The case of the disappearing fingerprints


There’s nowhere to hide.

Unless, maybe, you don’t have fingerprints.

Years back I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo where one of the characters had to scan her hand to access her office. I was rather proud of my cutting-edge technological knowledge back then. In those days, such a premise was nothing more than science fiction.

It ain’t no more.


As I work toward my degree in Special Education, I have to go through an extensive background check to student teach. Part of this background check (required by my college, not the school–I already substitute teach with a basic background check), is to be fingerprinted.

image-2I was already feeling a little bit disappointed I was going to do this because I prided myself in living off the grid as far as my fingerprint identity goes. (Not that I could truly live off the grid. Google my name and there I am in all my glory.) I expected to go to the police station and do the ink fingerprint routine. I was worried about it ruining my manicure.


I needn’t have worried. They no longer do ink fingerprinting for background checks in the United States. Now they use biometric scanning technology. The future is now.


I was greeted by a very kind, older gentleman who looked a bit like a character from a sci-fi spaceship movie. He gently placed my hand on the scanner and manipulated it to get the right position and scan. We soon learned that I’m one of the difficult ones.

I’m missing fingerprints on my little finger and ring finger.


Not my hand but this person has no fingerprints.

Turns out, not having fingerprints is actually a genetic condition called Adermatoglyphia.

But that’s not what I have because my other three fingers and my thumb have prints. Apparently, through years of playing the piano and typing, I’ve worn my fingerprints off on those two fingers! I thought it was piano playing but my husband reminded me that on my computer keyboard I wear the letters off where those two fingers on each hand land: q,w,a,s and o,p,l, and ;.


If my fingerprints are rejected, I’ll have to go in and scan them again to prove that my fingerprints don’t scan. Then, I’ll have to submit paperwork to prove I exist as my name. (I don’t know why they don’t do this in the first place.)


There are other reasons and occupations that causes our fingerprints to disappear. Aging causes us to lose fingerprints. Apparently it’s difficult for older people to use biometric identification technology because their skin is thinner and the ridges on the fingers not as pronounced.

Guess that means it’s official. I’m old.


The elderly have a difficult time passing biometric screenings for visas and passports. India is having a difficult time identifying its residents with the now-required biometric scanning technology.

I was glad to learn I wasn’t alone. However, it’s now a major headache to get approved for much without your fingerprints. I’m sure they’ll eventually just scan our eyes or faces but it may take awhile to develop a database. Although, with facebook tagging, it may be closer than we think. (Each time I post a pic of my granddaughter, facebook thinks it’s her mother.) In regard to scanning our eyes, if someone has had cataracts removed, iris scanning doesn’t work, either.


Bricklayers and massage therapists often wear off their fingerprints. It’s not a unique thing. Another problem I had with the scanner is that I have exceptionally small hands. It’s something I inherited from my grandmother and I’m rather proud of it. I should have much larger hands for someone my size. I wear a size 4.5 ring. It makes it difficult to buy costume rings, but it’s worth it.


So when the guy did my fingerprints and had to roll my fingers for the second part of the scan, they weren’t read very well. I’m still waiting to hear if my fingerprints were rejected. The finger printer said they most likely would be.


I have to drive 45 minutes to get to where they scan my fingerprints. It’s going to be a hassle to re-do them only to have them rejected again. Finger(prints) crossed the good prints will be enough to identify whether or not I’m a crook. In the meantime, I’m working on getting an original birth certificate sent to the powers-that-be to prove I’m a good egg.


Here’s a good website to learn more about losing your fingerprints: Can You Lose Your Fingerprints? – Scientific American.

And here’s a video from Fox News:

Have you ever been fingerprinted for a passport or visa? For any other reason? How did it go?

What do you think is the next thing in biometric technology?


Tweet this: Are your fingerprints missing? How do you know?

Comments 41

    1. Post
      1. I am 66, never had been fingerprinted. Had to do get fingerprinted, because I volunteered to work with children. She did it twice and I had none. The girl doing it said I had worked hard with my hands, which was true. So I guess as you age, and worked with your hands a lot, you can wear them down. I’m still going to get to volunteer. But who knew, you can wear them down.

        1. Post

          Glad you still got to work with the children! I don’t think fingerprinting will be around for much longer. Now they have so many other ways to identify us, facial recognition being one of them.

          1. I have no fingerprints at all, on either hand. I used to have them but for some reason they have disappeared. This is incredibly frustrating! I am in the process of becoming a volunteer who works with foster children, but my lack of fingerprints is a problem. I’ve finished all the training but the alternate FBI check will take 90-days! I anticipate there will be other problems I will encounter because of the fingerprint issue.

    1. Post
  1. I have only 2 fingerprints! I worked at a clinic when they got a new time clock that used fingerprints to clock in and out. It rarely worked for me even though I registered all 10 fingers. My solution was to take a photo of the clock when I arrived and left. One year later I applied for work at a psychiatric facility and needed a fingerprint check done. I went to the sheriff’s office and after many scans of each finger they could only get prints from 2 fingers consistently. I had a good work history locally, so the employer waived that rather than paying for a DNA test, which law enforcement said would be the next option. I’ve been a transcriptionist for 20 years and I also had chemotherapy 19 years ago, so maybe those are clues. I did have fingerprints as a child, so it’s not congenital – just unusual.

    1. Post
    1. Post

      Selena, I just had my fingerprints done again and apparently they grew back! The guy doing them told me that they could grow back, but also that technology for scanning prints has improved. He was also more experienced at getting prints. I had them all this time. He said my pinky fingers weren’t too great, though.

  2. I just recently noticed that my fingers have appeared to lost their prints…
    I am a pianist/organist. I assume this is the reason my prints have gone
    away. I also know there are several diseases which result in disappearing

    1. Post

      Betty, yes, playing piano and organ can definitely rub our prints away. As can typing or stone mason work. My husband recently worked on pavers around a pool and lost his.

  3. I have the same issue. I’ve had this issue since they started using the new way of fingerprinting. For every job it takes me a couple of months to start because of having partial prints a few of my fingers and pinkies have none. It’s terrible I feel you. I just wonder if I was born this way since I’m only 25

  4. through years even i lost my fingerprints of all the 10 fingers now its difficult for me to verify my identity
    i guess as my hands have thin skin that is very pinky sensitive and even shows excessive sweat is reason behind it
    i would like to know if i could do something with the prints could be recorded easily in digital meters

  5. I too have lost my fingerprints in the last three years. In 2012 I made my UIAI and that time my fingerprints were taken, but now when I was scanned at a place none of my fingerprints were matched . I have never undergone chemotherapy for any malignancy, however , I am on antidiabetic and antihypertensive therapy for the last 6 years.

    1. It’s a similar situation for me. I am not undergoing any therapy or treatment though. I lost my fingerprints on all 5 fingers on my right hand. I struggle at the immigration at the airport to turn myself in the narrow path to place my left thumb on the machine on the right. I still have not figured out why my fingerprint (only) on my right hand is missing.

    2. I’m 53 years old. I was diagnosed with diabetes about 4 years back. I never had any other major disease in my life. I am doing office work not related to too much typing. Due to diabetes I lost abot 20 kg weight. My skin which was previously oily became dry and my fingerprints became hard to find. Any suggestion what should I do.
      I have heard Alum is good to regain fingerprints. Alum is required to boil in water and then at room temperature dip your fingers in the solution will help regain fingerprints.

  6. I am almost 80 years old and my finger prints are completely diminished. I cannot get a SIM in Pakistan for my cell phone because of this. Same is the case with my wife who is 78 years old. I do not know what will happen if we go to USA. How they will be able to scan our finger prints. the US consulate, however, could scan our finger prints, though with some effort and they issued us Non Immigrant visa. They probably have better finger print scanning equipment.

  7. 2 years back …i got 2 thumb and index finger’s fingerprint …yesterday i went again to have all the fingerprints but what i have noticed is only i am having index fingers fingerprint …what should i do …

  8. I am an RN and had to get fingerprinted in order to get my license remenewed. I discovered that my fingerprints had worn off. The solution was to do an FBI check with I passed thank goodness.
    Now I just applied for. Global Entry pass with TSA and find that in order to dear the kiosk there is a fingerprint scan, I think I am not going to to be able to use the kiosk and have wasted my money.

  9. I had the fingerprint scan of my french ID card skipped a couple of days ago due to no prints. I assume my building work has worn them off, also had a bandage on one thumb after a whoospie with a knife.

  10. Hi,I check your new stuff named “The case of the disappearing fingerprints | Karla Akins” daily.Your story-telling style is witty, keep up the good work! And you can look our website about proxy.

    1. I have the same condition what did you do to get fingerprints? I’ve had my fingerprints rejected by the FBI and they told me they can’t help me and there is no other way to get a background check.

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  12. I would pay to get rid of my finger prints. I don’t see how people here don’t care about their privacy, and take it for granted that you give fingerprints to when applying to a job (what?! are you crazy?) and see losing their fingerprints as a grievance. I mean, if I were to lose my fingerprints, I would be like “how do you like that? suck it, fascists! you can force me to compromise my privacy no more” and I don’t see how someone can discriminate against a person with no fingerprints. It must be against the law, and these people obviously didn’t lose them on purpose, so it is the stupid-terrorist-security-guards’ problem.

    1. Do a lot of typing. Or in all seriousness you could probably buy one of those grinders for feet and grind them off over time.

      But really, that’s rather idiotic. Calling biometric authentication “fascist” makes about as much sense as calling medicare “capitalist”. If you need to hide your identity so badly just put on a pair of latex gloves. And make sure you don’t drop so much as a particle that might contain your DNA.

  13. I’m a 32 year old man who works as a freelance software developer & technical consultant. All of the typing I’ve done over the years has taken its toll, and I too have some difficulty with biometric authentication when fingerprints are required – unless I’m able to choose which finger to enroll. In that case usually I’ll go with my right thumb, which is the only finger I have that still has a usable print.

  14. Hi,

    What has everyone else done? I’m only 27 and I work a desk job but I have “worn” fingers on ring finger and middle finders. The police department can’t seem to adequately capture my fingerprints. I’m on my 3rd try and very frustrated. I need a FBI check for my Australian permanent residency. Is there an alternative way to get my background check?

  15. The article provides helpful details on the case of disappearing fingerprints. The reason why so many people’s fingerprints have vanished is because frequent use of your hands can cause the ridges to start to wear down. Not just physicians should do this. According to Scientific American, other workers frequently lose their prints as a result of the roughness of the materials they work with on a regular basis.

  16. Ms. Akins,

    Hello! I no longer have my fingerprints. I use them alot and noticed them going away over 6 years ago. It is pretty frustrating cause I notice if I switch an item I am holding from one hand to the other I can’t feel the transfer due to the prints being gone! Thus I drop the item being moved to the other hand. Cause the prints would grip onto the item on the hand the item is being moved to. It is the same thing also when I try to open anything the prints don’t grip the item trying to open, or trying to pick up an item, putting something down on a counter!

    Deyne in Denver


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