How to Toughen Fingertips

Fingers interlocked, close-up

Nolan Ryan, inarguably the greatest Major League Baseball pitcher of all time, soaked his fingers in pickle juice to toughen them and prevent them from getting blisters. Urban legend has it that guitar great Eric Clapton builds calluses on his fingertips by swabbing rubbing alcohol on them two to three times daily. This causes the skin to dry out and calluses to thicken, thereby protecting his fingertips. Tactics that work for the pros will work for you, too.

Stay in the Game

No matter what your fingertip-intensive game or activity is, keep doing it. Calluses are the body’s natural defensive reaction to repeated exposures to friction. These hardened, thick layers of skin form to protect areas that take a beating, like your fingertips. So climb that rock wall, play that guitar or bass, grip that tennis racket or pitch that baseball every day. Your body will create calluses and form them into layers that will protect your fingers from pain and injury.

Keeping It Clean

Try using waterless sanitizers instead of washing your hands with soap and water whenever possible. Many soaps and shampoos contain skin softeners and conditioners which are counterproductive to forming calluses and otherwise toughening skin.

Wear latex or rubber gloves when you take a shower or do the dishes. Water has a temporary softening effect on human skin and calluses, so make sure your fingers are completely dry before engaging them in strenuous activity.

Alcohol Beats Lotion

Stop using hand lotion or other softeners on your fingertips. Lotions soften the skin, which is exactly what you don't want if you’re trying to toughen it up. Dab or swab rubbing alcohol on your fingertips three or four times daily. Allow it to air dry. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the skin, and may help to dry and harden it.

Rough 'em Up

No more Mr. Nice Guy -- it’s time to play rough with those pampered fingertips. Rub a pumice stone on developing calluses for about 15 minutes daily. It will rub the calluses down and eventually cause them to spread wider instead of grow deeper.

Roll a piece of rough sandpaper into a marble-sized ball. Squeeze it and roll it between your fingertips while you’re sitting around watching TV or talking on the phone. This will help to strengthen your fingers as well as toughen the tips.