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.
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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.
The issue: Dryness Between washing our hands 800 times a day or glopping on hand sanitizer, it’s no wonder hands can reach Mojave Desert-like conditions; and when hands are super dry, wrinkling looks worse. “The skin on the hands doesn’t have many oil glands so it doesn’t self-lubricate well,” says Kauvar. “Hands are also constantly exposed to chemicals from soaps and cleaning products, which adds to the dehydration.”
Prevent it: Take a cue from top hand model Ellen Sirot: Stay away from harsh soaps and alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Instead, wash with a gentle sulfate-free cleanser (try Beecology Grapefruit & Lemongrass Foaming Hand Soap) and use only alcohol-free hand sanitizers. “Harsh soaps and dehydrating anti-bacterials literally strip away skin’s natural protective oils,” says Sirot.
Fix it: Rehydrate hands with an SPF-infused moisturizer after every washing and while hands are still damp. “Look for a nutrient-rich formula with skin-friendly fatty acids and antioxidants,” says Sirot. Try Sirot’s own Hand Perfection Rejuvenating Night Cream before you hit the sack.
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The issue: Visible veins/Loss of volume In a fascinating study published in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers compared regular images of hands with those that had been digitally retouched. The single most influential factor that made the retouched images look younger was the deletion of veins. If only we could Photoshop away actual, real-life veins. “With age we lose that layer of fat over our veins, so they become more apparent,” says Lupo. “Hands just don’t look as plump and full as they used to.”
Prevent it: Yes, that sunscreen recommendation again; UV is a known collagen depleter. Other than that, a few lifestyle changes can make a difference. “Veins get more pronounced after aerobic activity or from eating salty foods and indulging in caffeinated drinks,” says Sirot.
Fix it: Doctors are using injectable fillers to plump up skeletal-looking hands. While hyaluronic acid-based fillers such as Restylane or Juvederm can be used, many dermatologists suggest Radiesse, a calcium hydroxylapatite-based filler. “It’s long-lasting and cost-effective,” says Lupo. Or ask your dermatologist about sclerotherapy, an in-office treatment where a solution is injected into veins (usually saline) to dissolve them. And for a quick fix, says Sirot, “You can always use the hand model trick of raising your hands up in the air for a minute and then slowly bringing them down. We call this draining, and it will definitely—temporarily—de-vein your hands.”