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A Helping Hand

Here's what you need to know to keep them looking their youngest.

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Want to gauge someone’s age? A woman’s face may not give away those digits, but the digits on her hands just may. “The skin on the hands is very thin and, therefore, more fragile. Plus, hands get constant UV exposure that further breaks down the supporting collagen and fat,” says New Orleans dermatologist Mary Lupo, M.D. The unfortunate result is that one’s hands end up showing age faster than the face—especially if you’re not vigilant about applying sunscreen.

“A lot of my patients are doing maintenance on their faces, but aren’t aware of all the treatments now available for hands,” adds Manhattan dermatologist Lisa Airan, M.D.

If that sounds familiar, remember it’s not too late. Start taking steps now before those inevitable signs of aging get out of hand.

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The issue: Age spots (aka hyperpigmentation)

Splotches are cute on dalmatians— and only on dalmations. The culprit: years of UV exposure which caused an overproduction of melanin in skin. “Sun spots can show up as early as the 30s—especially in those who are very light-skinned or have spent a lot of time outdoors,” says dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, M.D., director of New York Laser and Skincare.

Prevent it: It bears repeating yet again: Rub on sunscreen religiously—even if you’re not planning on being outdoors or it’s overcast. “UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and glass windows,” explains Dr. Kauvar. That means even a simple drive to the grocery store or walk to the subway makes skin susceptible to UV damage. Make sure the sunscreen you pick offers broad-spectrum protection and antioxidants for an extra boost of sun-damage defense. One we like: Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Correcting Hand Cream SPF 15. And for prolonged outdoor activities like bicycling, golf and gardening, pull a Downton Abbey and slip on a pair of gloves.

Fix it: If you’re already seeing spots, don’t freak. Try an over-the-counter cream like Elure Advanced Brightening Lotion that uses an enzyme derived from tree fungus (yep, you read that right), to help dissolve melanin. Darker spots require more intense help in the form of a dermatology office procedure such as laser or intense pulsed light treatments to target and break down excess pigment. “They’re the most efficient and have the fastest recovery,” says Kauvar.

MORE: The Low-Down On Hand Sanitizers

The issue: Wrinkles

It’s an unfortunate fact that skin thins as we age. Combine that with UV, and it’s a recipe for wrinkles. “A thinning of the collagen layer makes skin looser and weaker,” says Kauvar. “This exhibits as a crepe paper-like texture on the backs of the hands and around the joints.” 

Prevent it: As with so many things wrinkle-related, practicing smart sun is key. Slather on sunscreen in the morning and reapply after every hand-washing. Get in the habit of keeping a bottle of sunscreen in your purse and on your desk at work so it becomes routine. 

Fix it: When you apply that anti-aging cream or serum to your face at night, slap some on the hands as well. Those same ingredients that keep your face young work for hands, too. “Look for retinol, antioxidants and peptides,” advises Dr. Lupo. For more serious crinkles, fractional laser treatments can help. These treatments send a blast of intense heat underneath skin’s surface, triggering collagen production and helping firm up skin. Studies done on patients’ hands showed a 26–50 percent improvement in wrinkles, pigmentation and texture after six months; but multiple treatments are needed for optimal results.

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