Patient Portal

Request Medical Records

Do Over-the-Counter Wart Treatments Really Work?

While most common warts don’t pose any serious health risk, they can certainly be a pain to deal with, both physically and emotionally. Fortunately, warts typically go away on their own. However, it can take weeks, months, and even years for a typical wart to disappear without treatment. So, if you’re looking to get rid of your warts quickly, what can you do?

There are many ways to treat your warts, and some methods may be more or less effective depending on a number of factors. The fastest and cheapest option is to visit your local drugstore or pharmacy and pick up some over-the-counter wart treatments. But what do these treatments do, exactly? And how effective are they at getting rid of warts?

As you might have guessed, it depends. Let’s examine how these over-the-counter wart treatments work and look at other wart removal options as well so you can properly take care of those lousy lumps.

What Kind of Wart Is It?

The first thing to note about over-the-counter wart treatments is that they’re specifically designed to get rid of certain types of warts, namely common, plantar, and flat warts on the hands and feet. In most cases, these treatments should not be used on filiform (underneath nails) and periungual (around mouth) warts, unless your dermatologist gives the go-ahead. Genital warts require prescription-strength treatments and tend to suggest a deeper health problem. That said, some over-the-counter methods and home remedies can provide relief from genital warts.

Over-the-Counter Wart Treatment Options

The two main over-the-counter wart treatment methods are peeling via salicylic acid and freezing via liquid nitrogen.

The former method comes in various forms, such as ointments, liquids, pads, and patches, typically containing a 17% salicylic acid solution. To achieve the best results, you should use these products each day over the course of two to three weeks. It’s advised that you soak the wart in very warm water prior to treatment.

As the days go by, gently remove the dead skin with a pumice stone or similar object. This will help the root of wart detach from your body. Broadly speaking, these over-the-counter wart treatments have a 50% success rate over a 6-week time period. Multiple treatments may increase the odds of getting rid of your warts this way.

The second option, freezing, can be very effective, especially on smaller warts. These over-the-counter treatments come with a small spray bottle filled with liquid nitrogen. By directly spraying the wart with this substance, you freeze the tissue, killing the wart. After a few days to a week, it should disappear.

When Over-the-Counter Is Underwhelming

Over-the-counter wart treatments have a decent track record, but they don’t always get the job done. If these methods aren’t working on your warts, you might need a stronger approach. Dermatologists are trained to get rid of various types of warts with relative ease. Indeed, many of the methods they employ are simply more potent versions of treatments you can find at the drugstore. These options include:

  • Cryotherapy (freezing): After scraping away dead skin cells over the wart, the dermatologist or doctor uses a cryostat gun or other device to blast the wart with liquid nitrogen for about 10-20 seconds at a time. Multiple treatments may be required.
  • Salicylic Acid (prescription strength): A more potent solution (and greater amount) of salicylic acid is applied to the wart on a daily basis for several weeks until the wart goes away.
  • Surgical Removal: Particularly stubborn warts can be removed surgically, typically with the aid of a laser or excision methods (cutting).
  • Immunotherapy: Certain drugs can stimulate the immune system to fight off the underlying virus that causes warts. These may be applied topically (diphencyprone) or injected (interferon).

Steering Clear of Warts in the First Place

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get rid of warts. Ultimately, however, the best way to free yourself from warts is to prevent them in the first place. This isn’t always possible since warts are contagious and quite common. Still, you can lower your chances of contracting warts by avoiding direct contact with those who currently have warts, wearing foot protection in public pools, locker rooms, and gyms, and stopping yourself from picking at an existing wart, as this can spread the virus further and give you even more.

So, do over-the-counter wart treatments really work? They certainly can, but results may vary on a case by case basis. Because these treatments are so readily available, it’s worth trying them out. If your warts persist, see your dermatologist for further advice and options.

Remember, you’re still you, warts and all. But if you’d rather leave your warts behind, Premier Dermatology Partners can give you even more advice on how to remove warts and prevent them. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

Was this helpful?

We would love to meet you and get started on a solution!