We’re constantly talking about how to keep the skin on our faces looking youthful and fresh, but what about our hands? Our hands are put through the wringer on a daily basis. Between frequent washing, UV exposure, nicks and cuts, and anything else they might come into contact with, your hands probably deserve more love than you’re giving them.
What’s more, your hands can give away your age so quickly since they’re often overlooked when it comes to self-care. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone who, thanks to diligent skincare, looks younger than their age only to be betrayed by their hands! In this post, I’ll share my expert tips for keeping your hands looking beautiful. I also asked my friend Dr. Sam Lam, a plastic surgeon at Lam Facial Plastics, to weigh in on professional treatment options for aging hands.
My Professional Experience with Hand Care
Fun Fact: in my early twenties, I considered being a hand model before I became an esthetician!
When I first started beauty school, I had a fellow classmate who was a hand model and she convinced me that I, too, should become a hand model. It wasn’t as easy as just filling out an application though. I had to create a portfolio with studio shots of my hands, which meant I had to keep my hands in tiptop shape. Thankfully, my friend shared her tips with me!
Unfortunately, though, I got a cut on my hand that required stitches, and my career as a hand model ended before it began. Oh well, I’d say my career as an esthetician is going pretty well! Besides, it wasn’t all a loss. I learned a lot and developed a lifelong routine for protecting my hands and keeping them looking their best.
People often ask me, “Don’t estheticians have especially soft and young-looking hands since they are in creams and serums all day long?” I do believe this has some merit. While our hands are getting dried out from being dipped in water a lot while using facial sponges, it’s definitely offset by the nourishment they get from using all the treatment products. A lot of estheticians now wear plastic gloves when performing treatments, so while the skin on the hands isn’t being indulged with creams and serums, plastic gloves still provide benefits. They make an occlusive seal over the skin to create an environment within the gloves where moisture doesn’t evaporate out of the skin.
Anti-Aging Tips to Keep Your Hands Looking Their Best
As I see it, there are four main things that contribute to making our hands looks older:
- Age spots (brown spots)
- Dryness (this contributes to a less-than-smooth look)
- Loss of volume (this is what can make veins more prominent as we age)
Here are my expert tips for combatting these signs of aging hands.
How to Prevent Age Spots and Wrinkles on Your Hands
Let’s talk about preventing age spots and wrinkles.
One of the ways the hands show aging is by forming brown spots. The amount of spots you get certainly has to do with sun exposure, but it also comes down to genetic predisposition. Some people naturally form more pigment in the skin. Pigment cells rise to the surface as we age, which is why these spots start to show up as we get older. (Dealing with brown sunspots on your face? Here’s what to do about it.)
Like age spots, the wrinkles that start to appear on our hands are caused mainly by sun exposure.
Here’s how you can prevent age spots and wrinkles on your hands:
- Start by looking at your mother’s hands to see what might be in store for yours for the future. By doing this, it could be a great motivator for you to hop on hand-care early.
- Keep your hands out of the sun and wear sunscreen whenever possible. Since we wash our hands all day, I’ve found the easiest way to do this is by using a water-resistant, SPF-infused mineral powder. If you prefer, you can also use a hand cream with SPF.
- Wear gloves when you’re driving. Did you know the number one cause of aging on hands is from sunlight contact while on a steering wheel?
- Exfoliate a few times a week with acids. Keep in mind that if you do this, it’s extra important to use sun protection on your hands during the day!
- Build up to using a prescription retinoid a few times a week. Using a retinoid on your hands will have the same collagen-building effects as it does on your face.
If you already have stubborn age spots on your hands, you have a few options for removing them:
- Use prescription skin bleach like hydroquinone to treat stubborn spots.
- Consider professional laser treatments to remove spots. According to Dr. Lam, it’s critical that you select the correct type of laser treatment. “You can do IPL therapy,” he said, “but the risk is that the spots can sometimes get darker or not go away. Stronger lasers are not safe for the hands because our hands lack enough sebaceous glands for the healing of the skin. Personally, I have used low-fractionated CO2 laser treatment safely and without scarring.” Be sure to consult with your doctor about which professional treatment is best for you.
How to Prevent Dryness for Smoother-Looking Hands
Keeping the skin on your hands hydrated is essential for keeping them smooth and younger-looking.
- Be diligent about moisturizing. Try to make a habit of moisturizing your hands every time you wash them since this strips moisture. If you’re struggling with really dry hands, try applying a thicker salve while you sleep.
- Try a cuticle oil. You can apply cuticle oil anywhere you have irritation or cracking.
- Wear gloves when possible. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning or doing the dishes to protect your hands from harsh chemicals and hot water. At night, you can also try wearing cotton gloves over your moisturizer to create a seal and keep moisture in.
- Pay attention to your diet. Dry, cracking, or brittle nails could be a sign you’re not getting enough vitamin B2, vitamin A, or calcium. Dry, hardened cuticles could also be from a lack of zinc.
For more tips about how to heal dry hands (and how to prevent dryness from handwashing), read this post.
How to Address Volume Loss in Your Hands
Even if we take great care of our hands, some people (like me!) are just prone to developing thin skin and veiny hands as we age. This is also something you can tell from looking at your mom’s hands. When we get older, the skin everywhere (including the hands) loses its natural cushion. You’ll notice the hands start to look bonier and veins will appear more prominent.
The only way to realistically address this loss of volumes in the hands is with professional treatments. You know the dermal fillers that you can get put in your face to build volume? Well, they can be used on the tops of the hands as well. I actually tried it once last year. It took a few weeks for the swelling to go down, which I didn’t really expect, but once it all settled in, I definitely saw a big improvement. It was expensive so that’s not ideal, but it lasted about six months and I would consider doing it again.
When it comes to restoring volume in the hands, Dr. Lam prefers to use either fillers or fat grafting. “In my opinion,” he said, “volume is the key for younger-looking hands. My preferred method is fat-grafting because I can easily build an entire hand without worrying about the cost of fillers. If I do use fillers, I prefer Radiesse for the hands because it is the closest I can get to fat-grafting in terms of cost/benefit ratio. My third choice for restoring hand volume would be a hyaluronic acid filler.”
Here’s the truth. When it comes to having younger-looking hands, you DO have a say in the matter. It’s just a question of whether or not this is a priority and you’re willing to put in a little work that will pay off for years to come. Again, look at your Mom’s hands as that may be a crystal ball that tells you what to focus on. Usually, when I’ve instructed my clients to do so, it’s a huge wake-up call and provides the motivation to prevent what’s to come.
But at the very least, keeping your hands protected from UV light is the number one thing you can do to prevent hand aging. Sunscreen is the very, very best topical anti-aging product on the planet, and the sun will always be your skin’s worst enemy. You must be diligent about protecting your hands in a way that’s easy and convenient for you. That’s why I love mineral powder—I keep one in my car and it’s so easy to dust it on.