A beautiful face is what attracts us the most. But it is not all. A beautiful hand also draws our attention equally. While keeping the hands well-moisturized is key to make them look soft and welcoming, taking care of the knuckles is important too. Unfortunately, dark skin on the knuckles is one of the most common issues faced by many of us. It, indeed, creates a very bad impression. So today, let us talk about the causes, treatments, and some effective home remedies for dark knuckles.
What are Dark Knuckles?
Our knuckles are one of the most used parts of our body, which makes the skin on the areas around them exposed to vigorous friction. Continuous exposure to the sun aggravates the condition even further. Apart from these, several other internal and external factors affect the health and appearance of our knuckles. As a result, the skin on the areas loses its actual color and develops hyperpigmentation. When the knuckles on the hands turn darker than their actual color, they are called dark knuckles.
Dark knuckles can be developed by anyone irrespective of age, gender, and location. However, it occurs more frequently in people with darker skin tones.
Causes of Dark Knuckles
The main reason behind the darkening of knuckles is hyperpigmentation, which results from the overproduction of melanin in those areas. While continuous friction and frequent sun exposure contribute to it, the symptom can even indicate various underlying health conditions that need to be treated. Hence, it is important to know about the factors that are impacting the phenomenon. Following are some possible causes of dark knuckles:
1. Acanthosis Nigricans (AN)
In this condition, the skin on the knuckles and other parts of the body becomes darker and thicker while feeling itchy and odorous. It is linked to the mutation of genes responsible for fibroblast growth factors and is often considered a warning sign of diabetes (1). AN is more prevalent in Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, obese people, and insulin-resistant people of all age groups (2). Sometimes, it is also inherited from the family.
2. Prediabetes and Diabetes
If you have diabetes or are at the risk of diabetes, your knuckles can turn darker over time as the high levels of insulin may affect the growth of skin cells (3). It may also be a warning sign of prediabetes if the levels of sugar in your bloodstream are higher than normal and you are not aware of it.
3. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Highly pigmented knuckles can be a strong indicator of vitamin B12 deficiency in the body (4).
4. Addison’s Disease
This is a rare medical condition in which the production of adrenal hormones like cortisol and aldosterone gets disrupted (5). The darkening of knuckles is a common symptom of this disease.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
In PCOS, the levels of male hormones become higher than normal in a woman’s body. This may turn the skin in body creases like knuckles dark with time.
6. Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis
This rare autoimmune disease is characterized by the overproduction of collagen in the body, which often leads to the hardening as well as the darkening of the knuckles.
7. Drug Reactions
Intake of certain drugs can cause your knuckles to darken. These include oral contraceptive pills, glucocorticoids, niacin, and nicotinic acid, protease inhibitors, etc. Growth hormone therapy, estrogen therapy, and injected insulin can also lead to the same.
As the skin on the knuckles gets thicker from within, the layer of accumulated dead cells on it amplifies it even more. So, it may look even darker sometimes.
7 Effective Home Remedies for Dark Knuckles
Though the medical conditions leading to dark knuckles cannot be treated at home, you can actually lighten them largely by following a few simple yet effective DIY remedies. Check them out below:
1. Use a Good Exfoliator
Exfoliation is necessary to get rid of the dead cells accumulated on your knuckles. Only a good scrub can help you regarding this. Mix (1/2) teaspoon of lemon juice with 2 tablespoons of sugar and apply this all over your fingers. Scrub gently in a circular motion for around 5 to 10 minutes and then, rinse with plain water. This has to be practiced regularly for a few days to achieve the desired result.
2. Bleach the Skin Naturally
Dark knuckles can be bleached naturally by applying a mixture of lemon juice and honey to them. Practice this every day and wait for about 10 minutes before washing off with water lukewarm water. Lemon lightens the skin as a natural bleaching agent (6) while honey keeps it moisturized and healthy. You can also try cutting a lemon into half and rubbing it over the skin on your knuckles for 10 minutes before having a bath.
3. Apply Gram Flour Pack
Mix 1 tablespoon of gram flour, 2 tablespoons of raw milk, and 3 drops of lemon juice in a bowl and mix them thoroughly. Apply it to the affected parts of your hands and leave until dries. Finally, wash it away with plain water. This treatment has to be done for around one month to see a visible difference. All three ingredients used in this pack are used as a natural skin lightening agent. Gram flour adds to the results by exfoliating the dead cells efficiently (7).
4. Massage Almond Oil
Almond oil not only improves the health of the skin but also helps in brightening it up. A few drops of the oil can be massaged on the knuckles for 10 minutes for this purpose. Leave it overnight and rinse with water in the morning. If done regularly, this may reduce the pigmentation and make your knuckles lighter.
5. Apply Vitamin E and Milk Cream
Vitamin E capsules are easily available in all drug stores and they can be used for lightening the dark skin on the knuckles in a natural way (8). Take the content of one vitamin E capsule and add 1 teaspoon of milk cream to it. Apply this mixture to your knuckles as well as other rough areas of the skin. Massage well for about 10 minutes and then, rinse with tepid water. This is also a very good remedy for moisturizing the skin.
6. Try Baking Soda Rinse
Pamper your hands with a natural rinse made of baking soda, rose water, and glycerin. All you need to do is take warm water in a medium-sized bowl and add all ingredients to it. Now, soak your hands in this water mixture for a minimum of 5 minutes. Once done, rinse with plain water. This will help in decreasing the darkness of your knuckles gradually.
7. Rub with Pumice Stone
Pumice stone acts as a vital tool in manicure practices and it acts as a good remedy for lightening knuckles too. The stone basically works by scrubbing away the dead skin cells from the knuckles. You can use it to rub your knuckles while taking a bath every day.
Use moisturizer and sunscreen to keep your knuckles healthy and UV-protected all through the year. This will help you prevent them from getting dark.
Other Treatments for Dark Knuckles
Dark knuckles caused by certain underlying health conditions can be treated with medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes. Over-the-counter (OTC) products containing hydroquinone, lipohydroxy acid, soy extract, niacinamide, ellagic acid, lignin peroxidase, etc, can help lighten the skin in those areas without causing irritations or adverse effects. There are also some other commercial products for hyperpigmentation, which contain ingredients like arbutin, kojic acid, licorice extract, aloe leaf extract, etc. However, they may be more likely to cause allergic reactions. You can also consult your doctor or dermatologist to treat your dark knuckles. He or she may recommend prescription drugs like topical retinoids, topical vitamin D compounds, oral melatonin, etc.
Dark knuckles can be embarrassing. There are multiple factors that can contribute to the pigmentation of our knuckles and sometimes it can be the result of certain underlying health conditions too. Following a few simple home remedies can lighten the color of our darkened knuckles significantly rather than using OTC products and prescription drugs. However, consult your dermatologist if your dark knuckles indicate serious health conditions.
While it’s not always possible to self-identify the underlying medical conditions behind dark knuckles, regular exfoliation, moisturization, application of sunscreen lotions, and avoiding medications that can cause hyperpigmentation may solve the issue in most cases. Some of the main reasons could be deficiency of vitamin B12, PCOS, undiagnosed diabetes, or pre-diabetes, etc. It is always recommended to consult a dermatologist or physician to ascertain the exact reason.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Can I Lighten My Dark Hands Fast?
Rub half of a lemon all over your hands. Let it dry for 15 minutes. Then, wash off with tepid water. Do it 2-3 times a day and the natural bleaching properties of lemon will lighten the tone of your hands effectively.
How Can I Remove Dark Underarms?
Dark underarms can be lightened by applying natural skin lightening agents like lemon juice, tomato juice, potato juice, cucumber juice, orange peel powder, turmeric powder, etc.
What Causes Dark Elbows?
Dark elbows are primarily caused by the accumulation of dead skin cells on them. Hyperpigmentation and UV exposure are two other common factors contributing to this problem.
- “Acanthosis Nigricans“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Acanthosis Nigricans: High Prevalence and Association with Diabetes in a Practice-Based Research Network Consortium – a PRImary Care Multi-Ethnic Network (PRIME Net) Study“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “What Causes Dark Knuckles and How Can You Treat Them?“, Healthline.com
- “Knuckle Pigmentation: A Clue to Systemic Illness“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “Addison’s Disease“, RareDiseases.org
- “The Hunt for Natural Skin Whitening Agents“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- “In-House Preparation and Standardization of Herbal Face Pack“, pdfs.semanticscholar.org
- “Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available?“, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov