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How to Treat Callouses

By Cynthia Bailey MD.

What causes callouses?

Callouses are caused by skin thickening up from long term rubbing and pressure. The thickening of dead cells is protective to help reduce the risk of injury and blisters. Unfortunately, callouses can become so thick that they can cause pain and injury. It is possible to soften and shrink callouses using deeply hydrating products and exfoliating creams, sponges, or files. Also, avoid drying soaps and cleansers that will make callouses harder, more brittle, and more likely to crack and bleed. Callouses usually happen on hands, feet, and other areas that get rubbed such as knees and knuckles.

How do you treat callouses?

  • Keep skin soft by applying moisturizers after bathing.
  • Use skin softening ointments like Bag Balm to soften thick hard callouses to help prevent painful cracks. This also helps heal painful cracks.
  • Use physical exfoliation in the shower with files, stones or exfoliating shower cloths, sponges and mitts to help prevent dead skin build-up.
  • Use keratolytic exfoliating creams after bathing to help dissolve the glue between dead cells so that the rough dead skin can be easily filed and exfoliated. The best keratolytic for the job is glycolic acid.

I have a selection of gentle cleansers for all of these areas, as well as moisturizers and exfoliators to help soften and remove painful callouses. My Soft and Smooth Feet - Rough Skin Remover Kit is excellent skin care to help control callouses on the feet. My Dry Hand Skin Repair Kit is excellent for hand callouses.