Warts Not: To Remove Or Let Be?

Are warts a sign of poor hygiene or is it simply a natural occurrence? Warts are pretty commonplace, but there's hardly any conversation about it. We find out what causes it—and whether or not it's cause for worry.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

We get it. Hearing about face warts may sound scary or even give you the ick, but the more you educate yourself about these little dots that appear on your skin, the more you can protect yourself from catching them.

What are they exactly? “In dermatology, warts growths are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV),” explains Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas of DERMHQ. “There are several types, including common warts (typically affecting the hands and fingers), plantar warts (on the soles of the feet), flat warts (which can appear on the face, legs, and arms), and genital warts.”  

The Contagion Factor

Because “face warts” or flat warts are considered viral, they can spread from person to person, simply by touching someone else’s skin via a quick kiss or beso, a common way that Filipinos greet each other by one cheek pecking the other person’s. It can also be transmitted through contact with a surface that’s been touched by someone with the virus—like your bedsheets or pillows. Dr. Yanee Vasquez, founder and Medical Director of Aesthetic Science, says you can reduce your risk of getting warts by avoiding direct contact with other people who may have the virus and by avoiding sharing things like towels, makeup brushes, and personal cosmetics. If you constantly touch your face, “regular hand washing can also help prevent the spread of the virus,” she adds. 

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But How Do I Know If I Have Face Warts?

Grab a magnifying mirror and take a close look to see if you have tiny, elevated dots on your face, neck, and chest area. “It was my facialist who actually spotted them and told me I had warts,” shares Jasmine, 38, a bank executive. “She told me to schedule a consult with my derma because they can multiply and get bigger if you don’t have them treated right away.” Carmina, 28, a content creator, noticed that her warts came out right after she gave birth. “I’m not sure if it’s because of my hormones or if it was because my immune system went down, but they suddenly appeared all over my face and neck just a few weeks after I had my baby.” Since warts can range in size and can even be a similar color to your skin, it’s always best to ask a dermatologist to check if you have them and need to get treated. 

Should I Be Worried?

The good news is, there is no need to panic when it comes to treating this type of skin dilemma. “Viral warts are known to resolve on their own as the body is sometimes able to fight them off,” explains Dr. Robredo-Vitas. “However, when the warts take too long to go away or are increasing in size, then you can explore removal options with your dermatologist.” While most people opt to have them removed for cosmetic reasons, it’s important to note that even if “warts are generally harmless, removing them can help prevent them from spreading to other parts of your body and other people as well,” adds Dr. Vasquez. 

Your Treatment Options

The most important thing to do is to head to a licensed dermatologist first. This way, you can be sure that you are getting the best treatment and the correct diagnosis for the type of virus or skin condition you may have. According to Dr. Vasquez, there are several options you can consider when having warts your removed:

  • Cryotherapy, which freezes the wart with liquid nitrogen
  • Laser Treatment, usually done via Carbon Dioxide CO2 laser to burn and destroy wart tissue
  • Electrocauterization with Curettage, which burns the wart with an electrical charge and scrapes it off with a sharp tool
  • Excision, which cuts it out with surgical scissors or a scalpel

Don’t know which one to choose? The most common and popular treatment used at derma clinics is laser treatment, particularly the CO2 laser. You only need one session to zap warts away and it’s usually readily available at derma clinics. Since this laser is also known for its ability to target the exact spot, most clients (and even dermas) prefer it since the scabs are minimal and don’t really go as deep as old-school cautery sessions. If you’re worried about the pain factor, topical anesthesia can be applied an hour before your actual session. “It’s quite tolerable with the anesthesia,” shares Jasmine. “You’ll feel zaps and your skin will get hot, but it does cool down and feels soothed once they apply the creams after the treatment.” 

Risks & Post-Op Care

Full transparency: If you opt for a laser treatment or cautery, there is some downtime to be expected. Redness—as if you got ant bites—can last for a day or two. Afterward, the dots on your face will start to scab and fade away after around five to seven days. If you opt to have the warts on your neck or body removed, healing can take up to two weeks since the scabs tend to fall off a lot more slowly in these areas. “Post-procedure care includes application of a healing balm or repair cream, the use of a gentle cleanser, sun avoidance, and application of sunscreen to prevent darkening of treated areas,” says Robredo-Vitas. “Avoid manipulating or picking on the [scabs] to reduce the risk of scarring and always follow your doctor’s instructions.” If at any time you notice signs of infection or if the healing process is taking longer than usual, Dr. Vasquez strongly suggests that you contact your dermatologist immediately. Prone to dark spots? Make sure you mention this to your derma, so she can also prescribe a spot corrector to help prevent any discoloration. 

Your Beauty Rx

In most cases, scheduling treatment to have your warts removed is not that urgent. This means that you can wait to book a session when it’s convenient for you—like during a long weekend so you can spend some of the recovery time at home (it’s also important not to get sweaty while the scabs heal to prevent infection). If you’re still on the fence, “a patient can request for a test spot to limit the treatment to a small number of lesions,” suggests Dr. Robredo-Vitas. It’s a good strategy if you’re worried about scarring or pigmentation. This way, you and your dermatologist can see how you react after the session, observe exactly how your skin heals post-treatment, and give you options that are tailored to your individual needs.

How To Avoid Getting Reinfected By Facial Warts

This pesky virus can come back even after you’ve had it removed, so try to follow these tips to help prevent it from recurring.

Boost your immune system. If your body is healthy and strong, it is more able to fight off any virus attacks. Make fruits and veggies a part of your diet and load up on supplements whenever you’re feeling under the weather. 

Wash your sheets and towels regularly. This is also particularly important right after you have your warts removed. “Ensuring all items are clean can also aid in general hygiene and prevent secondary infections,” shares Robredo-Vitas.

Don’t share your personal items. Clothes, makeup, makeup brushes—basically anything that can come into contact with your skin should be sanitized and cleaned on a regular basis and should only be used by YOU. 

Ask your partner to get treated. Since warts are viral, chances are, your SO may have them, too. Having your wart removal done at the same time can prevent you from passing and repassing the virus to one another. Another perk? Since the downtime can last for up to 1-2 weeks, at least you can also have company at home if you’re too shy to socialize while your scabs heal. 

Be aware of the things that touch your skin. Pillows, sofas, trying on clothes at the store…these can actually leave you vulnerable to warts. Try to disinfect surfaces whenever possible and remember to shower, wash your face, and wash your hands as soon as you can.

Get checked at least once a year. Dr. Robredo-Vitas says that the removal of viral warts is generally a one-time procedure, but since recurrence is possible, routine check-ups can help monitor and manage new growths.   

Scarring is a risk when it comes to having warts removed, so it’s important to go somewhere you can trust. Some of our top clinics include Aesthetic Science, DERMHQ, Belo Medical Group, Kamiseta Clinic, and The Aivee Clinic. “When selecting a clinic, look for one with certified medical doctors and good reviews regarding their hygiene practices and treatment success,” says Dr. Vasquez.

Collage by Dannah Valdezco. Woman putting face cream by © The Everette Collection. Antique Frame by © Ivan Smuk. Pink Ceramic Tiles by © mikhail badaev. Hand with laser by karellnope via canva.com

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