Dark Knuckles: Causes and Fixes!

Dark Knuckles: Causes and Fixes Why FutureDerm



Despite what you may initially think, dark knuckles are not usually caused by dirt, so excessive hand washing will not help and may actually exacerbate the condition.

  • First and foremost, dark knuckles are NOT caused by dirt accumulation. Scrubbing them vigorously will not solve the problem and, in fact, will definitely make it worse. This can be categorized under “mechanical trauma” or “friction,” and skin handles any trauma by one of three responses: it either gets thicker, or it gets darker, or it does both. Unfortunately, knuckles are in the third group, and if you have to use your hands in handling rough material, you can be sure your knuckles won’t thank you! (1)
  • Dry skin: excessive washing, exposure to hot water, harsh chemicals (e.g., household cleaners), and exposure to sunlight without protection all lead to skin dryness. (1)
  • Some skin diseases will lead to dark knuckles: such as eczema, psoriasis.
  • Obesity: among its many problems, being over-weight is harsh on the skin.(2)


  • It is always a good idea to check with your dermatologist. As mentioned earlier, dark knuckles may have an ailment behind them.
  • The number one advice I always give my patients is: Have patience! Almost any skin problem will require some time and patience to see results. Just make sure to follow your daily skin care regimen unfailingly.
  • Treat your hands delicately: Never let them go dry. That means no washing with very hot water, no excessive rubbing in the towel, and always, always moisturize them.
  • Be careful when handling rough objects like sandpaper or the back of the carpet when it is time to install it! (Yes, voice of experience here!)
  • If you are a boxer, don’t come to me complaining of dark knuckles and expect a simple solution! Stop punching people!

Glytone Retexturize Body LotionUse a daily exfoliating cream: there are many creams out there containing alpha hydroxy acids in a low enough concentration for daily use. Applied nightly on the knuckles, these will moisturize and exfoliate thus will eventually reduce the darkness.  (Editor’s note: We love Glytone Retexturize Body Lotion SPF 15, which contains unbuffered glycolic acid and a protective sunscreen).

  • Whitening agents: In an earlier article, Nicki had talked about Ambi (2% hydroquinone). Add that to your daily regimen or any other whitening agent you prefer. Combined with the exfoliating cream, this will speed things along.
  • A following step, done at a dermatologist’s clinic and after his or her analysis of the situation, would be chemical peels.
  • Sun block is a must. Remember, even after treating the darkness, your skin will always need protection if you want to keep the dark spots from returning.(3)
  • Weight loss always helps.

Undiluted lemon juice can cause dryness, sun sensitivity, and irritation.

Caution: Application of undiluted lemon juice directly on the skin is not advisable, as it can be drying, which is the opposite of what we need in this situation. Plus it can cause irritation and photosensitivity (sensitivity to light or sun) that would lead to even darker skin.

As always, these tips are only intended to steer you in the right direction.  For the best results, see your dermatologist.


1- A. Sood, JS. Taylor. Mechanical Trauma Induced Skin Disorders. In: Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine 2008; Chapter 212.

2- N Puri. A Study of Pathogenesis of Acanthosis Nigricans and its Clinical Implications. Indian Journal of Dermatology 2011; 56(6):678-83.

3- A. Tedeschi, D. Massimino, LE West, G Micali. Management of the Patient. In: Color Atlas of Chemical Peels 2012; Part 5: 201-3.

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