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Calluses might not look great but they are a normal part of a guitarist’s life, in fact, it’s almost impossible to avoid getting them if you play on a regular basis.
Moreso calluses are important because without them you wouldn’t be able to stand the discomfort and pain of strumming or fingerpicking the strings on your guitar.
As a new guitarist seeing those calluses slowly develop is always a good sign, but what if you notice some or all of them coming off?
You’re probably going to wonder how to stop guitar calluses from peeling.
To stop your calluses from peeling you should keep your hands hydrated when not playing. If the guitar calluses are getting caught on the strings, then you can file the rough edges but avoid picking at them. Consider using lighter strings and playing the guitar in shorter sessions to keep your calluses from peeling off.
If you’ve never had guitar calluses before then you’ll need our tips on how to properly care for them and how to stop your guitar calluses from peeling, so keep on reading!
How To Stop Guitar Calluses From Peeling?
The truth is that once your guitar calluses start to peel you can’t do much to stop the process which sucks if you’re a new guitarist who is trying to grow their calluses faster.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take care of your calluses and keep them from falling off or catching on the guitar strings.
First, you need to assess the state of your calluses, since guitar calluses that are at the peeling stage will usually go away on their own you can simply file away any rough edges that stick out to keep the calluses from interfering.
What’s more important is that the more your calluses peel the harder they will get, because you’re basically shedding your weak skin and growing stronger skin. It is however a different story if the calluses on your fingers are causing you extreme pain or discomfort.
I know that plenty of guitarists myself including have pushed through the pain and kept on persistently playing the guitar to develop our calluses no matter what, but in retrospect, I believe that this doesn’t have to be such an extreme process.
Sure pain is to be expected when you learn how to play the guitar but if your calluses are bothering you then consider taking a short break from playing the guitar for a day or two maximum, or better break your one lengthy practice session into small sessions throughout the day.
I would also take a break from playing complicated techniques like slides, bends, and pull-offs, at least until your calluses are hardened again and no longer peeling.
Additionally, if you notice a blister develop on your strumming hand then consider using a pick instead because blisters can easily get inflamed or become unbearably painful.
I’ve heard a few people mention super glue as a solution to keep cracked calluses from opening or tearing even more, but I would advise against this option. There’s always a danger that the super glue, which is a harsh chemical, will get in contact not just with your skin, but also with a small cut or injury. Some people can be allergic to superglue and the chemicals in it, so it’s always best to stay on the safe side.
Why Are My Guitar Calluses Peeling?
As you may already know calluses are thick pads of skin that develop over time on the fingertips of your fretting hand and the more you play the more these calluses build up and become tougher.
This might make your fingertips look unappealing but these extra layers of skin help guitarists hold down the strings and move their fingertips over them without feeling discomfort or pain.
It’s not unusual for calluses to peel, crack and even fall off almost entirely, especially for new guitarists that haven’t developed their calluses properly.
It’s often the lack of proper technique that can cause the calluses to crack, and the fingertips to feel sore. If you don’t give some time for your calluses to form and instead spend crazy hours playing despite the pain then you can even sustain serious injuries and lose sensation in your fingertips completely.
But even if you are an experienced guitarist you might find your calluses peeling if they dry out too much due to the cold during the winter, or if you’ve taken a few weeks off from playing your guitar.
Even after years of playing the guitar, I will still find my calluses peeling, but I know how to properly care for them so that this natural cycle doesn’t affect my guitar career.
Should You Moisturize Guitar Calluses?
I must make a disclaimer here and tell you that everyone’s skin is different. I know plenty of guitarists that had no problems developing guitar calluses and they never complained about them peeling or falling off and most importantly they never used a moisturizer.
I also know plenty of guitarists whose calluses keep peeling off and the only way they can care for their calluses and keep them from completely cracking is by using a moisturizer.
I do think that overall if you have very dry and sensitive skin the best way you can actually care for your calluses is to keep your hands moisturized with hydrating creams or lotions that suit your skin type.
Now I do want to point out that you should not moisturize your guitar calluses before playing the guitar because that will cause them to peel even more.
Instead, you should moisturize your hands before going to bed, this way your skin and calluses will have enough time to hydrate but by the time you grab your guitar to play the calluses should be dry and tough.
If the problem persists and you find the skin on your fingertips also peeling then it could be caused by a skin condition like eczema, allergies, and psoriasis among others. In this case, it would be advisable to visit a dermatologist.
Should You Peel Off Your Guitar Calluses?
Whether your calluses are peeling or not you should not peel them off yourself because you are more likely to cause a small tear in the skin around or beneath the callus.
Such injuries can take a long time to heal and you are likely to experience a lot of discomfort and pain when playing the guitar.
Not only will an injury that is a result of cutting, picking, and peeling off your calluses interfere with your guitar practice or gigs, but it could also cause a serious infection.
How Long Do Guitar Calluses Take To Develop?
As I’ve already mentioned everyone’s skin is different and the time it will take to develop guitar calluses will depend on the individual guitarist and how much they intend to play.
From my experience, you can expect your fingertips to feel sore and tender for the first week of consistent playing for at least thirty minutes a day.
In my case, I actually couldn’t play for more than twenty minutes because of the pain. So, don’t feel bad if you can only play the guitar for five or ten minutes per session daily for that first week.
During the second week, things will start to feel better, you will still feel discomfort, but you will notice that the strings don’t feel like they are cutting your fingertips every time you move over them.
I would say that if you are not overexerting yourself, you are applying the right finger pressure and using the guitar techniques as correctly as possible then you can expect the skin on your fingertips to start developing calluses after a month of consistent playing.
As time passes and you keep playing your guitar you will notice these calluses harden even more and after two months you should not feel any significant discomfort while playing the guitar unless, of course, you begin learning new techniques like bending.
How Long Will Guitar Calluses Last?
If you consistently play the guitar and you’re not planning on quitting any time soon then the calluses on your fretting hand are not going to go away.
Your calluses are going to last as long as you are playing the guitar, but if you decide to stop then they will go away over time. For some ex-guitarists, that time is one to two months for others, it can take years but we’re talking about severe cases.
How To Care For Your Guitar Calluses?
You can’t necessarily stop your guitar calluses from peeling but you can prevent them from cracking and falling off by following the tips below.
Tip 1: Play The Guitar In Shorter Sessions
If you notice your newly formed calluses peeling then it’s a good opportunity to stay on the side of caution without necessarily stopping practicing.
You can simply decrease the time you spend playing the guitar by playing the guitar in shorter sessions throughout the day.
This way you’ll be able to give your fingers enough breaks. While the more you play the guitar the more your fingers will get used to the constant friction and form harder calluses, you don’t want to overdo it.
If the calluses on your fingers are cracked and are causing you great discomfort then you can take a break for a day or two to let them heal. However, it’s best not to go too long without playing the guitar because the calluses will dissipate and you will have to start from scratch.
Tip 2: Work On Your Technique
One big mistake that new guitarists do is pressing down the strings with too much force or at a wrong angle. And I get it since I myself used to try to overcompensate for my lack of finger strength by applying too much pressure.
In this case, less is better not only for the sound your guitar will produce but also for your fingers. If your calluses are peeling and you go hard on your strings when bending then you might end up cutting them or tearing them off.
Not only does this mean that you’ll have to start over but you may hurt your fingers and cause an infection. If you want to do bends and chords from different angles it’s important that you keep building your calluses and not tear them all off.
My teacher actually gave me a good tip on how to build my calluses over a larger area of the fingertips without being aggressive. At the end of each practice, he told me to spend a couple of minutes pushing my fingertips against the strings in different areas. The slight friction helps activate the skin in a wider area and can make bending less uncomfortable.
Tip 3: Use Light Gauge Strings
The constant friction against tight and heavy strings can cause the calluses on your fingers to peel. In this case, consider getting a lighter set. Light gauge strings are more flexible and much softer on the fingers.
If your calluses are really developed but you notice that they start peeling then be careful not to go too aggressive on steel light strings because there’s a danger that they will slice through the callus and tear it off.
For those of you who are playing an acoustic guitar, you could switch to nylon strings because they’re also more flexible and you can easily manipulate them. Despite being softer these strings can still help you build calluses instead of destroying them.
Tip 4: Detune Your Strings
Sometimes the strings feel too tight and the additional force you’ll have to apply can also cause the calluses to peel or they can exaggerate the issue.
In this case, you could detune the strings a whole step. It’s also possible that the strings are tuned too tight already and they need to be loosened, or the action of your guitar needs to be adjusted so you don’t have to push the strings with such difficulty against the frets.
Tip 5: Don’t Pick Your Calluses
No matter how tempted you might be don’t pick your calluses and if you have the habit of biting your nails avoid biting your calluses.
I also understand how calluses can be especially uncomfortable for those of you who are just now starting out, nonetheless avoid messing with your calluses at all cost!
Not only are you going to remove the hard-earned calluses, but you might end up tearing one of them off and that can be really painful and it will be even more sore and tender when you try to play the guitar.
Tip 6: File Away The Rough Edges
Whether your guitar calluses are peeling or not instead of biting or picking at them use a file to smooth any rough edges.
This way your calluses will stop catching on the strings and it’s a great method to reduce the peeling, plus there’s less risk of losing your calluses.
Before you file your calluses you can also carefully use a sterilized nail clipper to remove any pieces sticking too much, but remember not to cut them too closely.
Tip 7: Keep Your Hands Clean And Moisturized
As I’ve already talked about earlier keeping your hands moisturized can reduce your calluses from peeling, as well as drying out and cracking.
It’s best to moisturize your hands in the evening or before you go to bed so that by the time you start playing the guitar the next day the calluses are dry and hard again.
It’s also important to keep your hands clean before playing the guitar but make sure that you dry your hands properly and give them a few minutes to lose that softness that the water can cause.
You definitely shouldn’t play the guitar after taking a long hot shower because the calluses on your hand will immediately start peeling as your fingertips come in contact with the strings.
Tips 8: Consider Using Gorilla Tips
If nothing seems to work for you and your calluses keep peeling, tearing off, and making your guitar experience unpleasant then consider getting gorilla tips.
These are thin plastic sheathings that go over the tips of your fingers. They are very stretchy and thin at the perimeter and they have thicker material at the tip like a callus basically.
Unfortunately, as the video below suggests they are not going to work for sliding and pull-offs because of the friction, but if you can use them on those days when your fingertips feel too sore and you want to give your calluses some time to heal.
Developing calluses from playing the guitar is inevitable and necessary if you want to keep playing, but the main issue with guitar calluses is that they can start peeling and getting caught on the guitar strings.
It sounds painful and it usually is so if you want to stop your guitar calluses from peeling you should start taking care of them.
All you have to do is create a routine that benefits your calluses during their peeling phase, by moisturizing your hands when you’re not playing and by avoiding playing the guitar when your hands are moist and the calluses soft.
Don’t pick or bite your calluses because that can only make things worse and you might end up injuring yourself and causing an infection. If the calluses are getting in the way then simply file away the rough edges slightly.
Lastly, remember that even if your calluses are peeling that shouldn’t stop you from playing the guitar, but instead of pushing yourself and your poor fingertips against the strings, reduce the time you spend on daily sessions and give your calluses some time to rest and develop.