You can’t damage yourself with these treatments. If you get salicylic acid on normal skin, it can cause burning or redness but never infection or scarring. All you have to do is stop using it on irritated areas, and the skin returns to normal. Still, it’s probably better not to use salicylic acid on sensitive areas like the face or groin, where it’s likely to make nearby skin raw and uncomfortable.
It generally is recommended that salicylic acid not be used in people with diabetes or in areas where there is poor circulation (because of concern about how normally the skin can heal; however, in practice, salicylic acid is withheld only when there are clear signs of ongoing inflammation of the skin).
Likewise, nonprescription freezing products are also safe but must be used carefully and only according to package instructions.
Are wart treatments effective?
Above all, wart treatments require patience. How well wart treatment work is another matter. Warts can appear and disappear without an identifiable cause and may disappear on their own without treatment. Some warts sprout offshoots near the main wart, and others don’t. Some hurt, and others are painless. Certain warts, even of the same type, respond to treatment, while others (even on the same person at the same time) don’t. All treatment methods often require many sessions over weeks, months, or longer to succeed.
Here is a practical approach to the treatment of warts:
Plantar warts: Warts on the bottom of the foot feel deep, but they are still within the superficial layer of the skin. Salicylic-acid drops and plasters help remove the thick overlying callus and make the wart feel less like a marble in your shoe. Nonprescription aerosol freezing may be used as well.
Common hand warts: These are typically unattractive, although not painful. Salicylic acid can make them smaller and go away in some cases, as can nonprescription freezing.
1. If you can ignore your mole wart, do so. Eventually, they’ll go away (although eventually can mean a long time — even months or years).
2. If you have an easy case (a single wart on the face or one or a few on the hands), see a doctor for a quick freeze or electrical zap. This method is simple, almost painless, and non-scarring.
3. If you have a hard case, you can start by treating the warts for a few weeks on your own. Examples:
If you have an all-but-impossible case, don’t try too hard. You don’t want to make the treatment worse than the disease. Examples:
Warts under the nails: These are extremely resistant to treatment. One or two tries by the doctor are worth a shot, but if they fail, putting acid on them yourself just makes them look rough and unattractive.
“Mosaic” warts: Tiny, so-called “seed warts” can proliferate by the dozens or hundreds all over the sole of the foot. They don’t usually hurt, and they rarely respond to any sort of treatment, although in this case, too, one or two tries at treatment may be in order.
Flat warts: These are small, flat, flesh-colored pimples and may be numerous on one part of the body (for example on the face, arms, or groin). Getting rid of them by a light application of salicylic acid or other method is easy enough, but they have a tendency to recur.