Salicylic acid for calluses and corns

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Salicylic acid for calluses and corns


Generic NameBrand Name
salicylic acidDuofilm, Carnation Callous Caps or Corn Caps, Dr. Scholl's Callus/Corn Remover

Mild salicylic acid preparations are available as non-prescription liquids, gels, and plaster patches for home treatment of calluses and corns. Liquids and gels usually contain 6% to 17% salicylic acid, and plasters contain 40% salicylic acid.

How It Works

Salicylic acid softens the dead skin so that a callus or corn can be rubbed off.

Why It Is Used

Salicylic acid is used to treat calluses and corns. Non-prescription preparations are inexpensive and cause minimal or no pain.

Salicylic acid should not be used if:1

  • You are not certain that the skin condition is a callus or corn.
  • You have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, peripheral neuropathy, or other conditions that cause circulatory problems or numbness. If you have any of these conditions, talk with your doctor before you start any treatment.
  • Your callus or corn is cracked.

How Well It Works

Using non-prescription salicylic acid is effective but is also a relatively slow process.

Side Effects

Salicylic acid can irritate or damage healthy skin surrounding the callus or corn. As a preventive measure, cover the surrounding skin with a doughnut-shaped pad or bandage when applying salicylic acid. If you experience discomfort with salicylic acid treatment, try applying it less often.

In rare cases, salicylic acid treatment causes scarring.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

  • Some doctors advise against using salicylic acid, because it can damage surrounding skin. If you use salicylic acid, be sure to apply it only to the callus or corn and not to surrounding skin.
  • How to apply and how often to use salicylic acid products varies with the product. Always read the manufacturer's instructions.
  • If treatment causes the area to become too tender, stop using the medicine for 2 to 3 days.
  • If your callus or corn is painful and does not improve after 2 weeks, talk with your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Freeman DB (2002). Corns and calluses resulting from mechanical hyperkeratosis. American Family Physician, 65(11): 2277–2280.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised January 28, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.