You work hard to look youthful. You cover your gray hair, apply anti-aging creams and protect your face with sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats when you’re outside.
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But if you neglect your hands, they may give away your true age or can even make you look older. They need protection and care, too.
It’s never too late to start taking good care of them. Moisturizer, sunscreen and other treatments can help get you on your way.
Why your hands look old
Ever wonder what causes aging hands? The answer is found in the way your body changes as a whole over time. But you can intervene in how it happens.
“Dry, scaly skin, brittle nails, and dark age spots can become problems as people get older,” says dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD.
As you age, your hands lose fat and elasticity and your skin loses volume. This reduced volume and decreased elasticity produces translucent skin that wrinkles and develops age spots.
Age spots, also called liver spots or solar lentigines, happen after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and can be various shades of brown or black. They appear on the areas most exposed to the sun, when melanin is abundant because of sun exposure. You can get them at any age, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors or use tanning beds (which are never recommended).
“Your hands can also develop a skeletal appearance because you lose fat in some places as you age,” Dr. Kassouf says.
What you can do to prevent aging hands
The good news is there are many ways to prevent and fight signs of aging on your hands. Dr. Kassouf recommends the following:
- Moisturize. Don’t let your hands get dried out. Make a habit of putting on lotion regularly during the day and every time after you wash your hands. Stock up and keep a bottle of moisturizer on the sink so you never forget an application.
- Protect your skin and nails. Wear cotton-lined gloves when gardening or when cleaning with harsh soap or chemicals. Use a mild pH soap to wash your hands. Look for mild or ultra-mild versions. Your doctor may have more recommendations if you’re not sure what’s best.
- Exfoliate. When you’re exfoliating your body or face, don’t forget about your hands. Use a gentle loofah or a mixture of sugar, lemon and natural oil to remove the dead skin and dead skin cells off the tops of your palm and on your fingers and knuckles. Don’t forget to moisturize immediately after.
- Wear sunscreen. “Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen every day,” she says. “A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or higher will go a long way to prevent age spots and wrinkles.” Protecting your hands from UV rays can also keep your hands from looking bony and shriveled as you age. And don’t forget that when you’re driving UV rays come through your windows.
- Eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet with plenty of vitamins antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids nourishes your skin and helps you grow healthy nails. If your diet is low in certain proteins, vitamin C, or vitamin B complex or if you have poor absorption, your nails can become brittle and peel or flake easily. “Make sure to eat a balanced diet full of foods that are good for your skin which contain vitamins to nourish your hands from the inside out. You can also get yourself a good multivitamin,” Dr. Kassouf says.
Turn back the clock to reverse aging hands
If your hands already look older than you’d like, it’s not too late. Most problems can be treated to bring back a more youthful appearance.
- Age spots can be improved with over-the-counter or prescription topical creams containing retinol or retinoid acid. If these aren’t as effective as you’d like, chemical peels or laser treatments in your doctor’s office can bring about more dramatic results.
- Thin, bony hands can be plumped up with injections of synthetic fillers or your own body fat. And certain laser treatments can stimulate collagen production and tighten loose skin.
- For all signs of aging keep eating your vitamins and stay moisturized, protected from the sun and hydrated. “Talk to your doctor about how to treat the signs of aging on your hands and what works best for you to treat any long-term damage,” Dr. Kassouf emphasizes.
“We’re all washing and sanitizing our hands a lot more than we used to,” Dr. Kassouf says. “This can break down our skins barrier function resulting in rough, dry and inflamed skin that can increase the penetration of chemicals, allergens and other infections.”
There are two kinds of products to use to help heal your skin. The first are humectants, ingredients like hyaluronic acid that help bind water into the skin to hydrate it. Second, there are products containing lipids or fats that are the emollients that improve the barrier function of the skin, helping to keep all of the unwanted things out.
“Both are important now more than ever for the health and beauty of you skin and especially your hands,” Dr. Kassouf emphasizes.