Dark Knuckles: Causes and Fixes!

Skin Care
Dark Knuckles: Causes and Fixes Why FutureDerm


  • 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)

No Scrubbing

  • 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)


How to Treat Dark Knuckles

  • 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 Fade Cream (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.
  • Sunscreen 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.


Say No To Lemons

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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Article updated 3/24/2015

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  • Donna

    I am having the same problem with my hands and toes, especially my knuckles which are extremely dark. I am using bleaching creams which is working for my hands but not the knuckles. What can I do? It’s really embracing. I can’t even wear my rings because it leaves a dark mark on my finger. Help please and thanks.

  • Alex Jimenez

    Hi Dr. Tara. I am a masseur, and I also do escorting on the side. I didn’t really give much thought to my dark knuckles, because I thought they were a natural result of my massage (and the fact that I often rest my weight on my knuckles when, ahem, servicing an escorting client). Lately, however, I became uncomfortable when friends started pointing them out. I’ve been searching online for possible causes, and the most common one is diabetes, but I’ve had several blood tests, and my blood sugar is quite normal. Am I right in thinking that these dark knuckles are from my massage and escorting, or is there any other possible cause? By the way, I don’t have dark joints anywhere else, just my knuckles.

  • This is so helpful. There are so many ways to lighten dark knuckles. Potatoes, tomato juice, milk and more!

  • mina waris

    Dr.Taha.I have knuclke problem on my hands and feet. I want to remove this.and want effective result .please suges me how i remove these.plesa reply soon

  • Nabila Nusrath

    Hey there,
    I am one of the few people here I guess who kinda embraced her flaws and well mom told me to keep the fact in my head that ” I should look at people who have it worse and be grateful no matter what”.
    Here’s my story, please don’t get bored!
    well for starters i started to realize that I’ve had ugly hands and feet since 6th-7th grade and could do nothing but cover these parts of mine wearing shoes for my feet and hide my hands. My hands would be a pain because I couldn’t wear the nail paints I’ve always wanted. Gradually I started embracing it and wore less nail paints because it’s less noticed when there aren’t colors to be seen at the first place. My face was pretty it’s just that my knuckles and my toes and also when I looked in depth, my elbows and even my knee joints. The parts of my body that had a joint kinda showed this. I read stuff online and honestly speaking those days the Internet didn’t have much information on stuff I wanted until now. I tried lemons and a few bleaching creams which were too slow and well maybe I didn’t have patience for the creams but the lemons were a complete waste . They would just add a bit of brightness to the region’s around my knuckles but nothing more. The area near my nail bed or idk what you call that lamellar something is dark too. Idk my skin is just weird. I have dry skin and i do mmoisturise a lot really but recently a friend told me to scrub and exfoliate and i am seeing a small difference only. I am not obese and no other problems i have. I also have this one problem is that whenever iget a scar anywhere It loves to stay no matter how much i do to get rid of it. I am a skincare freak and I am brown skinned, lighter than brown lol. I’m 22 and I feel insecure of my feet knuckles and hand knuckles at the moment and want some good idea on what to use. Most of the key points you noted were ” always moisturise” and I follow that like a religion since I don’t really remember. I follow skin care regimes all the time, every day and it’s just that times like these even though i hate sharing stuff like these with my soul mate, he still finds me beautiful. His hands and feet are soooooooo pretty for a guy who honestly doesn’t do anything. Not fair!! Any suggestions or answers? Oh and lame ass doctors have told me use lemon and scrubs like duh I’ve always used those. No one I mean no one suggests anything hydroquinone to me and if they do its just a two percent which doesn’t last much. Suggest me something and also my skin doesn’t just have dark knuckles but my hand skin also has the region above the nails really dark. I wish I could send some pictures too to show that. My right hand is worse. Atleast my left hand can be seen as a form of Iimperfect beauty.
    Please do suggest something.
    With love

  • Andreanna

    Hi, nice article but I want help with something.

    My underarms was always dark in my teenage years, but not dark dark. But for some reason starting about 3 months ago I noticed my fingers and my knuckles and my toes are becoming darker and darker. And I think my knees are turing that way too and I always do the same thing I do so I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m brown skinned and I’m 20. I also have dysmenorrhea since I started my period as a teenager and I take birth controls for it. Do you think after all these time that it’s the birth control making it worse? I started taking it at like 17 and I need it. Or is there something internally wrong with me? I went to the endocrinologist and they took tests but everything came out normal andI went to the dermatologist and he took a piece of my skin from under my underarms and he says he doesn’t know but he thinks it’s acanthosis nigrican but he didn’t do anything for my toes or finger. Useless. I’m the only one out of my sisters with these hyperpigmentation everywhere, spider veins and dysmenorrhea as a teenager and I’m also the only one who is normal weight all my life. 120-125 pounds because it moves up and down. and I don’t have diabetes or any of that. Is it some kind of harmonal imbalance? Please help because it’s ruining my life and making me feel disgusting. My underarms also feel like rubber sometimes but i scrub it?

  • Zippywilton

    Please I reallly don’t don’t knoww wat caused my dark knuckle, but it’s annoying, causee ppl me wherever I go to, I just need a Miracle for this, I stay in Nigeria… Please reply me as soon as possible.

  • Benoquin, helps to stabilize the melanin production in the skin to match the current condition of the vitiliginous skin.

    • Hie please respond..this whole thing of toes and nuckles being dark is really distracting…is there any cream or anything that can be used.to lightening them real quick

  • Viiivi

    Hello Dr Taha,

    I am a young lady from Africa and i have very dark knuckles(hands) and feet. It is very embarrassing and i need to hide my hands and feet. i have tried a lot of stuff and it seems not to fade. What can i use to get the dark parts faded.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    thank you.

  • moe

    Hi Dr Taha i really need your advice i have really dark knuckles and been using all kind of skin lightening treatments but still no result as of now i am using makari lightening serum and Daggett & Ramsdell hand and body lotion do you think is a good idea because i am in gambia and we do not have good dermatologist here?

    • Ying

      Hi Moe, I have the same problem and I just bought the Daggett and.Ramsdell hand and body. How did it work for you? Was there any improvements? And have your knuckles and toes cleared?

  • Meher

    Hi Dr Taha, I have a problem with my toes. They are considerably darker than the rest of my feet and are very unsightly. The darkened skin is also slightly thicker than my normal skin. I am 20 years old and I’ve had this problem for as long as I can remember. I have tried creams such as Fade Out, natural remedies such as lemon juice and also simply just exfoliating and moisturising, nothing has worked! I think it may have gone darker. This may seem trivial but it bothers me a LOT as I have never been able to wear shoes that show my toes.

  • Chris D.

    Dr. Taha, I need some help. I don’t have insurance or a lot of money to pay for a dermatologist but my skin condition is getting worse each year. For the past five years i’ve been dealing with skin darkening on my hands and it’s recently started to turn my skin to a rough sandpaper like texture on the affected areas. I first thought it was just hyper pigmentation and decided to just live with it but now I’m getting comments from family and it really bothers me. It looks like i’ve been working on cars my entire life and have motor oil staining my hands. I have a nervous tic that makes me bite those areas, that’s probably the only thing I can think of that may be the cause. A picture can be found here [IMG]http://i40.tinypic.com/f0xkx3.jpg[/IMG] it also appears that i’ve lost some feeling in those areas. I can still register pressure but not pain. Any advice you can give me would be a great help.

    • @Chris D

      I am sorry to hear you are experiencing such distress. Five years is a long time! As I have not seen you in person, I cannot make an official diagnosis. However I think it is best to start with the most likely scenario and work our way from there. Biting can indeed lead to a lot of damage, and might very well be the cause if the problem is limited only to the area being bitten. In such a situation, no matter how much you try treating it, as long as you are biting that area it will never improve. So I will advice you to use moisturizers often during the day, and to use an exfoliating cream at night (mild at first then stronger, work your way up from 5 or 8% to 15 slowly). However if there are areas that appear inflamed or infected (red and painful) then you will need to treat them before starting this skin care regimen (with an OTC antibacterial cream).

      But what will help the situation is trying to control the biting habit. Even if it is not the actual cause, it is definitely not improving your skin condition. Now I say this knowing fully well how difficult it is to break a bad habit. It is part well-power and part distraction. By distraction I mean finding an activity that engages you mentally and physically; so TV and reading are not great options. Rather a hobby like drawing, writing, or sewing; or walking or any form of exercise you like.

      Good luck. And let me know how things work out.

  • Riss

    I have extremely dry hands that are dry cracky and dark I have tried Vaseline to creams and it seems as though at night is when it’s the worse and itches the most. I’m looking for a home remedie and I heard that olive oil or lime juice are good options is this true? It’s very embarrassing to hand extremely dry hands that are dark and cracky

    • @Riss

      I am concerned. You’re describing such distressing symptoms that I wonder if there is an underlying cause more than just skin dryness. It could be eczema or exposure to irritants (like concentrated cleaning detergents or occupational exposure to chemicals). There are also other possible causes. I do advise seeing a dermatologist in person to decide what the real reason is and to address it properly.

      Good luck.

  • Afsha

    Hi Dr.Taha…even i hav dark knuckles n dark toes problem..since two months i noticed that even my leg fingers are alao going black ….im worried alot..im not going out of my home due to dis problem..im so so embarassed…could you please help me i stay in india so please tell me a cream which is easily available here…plz plz plz help me…eben im suffering from psoriasis but its the starting stage plz help me i dnt use harsh chemicals but also mu knuckles are black…will b eagerly waitin for ur reply…bye

    • @Afsha

      I am so sorry to hear of your severe distress. I completely understand your feelings of panic and embarrassment. From what I understand, the skin darkness is rather new, and you also have psoriasis. Are you taking treatment for it? The skin darkness could be separate from the psoriasis, or it could be related to it or its treatment. For me it would not be possible to know the cause without knowing your medical background and seeing the problem with my own eyes, and I am also not familiar with medicines in India. I strongly urge you to visit your dermatologist and discuss this with him/her, as they would be in a better position to help you, especially if this is such a new onset symptom.

      I hope this helped, and please let us know how things work out.

  • Kyndra

    Hello. My question Dr. Taha is that I am a letter carrier and over the past 7 years that I have been in this position my hands, mostly my knuckles have darkened tremendously. I find this article very helpfulhowever what can I do to protect/cover my hands as I work? What could you recommend as the coverings would need to be worn for several hours a day and not be too bulky. Thank you.

    • @Kyndra
      Hello! I would mainly recommend you carry around one of those small travel size moisturizers, and reapply every so often, really concentrating on the knuckles. Also, if you have to be in the sun a lot, please remember sunscreen for your hands. At night, if you feel you can tolerate it, apply a heavier moisturizer (or something like kukui oil) and wear cotton gloves to bed. Good luck and thank you for your question.

  • saadia

    hi i am saadia an art teacher since 15 years, most of the time i work with card papers cutting with scissors and cutter paint spray and lots of other art stuff. now i have seen from the last month my knuckles are becoming so black, and no beauty in my hands. i used lots of best hand lotions and homemade recipes but no effective. sometimes i really cried a lot, please do help me. tell me the reason first why it happens and also tell me what i have to do with my hands. thanks

    • @saadia

      First, I apologize for taking some time to respond as I was away on vacation. Second, I am sorry for your distress. I can imagine this being a difficult problem. Your work will indeed affect the skin of your hands a lot; it will make it quite dry and yes will cause dark knuckles. I don’t usually recommend home remedies. But use a good moisturizer you trust on a regular basis, such as one by Vaseline, Aveeno, Olay, there are many good ones out there. If you can get your hands on Cetaphil Restoraderm that is also a good option. You need to moisturize all the time, that means every time you wash your hands or simply feel your hands are a bit dry. Also use a gentle hand soap or cleanser, like Dove’s hand wash. For dark knuckles, I do highly recommend Ambi’s cream, or you can visit your doctor to prescribe something stronger for your.

      Just keep in mind that you will need to make this a regular routine in order to get rid of the dryness and darkness and to keep them at bay.

      I wish you the best of luck and let me know how things work out.

  • Yetty

    I dont know any dermetologist but my knukkles are very ugly and dark my problem is am a hairdresser and i deep my hands in water alot

    • @Yetty
      Dryness and exposure to various chemicals, as would be the situation for your as a hairdresser, would cause any darkness to be worse. Always remember to use a lot of moisturizer all the time. To avoid skin irritation and hyperpigmentation, try to wear protective rubber gloves as much as possible when handling chemicals. And always wear sunscreen.
      Thank you for your comment.

  • M7mmed

    Insulin resistance.

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