You may be as committed to your anti-aging skin care routine as you are to keeping up with Downton Abbey’s dramatic plot, but sometimes the biggest giveaway of your age is nowhere near your face – it’s on your hands. From age spots to ragged cuticles, we asked top dermatologists and manicurists for the real cause of these hand-agers and, more importantly, the solutions.
Age spots. They’re actually sun spots, says Jessica Wu, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School. “Even if you don’t sunbathe or spend much time outdoors now, age spots are often a sign of how much time you’ve spent in the sun in past years,” she says. Check the evidence: Look at the difference between the skin on the inside of your wrist and on the back of your hands. The skin in both areas is the same age (yikes!).
If the spots are new, Wu recommends using products with fading ingredients like licorice or soy found in over-the-counter products, which may help lighten them. Try June Jacobs Intensive Age Defying Hydrating Hand and Foot Cream. Or, opt for stronger, prescription-strength ingredients like tretinoin — the active ingredient in Retin-A and Renova.
“In the office, I remove brown spots with laser, chemical peels, or freezing [them] with a liquid nitrogen spray,” says Wu. But keep in mind that hands take longer to heal than your face.
You can prevent age spots by using sunscreen, Wu adds. “Choose one that provides broad spectrum UVA protection, since these are the rays that are most linked to melanin production,” she says.
Vein-y hands. As you age, the skin on your hands starts to thin, says Carolyn Jacob, MD, the director at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, and as it does your veins become more visible. To smooth things over, “there are injectable fillers such as Restylane and Radiesse that can plump up the hands and improve the overall appearance,” she says.
Or, you can go straight to the source and inject the actual veins “to collapse them and make them less prominent,” says Wu.
Bony, wrinkled hands. Skeleton hands, as some might call it, are often a natural part of aging. “As we get older, the collagen and fat in our hands break down over time,” says Alexandra Zhang, MD, a Cleveland Clinic dermatologist. This leads to a wrinkled, bony look on your hands.
“Certain lasers with fractional technology can stimulate the collagen synthesis with reduced ‘down time’ and may help to tighten the skin,” she says.
Ragged nails and cuticles. Showing your cuticles some love not only helps them look youthful, but also benefits your overall health. “Your cuticles help seal the nail and keep out bacteria and fungus,” says Wu. So whatever you do, do not cut them or push them back too hard. “Cutting and overly vigorous pushing will make them thick and crack and, worse, lift up,” she says, “allowing infection to get under the skin.”
Keep your cuticles supple and well moisturized with a rich cuticle oil treatment, says Rashida B., a Chicago-based fashion manicurist. Her go-to is Famous Name’s Dadi’ Oil, which helps prevent brittleness, breaking, chipping, and hangnails.
And to keep nails in shape, eat foods that contain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and silicon to help nourish your skin and grow healthy nails, says Zhang. Also, cutting nails short and weaing a flesh-toned polish helps give hands a more youthful appearance, says Rashida B.
Dry skin. Since flaky, parched skin is a telltale sign of passing birthdays, keep your hands moisturized. Look for topical creams that contain retinol or antioxidants such as Vitamin C, green tea, or coffee extracts, says Zhang. “They will help to even the skin tone and stimulate collagen synthesis, giving your hands a smooth, refreshed appearance.”
Also, always wear gloves when doing household chores, says Rashida B. “It protects the hands from possible contact dermatitis, which can lead to skin agers like severe dryness, flaking, redness, and inflammation.”
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