Calluses are caused by repeated pressure on a spot of your skin. Extra layers of skin grow over the affected area until a harder, raised bump appears. Your body does this to protect your skin from being exposed to irritants or broken. Calluses don’t usually hurt and are most often found on your heels, palms, toes, and knees. Wearing tight-fitting shoes, walking barefoot, playing instruments, and working with your hands are common causes of calluses.
Calluses don’t indicate a medical problem and they aren’t a reason to seek emergency care. If you’d like to get rid of your calluses because you don’t like how they look, there are some natural remedies you can try at home.
Treatments and remedies for calluses
Before you try anything else, you might want to treat the callused area to a 20-minute soak in warm water. After towel-drying your skin, see if you can gently rub a layer of the callus away with just your finger. Over the course of several soaking sessions, you may be able to completely remove the callus one layer at a time. A simple warm-water soak is the first remedy recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Non-medicated callus pads
Callus pads, consisting of felt, silicone, and a gentle adhesive, can be applied to the affected area and worn underneath socks, shoes, gloves, or shirts. These pads will keep your callus from being irritated while it heals. The Mayo Clinic advises that you avoid medicated callus pads, which contain salicylic acid — an ingredient that can irritate and break through your skin.
Apple cider vinegar
The acid content in apple cider vinegar can soften the hard skin of a callus. Mix together a solution of four parts water and one part apple cider vinegar and soak your callus for about 20 minutes. When you remove your skin from this soak, you may be able to better peel a layer or two of the callus off. Don’t pull too hard, and try to be patient. Breaking the skin around or on top of the callus can result in an infection.
Castor oil has properties that make it a natural skin lubricant. This can be helpful when you’re trying to condition your skin to rub a callus off. Soaking your callus in a warm water mixture with 5 tablespoons of castor oil should be enough to both lubricate the tough skin and soothe the affected area.
A pumice stone can be especially handy when you have a callus on the bottom of your feet or on your elbows, where it’s hard to see. After soaking your callus thoroughly, apply the pressure of the pumice stone to your callus and rub in a circular motion. Don’t try to get the whole callus off at once. The idea is to rub the skin away over the course of a few applications of this remedy.
Epsom salt is regarded as an exfoliator. This treatment is especially helpful if you’re trying to relax after working with your hands and get rid of a callus at the same time. The fine grains of the salt dissolve to relax your muscles and soothe your skin. Mixing 2 to 3 tablespoons in a basin or bowl of warm water before soaking your callus may make it easier to peel off.
Using a fine grade of sandpaper very gently can also work to get rid of calluses. Pair this remedy with one of the other soaking solution remedies on this list for best results. It’s best to soak your callus first before trying sandpaper.
Gently apply pressure to the callus and see if you can rub off a layer of the callus or if it’s able to completely detach from your skin. If the callus is resistant to coming off, repeat the soaking or try another time. Never vigorously rub your skin with sandpaper.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an antibacterial, antifungal, and natural antiseptic. Place a few drops of tea tree oil in a basin full of warm water, and soak your callus until you feel the skin begin to soften and lift. Don’t soak in this remedy for more than 15 minutes, as the tea tree oil is very strong and can damage your skin layer if you’re exposed to it for too long.
Baking soda and lemon juice
This remedy involves combining an acid component (lemon juice) and a chemical component (sodium hydrogen carbonate, also known as baking soda) to spark a reaction that makes calluses easier to remove. You’ll need warm water, a basin, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to start with. After a few minutes of soaking your callus in this solution, add in the baking soda. The fine grains of the baking soda and the fizzy action of adding it to the lemon juice might give this soak some extra callus-dissolving power.
When to see your doctor
Calluses aren’t usually cause for alarm. Don’t ever use a razor or sharp utensil to try to cut them off your skin. This can break your skin and cause the area to become infected, especially if it’s still being compressed or irritated by the initial cause of the callus. If the callus begins weeping pus, changing colors, or bleeding profusely, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor may refer you to a podiatrist, monitor the infection, or lance or cauterize the infected area.
If you have a medical condition that affects your circulation and you develop calluses on your feet, you need to be especially mindful of treating them gently. Finding the underlying cause of your calluses is important to avoiding foot problems that sometimes come with diabetes and cardiovascular health concerns.
Outlook and prevention
After you’ve taken care of your calluses, you may want to take steps to keep them from recurring. Wearing work gloves or knee pads might keep you from developing calluses from working with your hands or on your knees. Moisturizing your hands frequently can keep your skin soft and less prone to cracking and irritation.
Avoid walking barefoot, and make sure your shoes are well-fitted with room for your skin to breathe. Trim your toenails straight across and keep them short to prevent foot irritation. Wearing cushioned socks and slippers around the house is another way to keep the bottoms of your feet smooth and free from calluses.