Corns are hard bumps that develop on the skin, usually on the feet, in response to pressure and friction. Simple bathing and scraping may help soften corns and remove the excess layers of skin. In many cases, trying simple tips to prevent corns may be the best remedy.

Friction from shoes causes the skin in the area to harden over time. The skin hardens to protect the delicate tissues underneath. People who wear poorly fitting shoes may develop corns more frequently.

Corns are similar to calluses, but calluses generally do not cause pain or tenderness. Corns do not pose any risk, though they may be very uncomfortable and cause irritation.

Luckily, there are many simple, natural ways to treat corns. Medicated moisturizers may also help soften the skin to reduce the corn. If the corn is especially bothersome or painful, a person may wish to see a podiatrist for removal.

In the sections below, we list some methods a person can try to get rid of corns at home.

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Changing from a particular pair of shoes may help treat corns.

Removing the source of friction is the most important (and easiest) way to get rid of a corn. This alone may help the corn disappear over time.

If friction from a certain pair of shoes causes corns, for example, switching to shoes that do not cause this friction may be enough.

However, using other methods in addition to this may help speed up the process.

Corns are layers of dead skin. Therefore, gently filing away the layers of dead skin may help remove the corn, especially if the person also eliminates the source of friction in the area.

How can I safely file down a corn?

Filing down a corn is a two step process.

First, soak the corn in warm water for about 10–15 minutes. This helps soften the skin.

Second, scrape off the layers of dead skin from the corn. There are many products that people can use to do this, including:

  • pumice stones
  • foot brushes
  • emery boards, which is the rough material on nail files

In some cases, the skin may become soft enough that using a washcloth may help remove layers of dead skin.

Things to remember

Importantly, people should not file down the corn too much.

Removing too much skin may reveal the sensitive layers of skin underneath, which could potentially cause more irritation.

Additionally, the inner layers of the skin may be more sensitive, increasing the risk of bleeding and infection later on.

There are also over-the-counter (OTC) products available that may help remove the layers of a corn.

Even when using OTC products, it is still a good idea to soak and scrape the feet. This is because the medications make it much easier to scrape away dead skin.

One notable OTC product is salicylic acid.

What is salicylic acid, and how does it work?

Many exfoliating scrubs, lotions, and ointments contain salicylic acid.

There are also direct treatment options, including corn pads containing salicylic acid. People can apply these directly to the corn.

Salicylic acid helps break down the skin cells of the corn and makes them much easier to scrape away.

How effective is salicylic acid for corns?

A study in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research compared salicylic acid treatment with simply scraping the corn away in a doctor's office. Scraping the corn in a doctor's office is a procedure that people call debridement.

The researchers note that using salicylic acid products led to more resolved corns, less pain, and reduced corn size compared with simply shaving the corn away.

Things to remember

People with sensitive skin or circulation issues should talk to a doctor before using salicylic acid. The levels of salicylic acid in some products can be high.

People using these products should look for any signs of irritation or burning on the skin. Stop using them if these signs appear.

People who are sensitive to salicylic acid can try products containing other ingredients, such as urea or ammonium lactate. The American Academy of Dermatology note that products containing these ingredients can also help gradually soften the skin of the corn.

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Topical products can help to break down skin cells on corns.

If the corn does not go away after trying these home remedies, there are a few medical treatments that may help.

Research has noted that doctors will first remove as much of the dead skin as possible, either using a scalpel or a laser.

A person may also apply topical products containing different medications that help break down skin cells, including:

  • salicylic acid
  • urea
  • silver nitrate
  • hydrocolloid

If the corn is pressing a nerve, doctors may surgically remove the core of it to reduce the pressure.

General tips to help eliminate friction on the feet include:

Wearing comfortable shoes

Friction has a direct impact on corns, making them much more likely to occur. So, avoiding shoes that are too tight or put the foot in an unnatural position may help prevent them.

Also, avoiding shoes that are too big may cut down on friction as the shoe moves.

Using padding

Using padding such as bandages or corn pads to protect the sensitive area may also help reduce symptoms.

Some people use bandages on pressure spots to protect their feet when they have to wear particularly uncomfortable shoes.

Other tips

A person should also:

  • Clean the feet: Regularly cleaning and scrubbing the feet may help reduce dead skin cells in the area that build up to form corns.
  • Trim the toenails: Trimming the toenails may keep the toes from pushing into the end of the shoe and causing friction. Short toenails are also less likely to poke into the toe next to them.
  • Avoid lotions with alcohol: Moisturizing the feet is important, but using moisturizers that contain alcohol may cause additional dryness in the area.

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A person should speak to a doctor if a corn is especially big or sensitive.

When the corn is especially big, sensitive, or painful, it may be best to see a doctor or podiatrist.

People may also want to see their podiatrist for any issues with their feet occurring alongside corns. This includes people with circulatory issues, diabetes, or very sensitive or fragile skin, all of which can cause a range of foot problems.

The doctor will inspect the feet to diagnose the corns. They will likely ask the person questions about their footwear and lifestyle.

They may then scrape away dead skin and apply ointments or patches to the area. They may also make recommendations regarding changes to footwear or lifestyle.

Even though corns do not pose any health risks, they can be very annoying. Home remedies can help control or remove corns effectively in many cases. Medical treatments can help remove stubborn corns.

Although treatments may remove the corn, they will not solve the underlying issue: the friction the skin experiences. Making changes to footwear, walking technique, or lifestyle may help reduce friction in the feet and prevent corns from coming back.