As I have aged, I’ve become much more aware of my hands — and everyone’s, for that matter. They’re one of the first things I notice in both men and women. Hands reveal much about a person. There are gardening hands, rock-climbing hands, rowing hands, poets’ hands, nervous hands and couch-potato hands.
Regardless of the type, all hands age — and not necessarily well. Our hands are one of the first places to show signs of aging and are among the hardest to camouflage.
“We forget about our hands,” says Courtney Thomas, national education manager for Orlane, the French luxury beauty brand. “While we may put lotion on them when they feel dry, beyond that, we don’t do anything.” And it’s that not-doing-anything part that leads to the big bad threesome of aging-hand culprits: crepey-ness, brown spots and bulging veins.
So how can you prevent future damage and address the havoc that’s already apparent? Here are some, ahem, handy tips.
Hand Care Part 1: Creams and Lotions
Give your hands the same attention and care as your face, right down to your choice of products, according to Dr. Marta Rendon, medical director of Rendon Center for Dermatology and Aesthetic Medicine in Boca Raton, Fla. “Whichever moisturizers, retinoid creams and sunscreens you use on your face, use on your hands,” she says. Good anti-aging ingredients to look for in skin-care products include vitamin C and the aforementioned retinoids. Also look for an SPF of 30 or higher.
(MORE: How to Read Anti-Aging Cosmetics Labels)
When it comes to moisturizers, beware of oily hand creams that can get all over your clothing and smudge reading material. Jamie Ahn, founder of the popular New York City–based Acqua Beauty Bar, recommends creams and moisturizers that contain glycolic acid and shea butter, but no additional oils.
She suggests recommends that people purchase lotions in small sizes, put one in their bag and carry it at all times. “And don’t forget sunscreen,” she says. “I can’t stress how important that is. When you apply sunscreen to your face, do the same to your hands. And since you wash hands more frequently than the face, make sure to reapply.”
Some hand creams are specifically designed to lighten age spots. “If you already have some dark spots, look for products with a lightening factor,” Thomas advises. Orlane’s Reconditioning Cream for Hands and Nails with SPF 10 includes a natural lightening combo of the extracts of mulberry tree, grape juice and saxifrage. To mask blue veins, Thomas recommends Dermablend, a powerhouse of a waterproof concealer.
(MORE: The Beauty Paradox Facing Boomer Women)
Start a Weekly Regimen
In addition to moisturizing, you can prevent further damage by exfoliating the skin on your hands weekly. Again, choose a product that you’d use on your face. Or, as Ahn suggests, mix baking soda or salt with a liquid hand soap. For cuticles, try a toothbrush. A weekly hydrating or lightening mask (you can use facial products) is another good idea, Thomas says.
Rendon has a word of advice for people addicted to antibacterial soaps and wipes. “Try to avoid them unless you’re in a medical field or in a field that requires antibacterial washes,” she says. “They dry your hands out. If you must, make sure you moisturize afterward.”
A Deeper Level of Hand Rejuvenation
So what exactly ages our hands? Two things, Rendon says. First is the natural effect of growing older: loss of elasticity and volume, plus a thinning of the dermis, which causes veins to become more prominent. Then there’s exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which causes wrinkling and brown spots. To counter these signs of aging, she recommends professional chemical peels and lasers, depending upon the shape your hands are in. Here are her suggestions.
Lasers Rendon uses the Nd–Yag, which stands for neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet; other doctors prefer IPL or fractional lasers. “This is a great way to get rid of brown spots and improve the overall texture of skin,” she says.
Chemical peels They improve tone and texture. Among the many types, Enerpeel is specifically for hands. “Of course there’s glycolic acid and Obagi has a good one,” Rendon says. Peels help to improve tone, texture and surface of the skin. Cost: $150–$200, depending on how deep the peel penetrates. Usually a series of four to five peels is suggested.
Synthetic fillers Dr. Rendon recommends Radiesse to fill concave cavities, camouflage veins and plump up and rejuvenate hands. Some doctors prefer fat harvested from elsewhere on the body. Cost: $800–$1,500; lasts about a year.
Some of Rendon’s colleagues use sclerotherapy to collapse the veins, but she is against that method because she believes it is "more aggressive and more invasive.”
(MORE: Secrets to Firm, Glowing, Youthful Skin)
Moving Up: Arm Care Tips
Skin knows no official line of demarcation between arms and hands, so if you're going to take care of the latter, it makes sense to pay attention to the former as well. In addition to exercise to keep arms toned, here are two steps you can take to improve the appearance of your arms.
Exfoliation Use a dry brush to scrub your arms gently. “Women tend to get fatty deposits (aka cellulite) there and dry-brushing promotes circulation,” Ahn says. As an added bonus, if you shave or wax your arms, exfoliating will help prevent ingrown hairs and bumps on the upper arm.
Firming Cream Believe it or not, there’s actually a cream just for arms: Orlane’s Refining Arm Cream. It’s such a secret weapon that the personal shoppers at Neiman Marcus keep it on hand for clients who find a sleeveless dress they like but dread their upper arms. These pros swear that faithfully applying the product, which contains shiitake mushroom extract, morning and night for six weeks will produce impressive results. The combination of ingredients helps make the skin look firmer and more toned. The application technique involves a massaging motion, beginning at your wrist and working its way up toward the heart.
Mary Bemis is a green beauty and wellness expert and the co-founder of Organic Spa Magazine.