Dark knuckles can are an unpleasant issue that can be caused by a variety of conditions. If you have dark knuckles, it's important to know the facts about what might be causing them and the ways that you can treat them.
Causes of Dark Knuckles
- 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.” Skin handles any trauma by one of three responses: It either gets thicker, 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 (example: 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)
Treatment for Dark Knuckles
- It is always a good idea to check with your dermatologist about treatments. As mentioned earlier, dark knuckles may be the symptom of another health issue.
- The biggest piece of advice I always give my patients is: 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 and never let them go dry. That means no washing with very hot water, no excessive rubbing with a towel, and always, always moisturizing them.
- Be careful when handling rough objects, such as sandpaper or the back of carpeting when you're removing or installing it! (Yes, I'm speaking as the 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!
- Use a daily exfoliating cream: there are many creams out there containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) 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, $37.99, amazon.com, which contains unbuffered glycolic acid and a protective sunscreen).
- Use whitening agents. In another article, Nicki has mentioned the effectiveness of Ambi Fade Cream ($13.36, amazon.com) with 2% hydroquinone. Add that or another product with whitening agents to your daily regimen. Combined with the exfoliating cream, this will speed things along.
- Your dermatologist might decide that your situation warrants a chemical peel in his or her office.
- 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.
Caution: Application of undiluted lemon juice directly on the skin is inadvisable, as it can be drying, which is the opposite of what you need in this situation. It can also 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.
Dark knuckles are not caused by dirt, so don't do scrubbing away, because that will make the problem worse. Dark knuckles could be caused by skin dryness, trauma to the skin, obesity, and some underlying issues. Treatment should be comprehensive and will take time. You should talk to your dermatologist to figure out the best treatment plan for you.
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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