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Understanding Dark Knuckles: Causes And Effective Treatments

Adriana Bailey • June, 2023

What causes dark knuckles and how to treat them

Adriana Bailey • June, 2023


Unlike other types of hyperpigmentation, dark knuckles are surprisingly complex and unusual. Most forms of hyperpigmentation are caused by inflammation or sun exposure, but dark knuckles are often something totally different.

This type of hyperpigmentation is often caused by underlying issues in your body. Even so, there are some topical treatments that can help. In this post, we’ll explain the underlying causes of dark knuckles and dark spots, and talk about the most common treatments and prevention methods.

Table Of Contents

  • 1. What Causes Dark Knuckles?
  • 2. Effective Treatments for Dark Knuckles
  • 3. Best Skincare Products for Treating Dark Knuckles
  • 4. Prevention Tips for Dark Spots on Fingers
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Table Of Contents

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What Causes Dark Knuckles?

With dark knuckles, it’s so important to pinpoint the underlying cause. Otherwise, you could waste your time pursuing treatments that have nothing to do with your condition.

Acanthosis nigricans is the most common reason for dark knuckles, especially for those with deeper skin tones. It’s a skin condition that leads to localized patches of thick, dark skin that feel more textured than the surrounding skin. It’s usually connected to insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes but can also show up as a result of certain drugs or hormonal disorders. If your dark knuckles are a little textured, make sure to speak to your doctor and have your insulin levels tested.

Irritation and inflammation, especially as a result of skin conditions like eczema or even extreme dryness, often lead to more typical hyperpigmentation on the knuckles. Since the knuckles are so exposed, friction can also be involved as well.

Boxers and martial artists sometimes have dark knuckles as a result of the constant trauma from punching. The damage stimulates the skin’s protective response, which often also includes producing more melanin, which is the pigment that leads to dark knuckles.

Sun exposure doesn’t usually lead to dark knuckles, but it can cause dark spots on the knuckles and hands. These often show up after years of cumulative sun exposure.

B12 deficiency can also correlate with dark knuckles, as one case study showed. This is a potential cause that’s important to discuss with your doctor since supplementing B12 can be dangerous if it’s not necessary.

Hormonal disorders like PCOS and Addison’s disease, as well as certain medications (especially ones that impact your hormones like steroids) can also lead to dark knuckles.

Effective Treatments for Dark Knuckles

Because there are so many potential reasons why your knuckles may turn dark, here are the steps to treat the issue.

1. See Your Doctor
Your first step to treat dark knuckles should be to speak to your doctor, especially if you can’t identify any obvious sources of irritation. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your condition, and they may order testing to check your insulin levels.
 
Depending on the underlying cause, they may recommend any of the following treatments:
-  Medication to control insulin resistance
 - Hormonal treatments
- B12 supplement
-  Lifestyle changes

2. Consider a Salon or Clinical Treatment
Do you want fast results? Laser treatments and chemical peels can help rapidly resurface the skin, to help clear away darkness on the knuckles faster. If you’ve been diagnosed with a condition like acanthosis nigricans, a dermatologist will do the best job, but an aesthetician can help with more general hyperpigmentation.

3. Skin Brightening Skincare
Skin brightening ingredients are usually skin renewing or they directly impact the skin’s tendency to overproduce melanin. With dark knuckles, usually, only the skin renewers can help. Those ingredients include exfoliants like glycolic and lactic acid, as well as retinoids - all of which are ingredients we use in our Dark Spot Treatment Duo.

Other skin-brightening options, like vitamin C, spirulina, mulberry extract, and alpha-arbutin are more likely to help visibly improve dark spots on your knuckles if they’re caused by sun exposure or irritation.

Best Skincare Products for Treating Dark Knuckles

Whether you’re dealing with acanthosis nigricans or simple hyperpigmentation, the good news is that there are plenty of products that can help improve the look of your skin! They’re not necessarily going to treat the underlying cause, but they’ll help you feel more confident to show off your hands.

Exfoliating Hand Wash
If you want an easy remedy to soften and brighten the look of your dark knees, legs and knuckles, switch to an exfoliating hand wash around once a day. This way, exfoliating away the rough or pigmented skin is as easy as washing your hands!

To avoid excess friction, opt for a cleanser like our Body Refresher. It includes glycolic acid, which removes dead skin gently with a low risk of skin irritation.

Brightening and Moisturizing
Hand Lotion Keeping your hands and fingers moisturized will go a long way towards preventing friction and keeping your skin fortified, which will allow the hyperpigmentation to fade sooner.

For best results, choose a lotion that’ll also infuse your skin with anti-aging and brightening compounds. While it’s best to avoid potentially harsh or irritating ingredients, gentle ones like vitamin C, glycolic acid, and spirulina in our Body Smoother can help.

Hand Cream WIth SPF
Day-to-day, use a hand cream with SPF. This will help fade dark spots on your knuckles, and will also protect your hands from early signs of aging. Make sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after you’ve washed your hands.

Prevention Tips for Dark Spots on knuckles

Once you’ve cleared away the dark spots from your hands, here are the best ways to prevent their return: 

  • Visit your doctor regularly, follow their directions, and stay on top of your health with checkups.
  • Keep the skin on your hands strong and supple by moisturizing regularly.
  • If you’ve had issues with insulin resistance or B12 deficiency, make sure to stick to a healthy, nutritionally complete diet.
  • Avoid harsh cleansing agents and wear gloves when washing dishes.
  • Use a hand cream with SPF regularly to prevent sun and age spots on your hands or fingers.

Adriana Bailey

Meet our talented content writer Adriana Bailey. She has dedicated her career to creating informative, engaging, and relevant content for readers who want to learn more about the latest beauty products and techniques.In her free time, Adriana enjoys experimenting with new makeup styles or researching inspiration in the latest beauty trends.

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Adriana Bailey

Meet our talented content writer Adriana Bailey. She has dedicated her career to creating informative, engaging, and relevant content for readers who want to learn more about the latest beauty products and techniques.In her free time, Adriana enjoys experimenting with new makeup styles or researching inspiration in the latest beauty trends.