A well-known treatment modality for HPV warts

Commonly, a first-line agent chosen by patients due to convenience and low cost

Salicylic acid is one of the treatment options available for the management of HPV warts.  It does not treat an HPV infection, rather it may remove HPV warts that may have developed due to an HPV infection.  Salicylic acid is available OTC and tends to provide mixed results.  Despite its mixed effectiveness, salicylic acid is often a first-line therapy because of convenience and low cost (3). It is available as a solution, gel and discs soaked in solution in concentrations from 10% to 60%, some preparations may additionally contain lactic acid, which is a substance with similar functions to that of salicylic acid.

Salicylic acid should not be used for for HPV warts on the genitals or the mucosa, because of severe irritation and scarring.  When first applied to the skin, you may feel slight itching or burning for a few minutes.  These symptoms will go away.  If they do not, attempt to remove the acid, rinse the area with tap water and call your healthcare provider.



Variable effectiveness as compared to placebo.  Cure rates vary from 0 to 80% (1). The most commonly reported cure rate is 75% (3).

Interestingly, one study reported a placebo cure rate of 48% (3).



Plantar or periungual warts



Facial or anogenital warts

Open wounds or insect bites


Directions of use

Soak the wart in water for 5 minutes.  Pat dry with a paper towel and proceed to apply the gel, solution or disc on the skin wart.  Soaking the wart in water, enhances deeper penetration of the acid into the wart.

Gel and solution: apply on a wart, 2-3 times daily for a maximum of 12 weeks (2).

Discs: apply to the wart for 48 hours. Maximum duration of treatment: 12 weeks.


Other treatment options

  • Podophyllin resin
  • Podophyllotoxin
  • Trichloroacetic acid
  • Bichloroacetic acid
  • Cryotherapy
  • Laser
  • Surgical removal

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