in Paris converted salicin into an acidic aromatic compound that he named salicylic acid. In 1859 Hermann Kolbe et al. chemically synthesized SA, but the bitter taste and side effects limited the long-term use of SA as a medication. In 1897 Felix Hoffmann working in the Bayer pharmaceutical company synthesized acetyl salicylic acid (originally produced by a French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt, in 1853), which became known as Aspirin, to reduce the side effects (Weissmann, 1991). Now Aspirin is widely used to treat pain, fever, inflammation, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clot formation.

In 1979 a role of SA in the defense response of plants was discovered. Treatment of tobacco plants with Aspirin resulted in enhanced resistance to tobacco mosaic virus (White, 1979). Subsequent studies revealed that pathogen infection increases the level of SA and promotes transcription of genes encoding pathogenesis-related proteins in plants, which confers disease resistance. In the pathogen-infected local tissues, plants recognize the conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), such as bacterial flagellin or fungal chitin, through plasma membrane-localized pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), which triggers PAMP-triggered immunity (PTI) (Monaghan and Zipfel, 2012). Successful phytopathogens have evolved to secrete effector proteins into the plant to interfere with PTI and promote pathogenesis (Dou and Zhou, 2012). This forced plants to evolve NOD-Like Receptors (NLRs) to recognize these effectors and activate effector-triggered immunity (ETI), which is usually associated with the hypersensitive cell death response (HR) (Rajamuthiah and Mylonakis, 2014). Activation of defense responses in local infected tissues also induces the generation of mobile signals that lead to establishment of long-lasting systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in systemic tissues to protect plants from secondary infection (Fu and Dong, 2013; Mishina and Zeier, 2007). Blocking SA accumulation by expressing the bacterial salicylate hydroxylase (NahG, converts SA to catechol) in plants causes compromised SA-dependent immune responses, including local defense response and establishment of SAR (Delaney et al., 1994; Gaffney et al., 1993; Wildermuth et al., 2001). Studies have identified Nonexpresser of Pathogenesis-Related protein (NPR) 1, 3, and 4 as SA receptors and characterized their roles in SA-dependent defense responses (Fu et al., 2012; Wu et al., 2012).

In addition to defense responses, SA is implicated in the regulation of a variety of biological processes, such as seed germination, seedling development, nodulation in legumes, plant vegetative growth, senescence-associated gene expression, flowering time, fruit yield, respiration, as well as response to ultraviolet (UV)-B radiation, ozone, metals, drought, temperature, and salinity stresses (Khan et al., 2015; Vlot et al., 2009).

Salicylic acid

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid belongs to a group of medicines known as keratolytics. It is used in the treatment of scaly skin diseases where the skin has become thickened, scaly and flaky. Topical preparations of salicylic acid, either alone or in combination with other medicines, can be used to treat the following common scaly skin conditions:

  • Viral warts
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • Chronic atopic dermatitis
  • Lichen simplex
  • Ichthyosis
  • Acne

How does salicylic acid work?

Salicylic acid works by softening keratin, a protein that forms part of the skin structure. This helps to loosen dry scaly skin making it easier to remove. When salicylic acid is used in combination with other medicines it takes off the upper layer of skin allowing the additional medicines to penetrate more effectively.

In acne, topical salicylic acid helps slow down shedding of the cells inside the follicles, preventing clogging. Salicylic acid also helps break down blackheads and whiteheads.

Salicylic acid preparations

Salicylic acid preparations come in many forms and strengths. Available dosage forms include cream, gel, lotion, ointment, pads, plaster, shampoo, cleanser and topical solution. Strengths of salicylic acid preparations range from 0.5% up to 30%. The form and strength chosen depends on the condition that is being treated.

Listed below are a few of the many salicylic acid preparations available in New Zealand.

Preparation Topical form Indications
Salicylic acid 2-3%, Betamethasone 0.05% (Diprosalic®) Lotion
Hyperkeratotic eczema
Salicylic acid 15-27% (Duofilm®) Paint
Viral warts
Salicylic acid 2%, Coal tar solution 12%, Sulphur 4% (Coco-Scalp®) Ointment Seborrhoeic dermatitis
Scalp psoriasis
Salicylic acid 0.5% oil-free acne wash (Neutrogena®) Cleanser Acne

Whilst many salicylic acid preparations are available from a pharmacy, some preparations are only available on a doctor’s prescription. These include preparations containing a combination of salicylic acid and topical corticosteroid, e.g. Diprosalic®.

How to use salicylic acid preparations

  • It is very important that you use preparations strictly as directed on the label. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than recommended. Failing to follow instructions may lead to increased absorption through the skin and salicylic acid poisoning.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and other mucous membranes, such as the mouth, inside of the nose, and genitals. Accidental application to areas should be flushed immediately with water for 15 minutes.
  • Do not use on irritated skin or on any area that is infected or reddened.
  • Protect areas surrounding the affected area by applying petroleum jelly around the periphery of the area to be treated.
  • Unless your hands are being treated, wash them immediately after applying this medicine.

Side effects of topical salicylic acid preparations

Salicylic acid preparations are usually well tolerated. Mild stinging may occur especially on broken skin and when higher concentrations are used. Salicylic acid can irritate or burn healthy skin so it is important to keep the medicine confined to the affected area(s). Check with your doctor if you:

  • experience moderate or severe skin irritation (particularly if not present before use of this medicine)
  • flushing
  • unusually warm skin and reddening of skin

True allergy to topical salicylic acid is rare, however serious reactions including anaphylaxis have been reported.

Salicylic acid poisoning (overdose) with topical preparations is rare. Symptoms of poisoning include confusion, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, rapid breathing, continuing ringing or buzzing in ears, severe drowsiness.

Precautions when using topical salicylic acid preparations

When using salicylic acid preparations do not use any of the following preparations on the affected area, unless directed to do so by your doctor.

  • Alcohol containing preparations
  • Any other medicated topical agents, e.g. benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoids, calcipotriol
  • Abrasive soaps and cleansers
  • Cosmetics or soaps that dry the skin or are designed to peel/exfoliate

Inform your doctor if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Salicylic acid can be absorbed through the mother’s skin. The risks and benefits will need to be discussed with your doctor before using any preparations containing salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid preparations should not normally be used in children younger than 2 years. Use in young children should be monitored carefully as children are more likely to get skin irritation and the absorption through skin is greater.

New Zealand approved datasheets are the official source of information for these prescription medicines, including approved uses and risk information. Check the individual New Zealand datasheet on the Medsafe website.

Salicylic Acid Topical

Topical salicylic acid comes as a cloth (a pad or wipe used to cleanse the skin), cream, lotion, liquid, gel, ointment, shampoo, wipe, pad, and patch to apply to the skin or scalp. Topical salicylic acid comes in several strengths, including certain products that are only available with a prescription. Topical salicylic acid may be used as often as several times a day or as infrequently as several times a week, depending on the condition being treated and the product being used. Follow the directions on the package label or your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use salicylic acid exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than directed on the package or prescribed by your doctor.

If you are using topical salicylic acid to treat acne, your skin may become dry or irritated at the beginning of your treatment. To prevent this, you may apply the product less often at first, and then gradually begin to apply the product more often after your skin has adjusted to the medication. If your skin becomes dry or irritated at any time during your treatment, you may apply the product less often. Talk to your doctor or check the package label for more information.

Apply a small amount of the salicylic acid product to one or two small areas you want to treat for 3 days when you begin to use this medication for the first time. If no reaction or discomfort occurs, use the product as directed on the package or on your prescription label.

Do not swallow topical salicylic acid. Be careful not to get topical salicylic acid in your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you accidentally get topical salicylic acid in your eyes, nose, or mouth, flush the area with water for 15 minutes.

Do not apply topical salicylic acid to skin that is broken, red, swollen, irritated, or infected.

Only apply topical salicylic acid to the areas of skin that are affected by your skin condition. Do not apply topical salicylic acid to large areas of your body unless your doctor tells you that you should. Do not cover the skin where you applied topical salicylic acid with a bandage or dressing unless your doctor tells you that you should.

If you are using topical salicylic acid to treat acne or certain other skin condition, it may take several weeks or longer for you to feel the full benefit of the medication. Your condition may worsen during the first few days of treatment as your skin adjusts to the medication.

Read the package label of the topical salicylic acid product you are using very carefully. The label will tell you how to prepare your skin before you apply the medication, and exactly how you should apply the medication. Follow these directions carefully.

Skincare Myth: “The Burn Means It’s Working!”

Go to the usual places to find acne products (your local pharmacy, Sephora, Walmart, whatever), and you may think you have dozens of options — but not quite. Most products contain the same ingredients: salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These two ingredients can help, but they can also easily irritate your skin and make acne worse. Yikes.

Here’s the worst part: some brands even sell entire lines where each product contains salicylic acid or other harsh ingredients. This is serious overkill for your skin! If your skin ever gets red, dry, squeaky/shiny, or your acne gets more inflamed, you may be feeling the burn.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Irritated skin = more acne

When you feel the burn, that means your skin is irritated, and irritated skin is prone to acne. If you spot rough, dull, or dry patches on your face, that’s a good sign your skin is dehydrated from over-cleansing or using harsh soaps, which strip your skin of its natural protective oils and can aggravate acne.

1. Check your products on for any irritating ingredients. Here’s how it works:

If you’ve been feeling the burn, it’s best to give your skin a break so it can recover. And if you’re using a topical treatment like your Curology cream, you may not need salicylic acid anyway!

3. Don’t wash your face more than twice a day.

Cleanse with a truly gentle cleanser made for sensitive skin—like the Curology cleanser, which is made to be safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin. To remove makeup, use a micellar water such as Bioderma Sensibio H2O.

4. Don’t scrub your skin when it’s irritated.

Avoid physical exfoliation and chemical exfoliation until your skin has had enough time to recover. This includes cleansing brushes like the Clarisonic!

5. Ditch the toner.

First off, definitely avoid toners that contain alcohol in the ingredients list! It’s a common culprit in skin irritation. (By the way, we should say that toner isn’t even a necessary step in your everyday skincare routine.) But if you still enjoy toners, try a gentler alternative like Thayers Rose Petal Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera.

6. Beware even “gentle” products.

Yep, you’ve got to do your research. Even with products labeled “soothing” or “for sensitive skin,” it’s a good idea to check the ingredients. Use our go-to tool,

Those 2s aren’t ideal, but might be alright. However, anything higher than 3 is a no-go!

Anything with a red number under the “Irritant” column is potentially irritating. If it’s just a 1 or 2, you might be able to get away with using it, but that depends on how sensitive your skin is. If you’re feeling the burn and your products have low-level irritants, you might want to look for another product.

Counterintuitive though it may seem (especially if you’re acne-prone or oily), you really want to go easy on your skin. Give the gentler, less-is-more approach a try for a few months, and you should notice your skin looking much happier and healthier.

As always, if you’re using Curology, you can chat one-on-one with your personal skincare expert to get advice for what products to use (or stop using!) for your particular situation.

You are straight fire.

Salicylic Acid for Wart Treatment

Salicylic acid works to remove warts by exfoliating the skin cells until the wart is gone. The acid may also trigger an immune response to build healthy skin cells in the area. With continued daily application, the salicylic acid solution will often remove the wart.

For those with diabetes or other diseases that impair blood flow, seek professional assistance in wart removal.

At-home salicylic acid wart treatment

Most drugstores sell salicylic acid over-the-counter to help remove warts. A common brand name is Compound W. These products usually contain about 17 percent salicylic acid. However, some companies sell 40 percent salicylic acid treatments for foot and plantar warts.

Here are some tips for at-home salicylic acid wart removal:

  • Apply salicylic acid after getting out of the shower or bath. Dry the skin off so it’s still damp and apply. This will help the treatment sink in more effectively.
  • An alternative to application after the shower or bath is to soak the wart in warm water for five minutes.
  • Some people cover a wart with duct tape as a bandage. However, research is inconclusive on whether duct tape is an effective wart removal treatment. You should avoid using duct tape if you have sensitive skin.
  • Use an emery board, pumice stone, or other exfoliating tool to remove dead skin cells from the wart each day before bathing. Never share these exfoliating tools, as you can transmit the virus that causes warts to another person with these.
  • Apply the salicylic acid to the wart daily. Consistent treatment over the course of several weeks is the most effective method. Sometimes the wart will fall off in its entirety.

Salicylic wart treatment with a professional

A doctor may prescribe a stronger concentration of salicylic acid for at-home use. These stronger concentrations are usually applied to thicker areas of skin, such as the soles of the feet.

While the approach to application is the same as with lower concentrations, you may experience greater skin irritation as a result. Review with your doctor symptoms that indicate you should stop using the treatment. These may include intense redness or discomfort.

Salicylic acid side effects Body: While salicylic acid for warts is a generally mild treatment, it can cause some side effects. These include skin irritation, discolored skin, and discomfort at the site of the wart.

How to get rid of warts

Updated: September 10, 2019Published: October, 2011

Ugly and annoying, warts never seem to go away fast enough. Treating them may help speed their departure.

Warts are generally harmless and often disappear on their own over time, but they’re unsightly, and some, like those found on the soles of the feet, can make walking and exercise painful. Wart removal can be a challenge, but fortunately, the most effective treatments are the least invasive.

Wart anatomy

Warts grow only in the epidermis, the upper skin layer. A typical wart has a raised, rough surface. (Some, like those on the face, may be smooth and flat.) The center of a wart may be flecked with dark dots; these are capillaries that supply it with blood.

What are warts anyway?

Warts occur when skin cells grow faster than normal because they are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Among the 150 strains of HPV, about 10 cause cutaneous (skin) warts, including common, plantar, and flat warts (see “Common types of skin warts,” below). Certain other strains cause anal warts and genital warts. Some sexually transmitted types of HPV are implicated in cervical and other genital cancers, but the strains that cause skin warts have rarely been linked to cancer.

All of us come into contact with HPV repeatedly — when we shake hands or touch a doorknob, for example — but only some of us develop warts, and that’s hard to explain. Children and people with immune system abnormalities are particularly vulnerable. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, so are people in certain occupations, such as meat, fish, and poultry handlers. But the most likely explanation is that some people are simply more prone to warts than others.

Skin warts aren’t highly contagious. They can spread from person to person by direct contact, mainly through breaks in the skin. Theoretically, you can also pick up warts from surfaces such as locker room floors or showers, but there’s no way to know how often this occurs. Warts on one part of the body can be spread to other areas, so it’s important to wash your hands and anything that touches your warts, such as nail files or pumice stones.

A wart virus infection is different from a bacterial infection such as strep throat, which can be caught, treated, and eradicated because it progresses in a distinct, reliable pattern. The ways of warts are much less predictable. According to dermatologist Dr. Suzanne Olbricht, “The wart virus resides in the upper layer of the skin, and who knows where or when you picked it up? The virus could have been there for years. Then it makes a wart for reasons we don’t understand. And when the wart goes away, you can still find the virus in the epidermis.”

Common types of skin warts





Raised, rough surface, sometimes with dark specks; light-colored to gray-brown.

Found mostly on the hands, but may appear anywhere. Those under or around the fingernails and toenails can be hard to treat.


Rough, spongy surface kept flat by walking; gray or brown with dark specks.

Found only on the soles of the feet. Clustered plantar warts are called mosaic warts.


Flat or slightly raised; smooth and pink. Smaller than other warts.

Found mostly on the face, hands, and shins. They’re less common than other warts, but when they do appear, it’s often in large numbers.

Treating warts

Studies indicate that about half of warts go away on their own within a year, and two-thirds within two years, so “watchful waiting” is definitely an option for new warts. But some experts recommend immediate treatment to reduce the amount of virus shed into nearby tissue and possibly lower the risk of recurrence. If you prefer not to wait it out, you have several treatment options:

  1. Salicylic acid. This is the main ingredient in aspirin, and it should usually be your first choice. According to one study, salicylic acid is the only topical treatment (treatment applied directly to the skin) that clearly outperforms a placebo. (The study, in the August 2011 issue of the British Journal of Dermatology, combined and reanalyzed data from a number of previous studies.) Salicylic acid costs little, has minimal side effects, and comes in various over-the-counter preparations, including liquids, gels, and patches. Concentrations range from 17% to 40% (stronger concentrations should be used only for warts on thicker skin). To treat a wart, soak it for 10 to 15 minutes (you can do this in the shower or bath), file away the dead warty skin with an emery board or pumice stone, and apply the salicylic acid. Do this once or twice a day for 12 weeks. Warts in thick skin, like the bottom of the foot, may respond best to a patch that stays in place for several days. Continuing treatment for a week or two after the wart goes away may help prevent recurrence.
  2. Freezing. In this treatment, also called cryotherapy, a clinician swabs or sprays liquid nitrogen onto the wart and a small surrounding area. The extreme cold (which may be as low as –321 F) burns the skin, causing pain, redness, and usually a blister. Getting rid of the wart this way usually takes three or four treatments, one every two to three weeks; any more than that probably won’t help. After the skin has healed, apply salicylic acid to encourage more skin to peel off. Some individual trials have found salicylic acid and cryotherapy to be equally effective, with cure rates of 50% to 70%, but there is some evidence that cryotherapy is particularly effective for hand warts.
  3. Duct tape. Although findings have been mixed, anecdotal evidence suggests that this low-risk, low-tech approach may be worth a try. In one study comparing duct tape with cryotherapy, subjects wore duct tape patches over their warts for six days. Then they removed the patches, soaked and filed the warts, left them uncovered overnight, and reapplied the tape in the morning, leaving them in place for another six days. They followed this regimen for two months or until the wart disappeared. In this study, duct tape was about 45% more effective than cryotherapy. Two other studies found no benefit, but those studies used clear duct tape rather than the standard silver type, which is stickier and has a different kind of adhesive. Given this limited evidence, if you plan to try duct tape, it makes sense to use the silver kind. Why duct tape works isn’t clear — it may deprive the wart of oxygen, or perhaps dead skin and viral particles are removed along with the tape. Some people apply salicylic acid before covering the wart with duct tape.
  4. Other agents. Warts that don’t respond to standard therapies may be treated with prescription drugs. The topical immunotherapy drug imiquimod (Aldara), a standard therapy for genital warts, can also be used to treat skin warts. Imiquimod is thought to work by causing an allergic response and irritation at the site of the wart. In an approach called intralesional immunotherapy, the wart is injected with a skin-test antigen (such as for mumps or Candida) in people who have demonstrated an immune response to the antigen. Other agents that may be used to treat recalcitrant warts are the chemotherapy drugs fluorouracil (5-FU), applied as a cream, and bleomycin, which is injected into the wart. All these treatments have side effects, and the evidence for their effectiveness is limited.
  5. Zapping and cutting. The technical name for this treatment is electrodesiccation (or cautery) and curettage. Using local anesthesia, the clinician dries the wart with an electric needle and scrapes it away with a scoop-like instrument called a curette. This usually causes scarring (so does removing the wart with a scalpel, another option). It’s usually reserved for warts that don’t respond to other treatments and should generally be avoided on the soles of the feet.

When to see your clinician

Some skin cancers resemble warts at first. If you have a wart that doesn’t change much in size, color, or shape, you probably don’t need to see a clinician. But if you’re in your 50s and develop new warts, consult a dermatologist. Be suspicious of any wart that bleeds or grows quickly.

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Over-the-counter salicylic acid is a commonly used medication to treat your warts. The salicylic acid is slowly and painlessly absorbed into the skin causing peeling of the skin cells that contain the wart virus. This is a very good way of getting rid of warts, but it should never be used to treat warts on the face, neck and genitals. Even if another treatment is being used (for example in office freezing or beetle juice), using salicylic acid at home speeds destruction of the wart by thinning it and any callus that has formed on or around it.

Salicylic acid preparations can be found in most drugstores and some supermarkets. There are typically two kinds of products: adhesive pads that are treated with salicylic acid or bottles of concentrated salicylic acid.

Products available typically include:

*Any store brand product with the recommended percent salicylic acid will work

Salicylic Acid Wart Treatment

  1. Thin down the wart with a pumice stone or nail file. File the area until all the white, dead skin is removed without causing discomfort or pain. Make sure not to share pumice stones or nail files because the wart virus can be transmitted on these. Sometimes soaking the wart in warm water helps to soften the wart. You may soak the wart for 5-10 minutes before filing it down.

  2. Apply the solution or pad(s) to the wart(s). You may cut pads to size if necessary.

  3. Cover with a Band-aid or duct tape. If the wart is on a less workable area, such as the finger, smaller electrical tape may work better since it stretches.

  4. Repeat process every night before bed until your next appointment.


Stop sooner if the wart falls off, swelling/drainage develops at the site, or the area becomes too irritated or painful. Please call the dermatology clinic if these symptoms persist.

This wart treatment should be well tolerated and easy to use at home. Some mild discomfort, burning, skin redness and peeling is expected while using the wart treatment. This means that the wart is going away.

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