Warts: self-care

by | Dermatology, Pharmacy Care

General Information

Warts are benign growths of skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV virus is transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact.

There are many types of warts and this topic deals with ‘common’ viral warts, which mostly occur on the back of the hands and fingers (less commonly on the elbows and knees). Warts are usually painless and may occur singly or in crops. Most have a cauliflower-like appearance and tiny black dots are usually present within the wart.

Warts are more common in children, with most occurring in adolescents aged 12 to 16 years. Most common warts are self-limiting and disappear by themselves within 2 years. However, most people will seek treatment for cosmetic reasons.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if the person with the wart is aged over 50 years
  • if the warts are located in other parts of the body as well as the hands (e.g. feet, face, genital region)
  • if there are multiple or widespread warts
  • if you are unsure if it is a wart or some other skin condition
  • if there is any itching or bleeding associated with the wart
  • if the wart has a reddish colour or has changed colour
  • if the wart looks smooth or has a central dimple
  • if the wart has grown recently
  • if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; some treatments may not be suitable
  • if you are diabetic
  • if you have any ongoing medical conditions or take medicines

Treatment Tips

  • do not pick, bite or scratch warts since this may encourage spread to other parts of the body
  • most warts will clear up within two years without treatment
  • when using topical products, protect surrounding skin by cutting a hole in a plaster and placing it over the wart, leaving the wart exposed. Alternatively, apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to the surrounding skin
  • be patient when using products, since most warts take up to 12 weeks to treat
  • if treatment is unsuccessful you can ask the pharmacist to recommend an alternative product or visit your GP for liquid nitrogen therapy, which freezes the warts

Treatment Options

Salicylic acid


e.g. Wart-Off Stick, Scholl Wart Removal System (medicated discs contain salicylic acid)

e.g.  Duofilm Gel, Duofilm Liquid (also contains lactic acid)

  • soak the affected area in warm water, and towel dry before applying product
  • you can rub the surface with pumice stone or emery board to remove any hard skin
  • daily treatment is necessary

Podophyllum + salicylic acid


e.g. Wart-Off Paint (also contains lactic acid)

e.g. podophyllum resin and salicylic acid

  • not for use during pregnancy or by people with diabetes
  • protect the skin surrounding the wart with clear nail polish
  • cover the area with a waterproof dressing after application

Wart freezing products

e.g. dimethyl ether and propane (Wartner Wart Remover, Wartner Plantar Wart Remover, Scholl Freeze Verruca & Wart Remover)

  • a one-off application of 20 seconds is recommended, and may be repeated after 15 days
  • there is no evidence to suggest this treatment is any more beneficial than other wart treatments, but it may be more convenient.
  • treat numerous warts on the same area separately, not all at once

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.

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