So, what do you get after a hard day’s work? That’s right, some very painful blisters. Now, what do you get after several days of repeating the same job? You get the not so painful but definitely annoying callus.
But while blisters are immediately recognizable and visible (seeing that they’re usually painful and puffed with fluid), calluses are a little more subtle and take some time to develop. In fact, most people don’t even know that they have corns and calluses until complications arise.
I’ll give you an example – most of you probably have incognito calluses on the mid finger of your dominant hand from writing with a pen or pencil every single day of your life. See, a callus doesn’t have to be massive and pronounced.
In this segment, we’ll be looking at what exactly corns and calluses are and how to identify them. We’ll also delve into all the different causes and some of the most common areas that calluses tend to develop. And if you’re already suffering from a severe case of the corns, don’t worry about it. Olivia’s got some solutions and the best essential oil based treatments that work wonders even for advanced cases. So buckle up and get ready to be as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom again; because you just landed in Olivia’s ultimate guide to everything you need to know about calluses.
What Are Calluses?
Calluses and corns are annoying and potentially painful conditions that form thickened areas in the skin. The medical term for the thickened skin that forms these conditions is referred to as hyperkeratosis (plural=hyperkeratoses). A callus is an area of the skin that has become relatively thick and hard in response to repeated friction, pressure, or any other irritation.
As mentioned above, rubbing that is too forceful will cause blisters rather than allow calluses to form. Since repeated contact is required, calluses will most often be found on and under feet because of frequent walking and shoe irritation. However, there are also numerous cases where other body parts such as hands will have these hard patches of skin.
So, is there any real difference between a corn and a callus? Well, both of them are thickened areas formed by your body to protect sensitive areas of your skin. But there are a few differences that should help you identify them. Also known as clavus, a corn (plural=clavi) is a small patch of thickened dead skin with a central core and sometimes have a dry, waxy, or translucent appearance. They typically occur at pressure points such as the soles and sides of toes and can be very painful.
A callus or tyloma on the other hand refers to a more diffuse, flattened area of thick skin that is still alive. It is usually found in the outermost layer of the skin on areas with repeated friction and is generally painless. Only when a callus piles up with layers of skin to form a thick, localized area with a popular, conical or circular shape does it become a corn. For the sake of treatment and reference, we’ll treat corns and calluses as the same in this segment.
Calluses and corns are generally not harmful, but may sometimes lead to other problems, such as skin ulceration or infection. Here are some signs and symptoms of calluses to watch out for.
Signs And Symptoms of Calluses
- Thickening of the skin in particular areas without any distinct borders
- Thick layers of non-sensitive skin over bony prominences
- Either painless or tender with white, yellow, brown or red discoloration
- May throb, burn, or itch
- Often forms cracks that are painful
- Once the area forms a thick, dry, waxy, painful and horny mass, then its developed into a corn
Causes And Risk Factors Of Calluses
Like most conditions, even calluses have a valid and helpful purpose. This thickening occurs as a natural defense mechanism that helps strengthen the skin in areas of friction or excessive pressure. Think of it like your hands growing their own gloves or your feet developing a little extra padding to deal with frequent shoe wear, extensive walking or abnormal gait.
Finger and hand calluses also often develop in response to using tools, playing musical instruments such as the guitar, or using work equipment that exerts pressure at specific sites. This includes guitar players and activities notorious for causing calluses such as construction work, use of a chef’s knife, many sports, wood carvings, rock climbing, hiking, weight training, martial arts, rowing, BMXing, dancing, chopping wood, and wearing high heels.
Basically, calluses will occur anywhere on the body as a reaction to moderate and constant grinding pressure. But too much friction occurring too fast and the skin will form an abrasion or blister instead. Risk factors include:
- Occupational hazards (farm work or construction)
- Abnormities in foot anatomy
- Ill fitting shoes
- Being 65 years and above
Prevention And Treatment Of Calluses
A: Preventing Corns and Calluses
Prevention is always the best cure, and this also goes for corns and calluses. It’s far easier to prevent one than to have to go about the treating process. Since calluses can get uncomfortable, it’s usually desirable for one not to form. But to do this, you’ll have to minimize the pressure and rubbing to prevent further aggravation. Here are a few tips that will help you prevent the formation of corns and calluses as you go about your daily activities.
- Wear protective clothing when farming, working, or playing most sports. This includes gloves, protective pads, and coverings to decrease friction.
- If you’re prone to calluses on your feet, then you’ll need to wear shoes that give your toes plenty of room and your heels a ton of cushioning. If you can’t wiggle your toes, then the shoes are too tight. You can also wear felt pads, bandages over areas that rub as well as separators between the toes.
- Keep your hands and feet well moisturized with essential oils and moisturizer
- Regularly rub your pumice stone over areas that are starting to thicken.
- Avoid going barefoot or wearing flip flops for extended periods of time.
B: Treating Corns and Calluses
So, how do you know it’s a corn or callus and not something else? Sometimes, a wart can have similar appearance to a callus. As such, it is important to have an evaluation done by a medical professional. Diagnosis is often made by just looking at the callus. Biopsies with microscopic evaluation can be done, but it is seldom necessary. Your doctor may also take X-rays of your feet or hands to look at underlying bony structures that may be the cause of the callus. The doctor may also look at the way you walk, your posture, gait, stance and even shoes you wear. Once you’re absolutely sure that you have calluses and corns, then the treatment process can begin.
Corns and calluses can be treated with numerous types of medicated products in an effort to chemically pare down the thickened, dead skin. Most of these products can be easily bought over the counter. It’s worth noting that these products all share the same active ingredient – salicylic acid – the most common ingredient used in over-the-counter wart and callus removal products.
Salicylic acid is a keratolytic. This means it dissolves the protein (keratin) that is responsible for making up most of both the corn and the thick layer of dead skin which often tops it. When used as indicated on the package directions, these products are gentle and safe for most people, but they tend to irritate the surrounding skin along with other side effects. Salicylic-acid treatments are available in different forms including drops, pads, applicators, plasters among others.
All these treatments will turn the top of the skin whitish and allow the dead, thickened tissue to be trimmed or easily peeled away. This makes the corn protrude and hurt far less. It is generally recommended that salicylic acid not be used by people with diabetes or on areas with frail skin or poor circulation. This is mainly because of concern about how the skin can heal. In such instances, application of salicylic acid can potentially lead to ulcer formation on the skin. A health care professional can help determine whether salicylic acid-based products are safe for use on a particular individual.
Likewise, antibiotics can be used with possible incisions and drainage for infected corns and calluses. If your case is advanced or too severe, then a doctor will recommend surgical shaving of the callus, removal of any protruding bones that cause the callus as well as correction of any deformities. Word of caution; do not attempt to cut off or shave away your corns and calluses at home. This could lead to potentially dangerous or fatal infection of the surrounding tissues. Callus removal surgeries should be performed by a podiatrist or other qualified health care professionals.
I’ll be the first to laud pharmaceuticals for how far they have come with regards to treating calluses. But if we’re being honest, salicylic acids, antibiotics and surgical procedures just aren’t for everyone. Apart from being ill-advised for people with diabetes, pregnancies and other health issues, some of these drugs and medical procedures can have adverse and damaging side effects. And this is where essential oils come to the rescue. Essential oils do a whole lot more good for corns and calluses without virtually any ill side effects.
With Mother Nature’s help, essential oils have genuine benefits when used in the right way. And when it comes to warts, corns, calluses and other skin conditions, you’ve got to respect the power of some of these oils. Packed with antiseptics, sedative, decongestant, relaxant, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, nothing works better for restoring your skin’s natural characteristics than essential oils.
Essential oils have already been put to use for centuries to speed up the healing process, reduce inflammation, alleviate pain and improve the appearance of calluses, cuts, bruises, temporary injuries and even internal damage. Thanks to their numerous properties, some of these oils can really work wonders for nasty corns and calluses that can only be described as far gone.
In addition to lending a helping hand to the healing process, essential oils also soothe the skin, reduce mass thickening, minimize tenderness, fade discoloration, soften tough buildup of dead skin, improve blood circulation and encourage clean up around the affected area. I could go on all day about the benefits of EOs, but I’m sure you’re eager to see which oils are rough enough to rumble with even the meanest, horniest (mind out the gutter guys), thickest corns and calluses.
I’ve compiled only the best essential oils for the job and some age-old recipes to help you put out oils to good use.
5 Best Essential Oils For Calluses & Corns
1. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Extracted from the leaves of the Australian Tea Tree, this particular essential oil is globally prized for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties. The oil is widely used to treat, clean and disinfect cuts and scrapes on the skin. Similarly, fans of Olivia will also recall all the wonderful Tea Tree oil recipes we’ve cooked up to treat fungal infections, burns, colds, infected wounds, rashes, warts, insect bites among others. Research has actually shown tea tree essential oil more effective as an antifungal cream than most OTC pharmaceuticals. That’s why it’s a must-have if you’re dealing with relatively fresh calluses to nip them in the bud if you will.
2. Garlic Essential Oil
I bet all of you Olivia followers saw this one coming. Think about it, what is the one thing that garlic is especially good at? It’s unrivaled antioxidating capabilities, duh! Being regarded as the universal remedy for a wide range of diseases and disorders, Garlic has been used for centuries to produce many kinds of oriental medicines and drugs. Scientists have proven that garlic essential oil contains an array of nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that are incredibly useful to deal with skin problems such as calluses. As mentioned earlier, antioxidants are great weapons to fight the attacks of the bacterial and fungal infections that are associated with later stages of corns. But if you’re attentive enough to catch the thickening mass earlier, then it follows that the calluses will be rejected from the root.
3. Peppermint Essential Oil
Extracted from the leaves of the strong mint-scented peppermint plant, peppermint essential oil is another incredibly popular oil known for its medicinal and therapeutic qualities. The stimulating effects of peppermint make it great for treating inflammation, pain relief, bruising, skin irritation and calluses. However, peppermint essential oil contains a unique component known as menthol. Menthol boasts of potent sedative and calming abilities that not only help with muscle aches and joint relief, but also nourish the skin to eliminate dead cells. If aesthetics is what you’re after, you can’t miss out on a little mint.
4. Turpentine Essential Oil
Here’s one you don’t see very often, right? Well, it might be one of the most underrated oils, but its benefits stretch far and wide. Thanks to its highly potent antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties, Turpentine essential oil is widely trusted to clear all calluses effectively. When being absorbed into the skin, it penetrates deep to each skin cell, eliminate pain and prevent your skin from risk of infection. Gradually, the calluses get weaker and weaker and eventually fall or shed off.
5. Chamomile Essential Oil
When it’s not being added to some kinds of tea or dish to enhance the flavor, this attractively aromatic flower can really help cure a wide range of issues. And yes, you guessed it; one of them is the infamous callus. Packed with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging compounds, chamomile just might be the perfect man for the job at hand (pun intended). This essential oil soothes and softens the callused area. As a result, the layers of dead skin will peel off one by one and disappear before you even know it.
5 Top Essential Oil Recipes For Corns & Calluses
Recipe 1: Pumice Stone of Justice EO Rub
- 12 drops of Chamomile EO
- 10 drops of Peppermint EO
- 8 drops Tagetes EO
- 60 ml Jojoba or Sweet Almond EO
- Pumice stone
Directions for Mixing and Using:
That’s right, there’s no such thing as automatic callus removal (for now), you’ll have to start out with some nice elbow grease and a tough pumice stone. Start by mixing up all the essential oils in a dark glass bottle and top it up with your preferred carrier oil. Shake well to combine everything and apply this mixture to the callused area at least 3 times a day until they get softer. You can use more on your feet than hands. After about a week, use a pumice stone to remove the dead, thick layers of skin; a file will work better on callused hands though.
Recipe 2: Veggie Oil Foot Soak for Callus and Corns
- 7 drops Chamomile EO
- 5 drops Garlic EO
- 9 drops Oregano EO
- 3 teaspoons Epsom Salt
- Massaging foot spa/bath (optional)
If you’re looking for a way to simultaneously soak and soften your corns and calluses while rubbing them off at the same time, nothing works better than a massaging foot bath. It allows the oils to work in conjunction with the rollers to get the best results. Begin by adding warm water to your foot spa and then add in the Epsom salts and swish to dissolve. Drip in your essential oils as directed and soak your feet for about 20 minutes every day while massaging.
Recipe 3: Turpentine Tea Tree Surprise for Corns and Callus on Hands
- 2 drops Tea Tree EO
- 2 drops Turpentine EO
- Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- Teaspoon of Baking Soda
- Bowl of warm water
Always complaining about calluses and blisters on your hands? This recipe will help you do something about that nasty occupational hazard. Start by dissolving the baking soda in warm water and soaking your battered hands for about 10 minutes. Dry off with a towel and then apply the ACV on the calluses and wait until dry. With a Q tip, dilute the Tea Tree and Turpentine oil in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and apply on the calluses and leave them. A week of this treatment will see the calluses disappear.
Recipe 4: Corn/Callus Clearing Coconut Cotton Ball Formula
- 5 drops Peppermint EO
- 5 drops Basil EO
- Tablespoon Coconut oil
- Tablespoon Olive oil
- Cotton Ball
Here’s a great recipe to use no matter where the calluses are located. Mix the essential oils with the carrier oils in a small non-reactive bowl or glass container. After mixing, soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply on the callused area until it penetrates deep into the skin. Repeat 3 times a day for about 5 days and the callus should shed off naturally.
Recipe 5: Mint Sugar Rub for Callus/Corn Removal
- 3 drops Peppermint EO
- 2 drops Garlic EO
- Teaspoon of granulated sugar
Like I said, the antioxidants found in garlic EO are great weapons in the fight against calluses. Combine that with the potent ability of peppermint to eliminate dead cells and you have one incredibly effective treatment. To make use of this recipe, start by dripping the peppermint and garlic essential oils into granulated sugar as directed. Using either your hands or a cotton ball, rub the calluses at least twice a day. The granulated sugar helps to sand off and remove the softened callus. Repeat until the callused area returns to normalcy.
The Bottom Line
There you have it folks; all the information you need about corns and calluses right in one place. Now that you know just what exactly these corns and calluses are and how they come about, preventing and treating them should be much easier now. But remember, it doesn’t matter what treatment or remedy you go for if you still don’t take into account the importance of protective clothing and gear.
So whether you’re working, playing, or just taking a walk, make sure every inch of you that is prone to corns and calluses is well protected. Trust me, it’s always easier to prevent most of these issues than have to worry about how to get rid of them. And with the incredibly slow rate that calluses and corns develop, you have plenty of time to take action today.