Salicylic Acid Wart Removal Tips

Dermatologist understood the various uses of Salicylic acid long back and it has been in use for more than 2000 years. Its ability to treat skin disorders are now well understood and due to its keratolytic & comedolytic actions, it has become the first choice of various physicians to treat acne and warts.

[thrive_text_block color=”blue”]Salicylic acid helps to remove warts by working as an exfoliating agent that keratolysis the outer layer of skin cells and remove the wart. It should be applied topically to the wart and should never be ingested or used over genital warts. It may cause a mild burning or skin discomfort.[/thrive_text_block]

In this article, we will discuss how salicylic acid works, its benefits, side effects, and precautions one should take while using it.


How does salicylic acid remove warts

Salicylic acid is termed as an exfoliating, keratolytic & comedolytic agent.

It is known to soften the skin tissues, which leads to desquamation cornified epithelium. It acts as a desmolytic agent causing disruption of cellular junction instead of breaking down the intercellular keratin filament. [01]

It has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, that is why it is used extensively in various anti-acne, exfoliating products as well as in various toothpaste.

It is a beta hydroxy acid, which makes it more oil soluble. As an oil-soluble compound, it can able to penetrate the skin pores more efficiently. Once it enters the skin, it disrupts the junction between skin cells. This action of SA is known as a desmolytic action which causes sloughing & softening of cells within the top layer of skin. [02] [03]

How to use Salicylic acid to remove warts?

Concentrated salicylic acid should not be directly applied to the skin. It will cause burning.

Instead, FDA has suggested using 5 to 17% salicylic acid in collodion like vehicle to remove warts. There are various over-the-counter products that are considered as generally safe to use and uses salicylic acid as an active ingredient. [04]

[thrive_text_block color=”orange”]Salicylic Acid Wart Treatment

  1. Soak wart in lukewarm water for 10 minutes, so it becomes soft.
  2. Now clean the water and rub it with pumice stone so the top layer of wart skin goes away.
  3. Gently apply the salicylic acid containing solution on the top of the wart. (Use small brush or this specially designed speculum to apply)
  4. Do not let this solution spread to the skin surrounding the wart.
  5. Cover it with a non-medicated bandage or small part of duct tape.
  6. Do it every night and remove the tape and bandage in the morning or if you feel severe burning.
  7. Repeat this procedure until wart starts to fade away and stop once you see normal looking skin formation at the place of a wart.
  8. Also, stop this treatment if you feel severe burning or discomfort after applying wart solution and see the doctor. [/thrive_text_block]

SA products available to use:

SA containing products are available in various concentration and often sold as over-the-counter topical medications.

  1. Topical liquids with 17% salicylic acid ( Compound W & Wartrol)
  2. Medicated Discs & liquid with 40% salicylic acid ( Dr. Scholl’s )
  3. Medicated pads with 40% salicylic acid for corns removal

Risks & side effects

Though salicylic acid does wonder removing cutaneous warts, it should not be used on genital warts as it may lead to burning and discomfort. The skin surrounding the genital area is sensitive than other areas of the body and you may end up damaging the skin, irritation, infection or even scarring.

Mild discomfort is expected after use of salicylic acid. But, stop using SA containing wart solutions on other parts of the body if you experience the swelling, drainage, pain, severe burning or irritation etc.

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[01] Arif T. “Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2015;8:455-461. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S84765
[02] National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=338, (accessed Oct. 1, 2018).
[03] Renee Jacques. “Here’s Exactly What Salicylic Acid Does to Your Skin” Ref:
[04] Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21, Volume 5. Revised as of April 1, 2018. Ref: 21CFR358.110