A callus is a hard, rough area of skin that usually appears on the foot, hand, or knee. Calluses typically develop because of excessive rubbing or pressure, which might be caused by wearing tight or uncomfortable shoes, performing physical labor, using hand tools, or playing musical instruments. In many cases, the most effective callus treatment is simply avoiding the cause by wearing gloves or better fitting shoes. People can also soak their calluses in warm water, apply lotion regularly, and use pumice stones to trim away hardened skin. A very large or painful callus may require medical attention.
Most calluses are small, painless, and require no special treatment, though they can be annoying when they are on fingertips or sensitive spots on the feet. The best callus treatment and preventative measures can be determined by identifying the cause. An individual may simply need to buy more comfortable shoes or wear two socks on each foot to prevent rubbing and provide extra cushioning. If a person gets calluses when working with hand tools, he or she should wear gloves. When existing calluses are protected from further wear, they often begin to heal within a few weeks.
A person can soften a callus and shorten healing time by applying moisturizing lotion and soaking in warm, soapy water. Frequent baths can also help to prevent infection and make removing dead skin easier. A softened callus can be thinned by rubbing it with the fingers or a soapy washcloth regularly. Pumice stones and nail files can also be used to scrape away the outer layers of calluses.
Many commercial callus treatment devices are available that use small metal blades to cut away rough skin. While these devices can be effective, it is possible that they can cut too deep or into nearby healthy skin, presenting the possibility of irritation or infection. Doctors generally advise against the use of such callus treatment products.
A callus that does not soften and heal, or one that is accompanied by local pain, should be assessed by a licensed podiatrist or dermatologist. A doctor can thoroughly examine a callus to make sure that underlying conditions like warts or skin cancer are not causing the rough patch. Once other causes have been ruled out, a specialist can determine the best callus treatment. He or she may suggest cushioning shoe inserts to promote faster healing or reduce the risk of developing more severe calluses on the feet. Small pads that contain salicylic acid might also be prescribed to help replenish healthy skin and promote faster healing.