Writer's Callus: Why It Appears and How to Treat It

A writer's callus is formed by the accumulation of dead cells due to constant friction against the finger. How can you get rid of it? In this article, we'll share some methods.
Writer's Callus: Why It Appears and How to Treat It

Last update: 28 June, 2021

A writer’s callus is also known as “writer’s bump” or “nerd bump”. It’s a hardness that appears on one of the fingers of the hand due to the constant friction caused by the use of pencils, pens, or other writing instruments.

But is it possible to eliminate it?

Although it doesn’t represent a health problem, this callus is unsightly and causes irritation. For these reasons, some people seek treatment to reduce its size or eliminate it.

Fortunately, there are several options you can try, which we’ll explain below.

Why does the writer’s callus appear?

As explained in an article published in American Family Physician, calluses are the consequence of a physiological response of the skin known as “hyperkeratosis”. It’s caused by continued pressure or friction of the skin against a particular material.

Writer’s callus, in particular, is caused by the constant use of writing instruments, such as pens, pencils, markers, and crayons, among others. When pressure is exerted against one of the fingers of the hand – which can be the middle or ring finger – these elements form a lumpy-looking hardness composed of dead cells.

Its main function is to protect the underlying skin area, which can otherwise become irritated or infected. Although harmless, it’s uncomfortable and gives the finger an unsightly appearance. Therefore, solutions are often sought to minimize them.

A person writing in a notebook.
The cause behind the appearance of a writer’s callus is the constant friction from frequent writing.

Read also: Remove Foot Calluses with These Home Remedies

There’s no surgical treatment to completely remove calluses. However, as detailed by the American Academy of Dermatology, most tend to disappear when the friction that causes them is stopped. Also, some therapeutic options accelerate their breakdown.

In the case of writer’s callus, some approaches are usually effective. Even so, they don’t provide instant results and you need to act with patience so as not to cause further injury. Take note!

Exfoliation

The first recommendation to diminish the appearance of writer’s callus is soaking and exfoliation. According to information from the Mayo Clinic, this simple process allows you to soften the skin and remove accumulated dead cells.

  • First, you must soak the affected finger in warm water for 10 minutes.
  • Then, with a pumice stone or nail file, carefully rub the callus. The idea is to remove dead cells.
  • The treatment should be repeated every day until you notice an improvement.

Note: Don’t try to cut the callus with any element, as this can lead to infection.

Moisturize

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the application of moisturizing products with salicylic acid, ammonium lactate, or urea. These ingredients help soften the writer’s callus and gradually break down dead cells.

Other useful home products for moisturizing include the following:

  • Aloe vera gel
  • Coconut oil
  • Shea butter
  • Castor oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Olive oil

Aspirin remedy

Ideally, you should use products with salicylic acid prescribed by the dermatologist. However, as an optional or complementary option, you can try a simple home remedy with aspirin.

According to a review in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, salicylic acid acts as a keratolytic agent and helps relieve dermatological problems.

  • To make this remedy, crush 3 to 5 aspirin tablets into a powder.
  • Then, moisten it with a little water to form a paste.
  • Apply the preparation on the callus, rub carefully, and wrap it for about 10 to 15 minutes with a plastic strip.
  • After this time, remove the paste and rinse.
  • Repeat the remedy every day until the callus is reduced.

The prevention of writer’s callus

Writing regularly makes it difficult to prevent writer’s callus. However, there are some simple measures that can prevent this bump from appearing. Here are the most important ones:

  • Wear finger guards when writing: Thick bandages or cotton gloves can help protect the finger from friction against writing tools.
  • Get pencil grips: Another way to put a barrier between pencils and the finger is with a rubber or foam grip. This is placed over the pencil or pen. In fact, there are some that already have it built in.
  • Choose pens with gel ink: This variety requires less pressure when applied to the paper. Therefore, it reduces the strain on the finger.
  • Relax your grip: Of course, try not to apply too much force when writing. Avoid pressing your pencil too hard against the paper. Also, take breaks and move your hand to relax it.
A pile of aspirin.
Aspirin can be ground into a powder to quell writer’s callus. However, it’s better to have a physician prescribe topical salicylic acid.

Don’t leave without visiting: The Benefits of Using Pumice

Is it necessary to consult a dermatologist?

As a harmless lesion, a writer’s callus usually resolves itself over time without the need to visit a dermatologist. Even so, you should consult a dermatologist if the treatments mentioned above don’t produce results. The professional can indicate other therapeutic options if necessary.

It is also important to request the intervention of the specialist if there are signs of an infection. This includes symptoms such as redness, pus, pain, inflammation, or bleeding.

Keep this in mind!

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  • Freeman DB. Corns and calluses resulting from mechanical hyperkeratosis. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Jun 1;65(11):2277-80. PMID: 12074526.
  • Al Aboud AM, Yarrarapu SNS. Corns. [Updated 2020 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470374/
  • HOW TO TREAT CORNS AND CALLUSES. (n.d.). American Academy of Dermatology Association.
    Available in https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/burns/treat-corns-calluses
  • Arif T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:455-461. Published 2015 Aug 26. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84765