Mild salicylic acid preparations are available as nonprescription
paints, creams, or plaster patches for home treatment.
How It Works
Softens the skin layers that form a wart so
that the wart can be rubbed off with a pumice stone or
Repeatedly irritates a wart, which is thought to trigger an
immune system response. A heightened immune response
human papillomavirus that causes wart growth.
Salicylic acid may work even better if you remove the dead skin from the top of the wart. Soak the wart with water to soften it. Then use a pumice stone, nail file, or stiff brush to rub off the top layer of skin. (Don't use the stone, file, or brush for anything else.) When you put on the medicine, it will penetrate deeper into the wart tissue.
Why It Is Used
Salicylic acid is the home treatment most often used for
It is an inexpensive and safe home
It causes minimal or no pain.
It may only be
effective when used regularly over a period of time.
Salicylic acid should not be used:
If you are not certain that a skin growth is
On moles, birthmarks, unusual warts with hair growing
from them, warts on the
mucous membranes, or open wounds.
How Well It Works
Nonprescription salicylic acid is as effective as or more effective
than other treatments, with minimal risk and pain.1
A recent review of research suggests that
salicylic acid is a safe treatment that effectively eliminates warts up to 75%
of the time. By comparison,
placebo or no treatment produced an approximate
clearance rate of 50%.2
currently no proof that cryotherapy is any more effective than salicylic
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Quit using this medicine and call your doctor if you have:
Severe skin irritation.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Dry, peeling, red, or scaling skin.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Avoid getting salicylic acid on the skin around your wart. Salicylic acid should touch only the wart.
treatment causes the area to become too tender, stop using the medicine for 2
to 3 days.
If your warts do not go away after 2 to 3 months of treatment
with salicylic acid, or if they come back, consider a stronger preparation, another
type of treatment, or no treatment.
contains living wart virus, so dispose of the dead skin carefully. The pumice stone, brush, or file will also have living wart virus on it. Don't use these items for any other purpose, or you may spread the virus.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Gibbs S, Harvey I (2006). Topical treatments for
cutaneous warts. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Loo SK, Tang WY (2009). Warts (non-genital), search
date June 2008. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.