There is something oddly satisfying about admiring the calluses that develop on your fingers after a particularly long session of playing. While many guitar players do not seem to mind them, they sure can be a nuisance when you are trying to use your fingers for pretty much any other activity. So is it true that they are permanent? What are some of the things you can do to avoid them? Let us look at why calluses may not be such a terrible thing after all and how we can take care of our fingers better.
Why We Get Guitar Calluses
When we repeatedly move our fingers around the fretboard, there is friction. Over some time, this friction leads to the hardening of the skin and hence, forms calluses. This thickening of dead skin through blunt trauma is broadly known as a “callus.” Beginner guitar players will often notice that long periods of practice will cause the skin on the fingertips to become sore and painful. You might feel like they do not seem to go away, and it might cause some internal panic. But this is entirely natural and happens to everyone when they start playing guitar or any stringed instrument.
Although there is no real damage to health, it can often feel a bit sensitive when touching any other surface. You can also experience a level of numbness and find yourself unable to feel things with your tips as you used to. Newer guitar players will often notice that the skin on their fingers will start to harden permanently. Although painful at first, you will find that it becomes a lot easier to manage the irritation with time. If anything, they help you grasp your fretboard with more ease and strength.
Scars Are Good For You
Just like breaking in a new pair of shoes, calluses appear as blisters but on your fingertips. They can burst if you are not a little bit careful during this period and cause permanent scarring.
Guitar players will tell you that hardened fingertips, in reality, help you play with more proficiency. Whether you play electric or nylon string guitar, making contact with the fretboard is painful when the skin is relatively soft. It is challenging to navigate your fingers between frets and strings.
Seasoned guitar players often claim their scars as a rite of passage, a sign that they practice their instrument regularly and with dedication. Once your skin has had the chance to get used to this repeated movement, you may feel a certain amount of numbness. This slight numbness is good and will help you change the position of your fingers with ease and confidence.
Calluses also help play guitars that have higher action and require you to press the strings down with a lot of added force. After a while, you will notice that you can play longer and not feel any pain at all.
Things To Be Careful About
While calluses are perfectly okay, if you feel like you have aching wrists, you should probably rest them. Often, we tend to become overzealous when we practice and try to push through the pain. This tendency can lead to harmful habits and eventually severe damage such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, which can be detrimental to one’s career. An excellent way to prevent this is to take a break and do a few simple exercises such as rotating the wrists, arms, and shoulders clockwise and counterclockwise. This break gives the body some time to relax and recuperate. Be mindful when you are practicing. Improper technique is usually the leading cause of wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain.
If your calluses feel like they might burst, it is also a good idea to massage them gently with a bit of antiseptic cream, so there is no chance of them getting infected.
A Little Self-Care Never Hurt Anyone.
Take a little bit of time out to care for your fingers. After all, you are making them go through intense physical labor. Make room in your life every day to care for your fingertips and palms. Self-care does not take a whole lot of time, and a little bit goes a long way.
Since dryness is a cause of friction, make sure to keep your hands moisturized and protect your fingertips from damage. We want them to be hard enough so we can play with ease, but at the same time, we do not want them to bleed. Open wounds like this may cause them to get infected. Blood and exposure to the metal via the strings can be dangerous.
Regular exfoliation is also an essential step to taking better care. You may have the urge to pick at the scabs, do not succumb to it. Instead, maintain better hygiene by using an exfoliating soap or product instead. Better hygiene will help remove dirt, debris, and dead skin without harming you.
If skincare is not for you, another way to tackle this problem would be to break up your practice sessions. Instead of going for a single long practice session, you can break up your practice into smaller sessions throughout the day.
Are Guitar Calluses Permanent?
Like scars in any other part of the body that fade away over time, it is the same for calluses caused by guitar. Simply put, if you were to stop playing guitar, the calluses would eventually go away. If you have been playing for a long time, you will notice that the skin has permanently hardened. While you may not get back the soft skin you had when you were a baby, it will soften. The human body is a wondrous, self-healing machine, and no callus is ever permanent.
The more comfortable you get with your instrument, the more you will be enamored by it. At this point, something like a callus will feel relatively trivial in your pursuit to play better. It all comes down to what is more important to you: well, manicured hands or the ability to play guitar.