Calluses are small areas on your body where the skin has become raised and hard from repeated friction and rubbing. Calluses feel thick and rubbery to the touch. The skin under and around a callus might feel sensitive to pressure.
Though they aren’t a danger to your health, calluses can be a source of irritation if you don’t like how they look or if they’re painful. They most often develop on your fingers, toes, the palms of your hands, and the soles of your feet.
If you have calluses on your hands, you might wish to remove them or prevent new ones from forming. Let’s cover the causes, prevention strategies, and management tips for calluses on your hands.
Is it a callus or a corn?
Calluses and corns are similar skin conditions that are often mistaken for each other. Both conditions feature hard, flaky, raised areas of skin, and both are caused by repetitive friction or pressing against the skin.
Calluses often occur on your:
They can be a variety of shapes and sizes, and they rarely cause pain.
Corns tend to be circular, with a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. Though they’re usually smaller than calluses, they can be painful when you press down on them. Corns are typically found on your feet, and they aren’t often found on your hands.
All calluses are caused by repetitive movements that produce friction on your skin. Over time, the dead skin cells build up and harden over your new ones as a defense mechanism to protect the skin underneath the callus.
These are some common reasons for calluses to form on your hands and fingers:
A writer’s callus, also called a writer’s bump, appears between two of your fingers in the space where you typically grip a pen or pencil. This usually happens between your middle and ring finger.
Calluses that happen from gripping and lifting weights without gloves are sometimes called gym hands. These calluses are typically found on the ridge of skin on your palms right underneath your fingers, where the friction from repeatedly gripping a weight would occur.
Physical labor can often result in calluses forming in different spots on your hands. The grip of your palm as well as the lower pads of your fingers can get calluses from woodworking, swinging a hammer, lifting boxes, and other forms of labor-intensive work.
Playing a guitar
Guitar calluses are often found on the top pads of your fingers if you practice often. In fact, your calluses can actually contribute to playing the guitar successfully.
Does anything cause calluses on hands for no reason?
Calluses don’t appear for no reason, but some people may be more prone to developing them than others.
If it seems like you’ve developed calluses on your hands out of nowhere, think back to what you use your hands for the most and if there’s been any change in your activity. Chances are there’s a reason for the callus to have appeared when it did, and a change in your routine is most likely the culprit.
Painting walls, gripping a steering wheel, playing baseball or cricket, gardening, and even resting your hands on your keyboard in a certain position can all lead to calluses.
Most calluses aren’t permanent and can be treated at home. Once you stop doing the activity that leads to the callus forming, it’ll likely go away in a couple of months.
In some cases, workers’ calluses and guitar-playing calluses go deep into the layers of your skin and may never fully go away.
Keep in mind that for as long as you’re regularly engaging in the activity that created the callus, it’s unlikely that any treatment will make it go away completely.
One option is to soak your calluses regularly in Epsom salt. This cheap and easy-to-find ingredient releases magnesium sulfate into the water when it’s dissolved.
A warm soak with magnesium sulfate may dissolve dead skin cells more quickly than they would otherwise.
A pumice stone may be used to exfoliate the area of your callus, encouraging cell turnover. Pumice is a gentle exfoliator that promotes circulation while removing dead cells.
Use a pumice stone on calluses on your hands when the skin is slightly wet and move the stone in a circular motion for the best results.
An exfoliating cream can also work to slough off dead skin cells and slowly remove a callus. Try not to be too aggressive with exfoliating cream, though, and look for natural ingredients (such as finely milled black walnut or apricot pits) that’ll be gentle on your skin.
Baking soda paste
Similar to Epsom salt, a baking soda paste can be used to exfoliate your skin while encouraging new cell turnover.
Mix together equal parts baking soda and water and apply the paste to your callus. You may feel toughened skin begin to soften. Make sure to wash the paste off completely after application and moisturize your skin afterward.
Skin softening cream may prevent and treat calluses. Using it on your calluses every morning and each night will help seal in moisture and encourage healthy cell turnover, slowly getting rid of the callus.
Wart, corn, and callus treatments available over-the-counter often contain salicylic acid as the active ingredient. This acid can work to “dissolve” skin cells that are hard and tough.
Products containing urea are also commonly used and available over the counter. So is ammonium lactate, which is commonly available under the brand name Amlactin over the counter.
If your calluses irritate you, you can take some steps to prevent them from forming, such as:
- using finger guards for writing calluses
- wearing gym gloves for weight-lifting calluses
- wearing work gloves for calluses caused by physical labor and gardening
- using batting gloves for calluses caused by baseball, lacrosse, or cricket
- moisturizing your hands often
Calluses on your hands can be caused by a variety of activities, and they’re usually not painful or permanent.
Using home remedies to soften your skin, exfoliate the area, and moisturize your hands will typically work to remove the callus a little bit at a time.
If you have painful or irritating calluses that don’t go away after home treatment, you may want to speak with a dermatologist about other treatment options.