When we have skin growths or conditions, we tend to want to cover them up or get rid of them. This includes any skin conditions like warts, acne, birthmarks and so on.
Just last week, we also had a patient sharing with us how she always tried to cover up the wart on her face with her hair. You can read more about this story and Dr Peter’s reply here: Patient Mailbox: Warts on My Face I Always Try to Cover.
However, just like how we shouldn’t squeeze our acne and try to get rid of them on our own, it is very dangerous and risky to try and D-I-Y our way into getting rid of any warts on the skin of our body or face.
Why we have warts
Warts can be seborrhoeic warts, which are benign skin growths due to genetics and aging. These warts are usually skin coloured and develop as skin growths anywhere on our body.
Warts can also be a result of viral infection. If it is a viral wart, it can be infectious due to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
In this case, a person may get infected by the virus through touching, including skin to skin contact or by simply touching an object that has been previously touched by someone who has HPV. An example of this is plantar warts.
Sometimes warts can be mistaken for skin cancer as well, but most of the time we can differentiate them clinically. Through an examination using a dermatoscope to examine the lesion, any skin warts that are being suspected for skin cancer should be followed with an immediate skin biopsy to check and act on any potential risk.
However, no matter what type of wart you have, it is not advisable to try and remove them from your skin on your own.
Why You Shouldn’t Remove Warts On Your Own
1. There are different removal methods for different warts
These are based on the types of warts and the position they are at, even the medical treatments may differe because of this.
For example, cryotherapy, a treatment to remove warts through freezing them off using liquid nitrogen, is frequently used to treat plantar warts. These are the warts that are found on the bottom of your feet.
This is because cryotherapy can penetrate deep into the skin without causing any scarring at the sole of our feet because the skin there is very thick.
However, cryotherapy wouldn’t be suitable for treating warts on our face, because the skin on our face is thinner and cryotherapy may cause scarring or even post-inflammatory hypopigmentation. In this case, a laser treatment would be a better choice for a precise and accurate aim in getting rid of the warts.
So if we try to remove these warts on our own without any medical treatments, we’d be taking a risk of using a wrong method and end up making our skin conditions worse.
2. You may hurt yourself
Even with medical treatments, doctors need to accurately determine how deep to penetrate the skin to precisely get rid of the wart without causing any complications to the surrounding skin.
By cutting off the wart by ourselves, we risk cutting too deeply or not doing it precisely, and end up hurting our skin even more. This can also lead to severe scarring.
Cutting of a wart on our own also only removes the visible top part of the wart, and this doesn’t solve the problem inside our skin. So there’s always the chance of the wart regrowing over some time.
Treatments like laser wart removal aim to remove the wart and also make sure the wart beneath the skin is completely gone, something we are not able to do on our own.
3. Further Infection may occur
Especially for viral warts, which are caused by viral infection, further infection may occur when we attempt to remove warts on our own.
When we attempt to cut off a wart, we leave an open wound. This opens it up to external bacterial infection. The tools we use may also not be sterilised like the ones at a medical clinic, further increasing the risk of infection.
If we use acid to pick on this warts, it is difficult to control how much or how accurate when picking the warts. If we use a strong acid, the damage on our skin will be much deeper and wider than the actual wart itself.
Furthermore, if we dot acid on a cancerous cell (which is a possibility for warts), the cells will indeed disappear, but they will almost certainly return and possibly spread to other parts of our skin.
4. You can’t treat what’s beneath the skin
Regardless of whether we cut off the wart or if we use acid and other chemicals to make the wart fall off, we would only be getting rid of the wart on the surface of our skin.
However, the formation of warts go beneath the skin, and we need medical treatments and technology to penetrate into the skin to completely get rid of the wart, and also to prevent it from returning.
If we get rid of the wart only on the skin surface, there’s a high chance that the wart will return, because the cell that has been infected (for viral warts) beneath the skin is still present.
5. There are medical treatments to remove warts easily
No matter what type of wart you have, you can always visit a dermatologist to have your wart removed properly.
There are several different types of treatments available, including Co2 Laser treatment that uses laser light to destroy the skin cells causing the warts accurately. This is a suitable treatment for warts on face as it can target the warts precisely without causing damage to surrounding skin.
Electrocautery treatment uses heat from current to treat warts, and is one of the treatments where the warts are less likely to re-appear after the treatment, commonly used for genital warts.
And cryotherapy freezes wart cells off using liquid nitrogen, best used for plantar warts on the feet.
To read more on these treatments, check out Dr Peter’s explanation here: Patient Mailbox: Warts on My Face I Always Try to Cover.
There are obvious downsides to trying to remove warts on our own, and to have medical treatments is always the safer option. And when it comes to our skin and health, safe is always better than sorry.
We’ll be going back to the Patient Mailbox series next week with Dr Loo, so stay tuned!
As an esteemed dermatologist and skin specialist, Dr Peter is a renowned doctor in treating various skin conditions. He also prides himself in being able to treat acne patients of all types, with a 100% acne treatment success record. If you’d like to ask more about your skin condition or have a discussion with Dr Peter, call us at +6011-22882299, WhatsApp us here, or book an appointment with Dr Peter here!
Dr Peter Ch’ng is a Consultant Dermatologist actively involved in numerous talks and workshops, and is an esteemed contributor to dermatology research and publishing internationally. He practices at both Dr Peter Ch’ng Skin Specialist Clinic in Desa Park City and Gleneagles Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
Read more about Dr Peter Ch’ng Here.