Warts are harmless growths that can occur anywhere on the body, including on the face. They are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Read on to learn more about the different types of wart that can appear on the face.
This article also provides information on how to remove them, as well as when to see a doctor.
Although HPV mainly spreads through sexual contact, people can spread warts through any skin-to-skin contact. This means that a person can develop a wart after touching an open wart on another person’s body.
Similarly, a wart can spread from one part of a person’s body to another. This can happen if a person touches their wart and then touches another part of their body.
A person can even develop a wart after touching a surface that has come into contact with a wart. HPV is very resilient, and it can survive for long periods of time on all types of surface.
Some common types of wart that can develop on the face include flat warts and filiform warts.
The sections below discuss these types in more detail.
Flat warts develop around scratches or cuts in the skin. As a result, they are especially common in areas that people shave, such as the face and legs.
Flat warts tend to be skin colored. They have a smooth, flat top and are 1–7 millimeters in size. They also tend to develop in clusters.
Filiform warts have a spiky or thread-like appearance. These fast growing warts usually develop near the mouth, eyes, and nose.
People can treat warts at home. However, it is best to speak with a doctor before attempting to treat a facial wart. Doctors can provide treatment recommendations and guidance for safe and successful wart treatment.
People should also keep in mind that many common wart treatments contain harsh substances such as salicylic acid. These should never come close to the eyes, nose, or mouth unless under close guidance by a doctor.
Up to two-thirds of warts resolve on their own without medical treatment. This happens when the body’s immune system successfully fights off the infection that caused the wart. However, it can take a year or longer for the wart to completely disappear.
Some people may not want to wait for a facial wart to disappear naturally. Instead, they may want to try treatments to physically remove the wart.
Some studies suggest that the topical application of vitamin A may be an effective alternative. According to one 2019 article, tretinoin — which is a derivative of vitamin A — may help treat flat warts. This is an off-label treatment.
Additionally, in 2012, researchers reported a case of a person who had successfully treated their warts with vitamin A extracted from fish liver oil. They had been applying the oil directly onto their warts. This is also an off-label treatment.
If a wart does not improve in response to home treatment, a person may want to see a doctor. They may recommend one of the following medical treatment options:
Cryotherapy treatment involves spraying liquid nitrogen onto the wart. The liquid nitrogen will freeze and destroy the infected skin cells, causing the wart to fall off.
However, this treatment can leave dark or lights spots on the skin. People with very light or very dark skin types may therefore want to avoid using this method to treat facial warts.
A dermatologist can cover the wart with a blistering agent called cantharidin. They will then ask the person to wash the cantharidin off in 3–4 hours, or as soon as any blistering or pain occurs.
Dermatologists do not typically use cantharidin on warts located on the face due to the risk of blistering, which can be intense in some individuals.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not yet approved cantharidin for the treatment of warts.
A doctor can use a scalpel to cut or scrape off a wart, especially a filiform wart. However, this is not always the best method to use on the face.
In other cases, they might pare down the surface of the wart so that the liquid nitrogen can penetrate more deeply into the core of the wart.
A doctor may recommend immunotherapy to stimulate a person’s immune system to destroy a wart. This may involve a series of injections of a substance called candida antigen into the wart. This can boost the immune system to tackle the wart.
Alternatively, a doctor may choose to apply off-label topicals to irritate the wart and stimulate the immune system.
Doctors usually reserve immunotherapy treatment for people with warts that do not respond to other treatment options.
To lower the risk of contracting or transmitting warts, people can try:
- not touching another person’s wart
- not sharing personal items, such as towels, clothes, or nail clippers, with someone who has a wart
- keeping open warts covered with a bandage until they close
- not biting the fingernails on a finger that has a wart
- not scratching or picking at a wart
- treating any cuts or nicks on the face as soon as possible
A person should visit a doctor if they have a wart that:
- causes pain
- bleeds or leaks fluid
- spreads to another area of the body
- changes color, size, or texture
- returns shortly after removal
Warts are harmless growths that can appear anywhere on the body, including the face. In most cases, they will disappear without treatment. However, this process can take many months.
Anyone concerned about facial warts may want to remove them using home treatments. If these treatments do not work, a person can see their doctor, who will outline the appropriate medical treatments available.
It is also important to see a doctor for any warts that change size, color, or texture. Warts that bleed, leak fluid, or cause pain also require medical attention.