You treat your face like a work of art, slathering on the best creams, sunscreens, and anti-agers in order to preserve its youthfulness. But what about your hands? Other than the occasional manicure, the delicate skin and nails are often overworked and unprotected. âWithout a targeted regimen to slow down the onset of dark spots and textural changes, the hands can age a person faster than the face,â says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director or cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Use these derm-recommended strategies to keep your hands looking healthy and youthful to boot.
The dark spots that mark the backs of hands are caused by years of sun exposure, explains Dr. Zeichner. Prevention is key as they typically become more prominent or multiply with age. Rub on a dime-sized dab of sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher before leaving the house and reapply frequently throughout the day. Choose one that also offers defense against infrared radiation, Dr. Zeichner says, which research shows travels deeper into skin than UVA and UVB rays to further accelerate aging. TryÂ Dermaologica Solar Defense Booster Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($48; drugstore.com)
To fade existing spots, look for a product with melanin-inhibiting ingredients, such as licorice root, kojic acid, or niacinamide. We like super-silky feel of Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Correcting Hand Cream ($30; sephora.com). Darker, more stubborn spots can be treated with dermatologist-approved fractional lasers (such as Fraxel); you may need up to three treatments at about $500 each.
Exposure to UV light also leads to collagen damage that thins the skin and creates that crumpled Shar-Pei-like appearance. Your first line of defense: sunscreen. In addition, the same over-the-counter retinols used to treat facial wrinkles may also be used to improve the texture of hands, says Dr. Zeichner. Smooth on a pea-sized drop before bed to stimulate the production of thickening collagen. Pro pick: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer ($16; amazon.com). For a stronger solution, talk to your doctor about a prescription-only retinoid cream, such as Retin-A.
Unfortunately, itâs inevitable: âThe loss of fat volume that occurs with age exposes the veins that were previously tucked away,â explains Dr. Zeichner. While there is no OTC fix, creams with hyaluronic acid will temporarily plump up the skin to make veins less obvious. Try StriVectin Volumizing Hand Treatment ($29; amazon.com). Injectable fillers, like Sculptra or Radiesse, are commonly used to repair volume in the hands and hide veins by filling in the tissue around them, he adds (expect to pay around $800 per syringe).
Keeping your hands hydrated is a no-brainer. However, as you age, the skin barrier function weakens and becomes more susceptible to external irritants like soap and water. The result: increased dryness, inflammation and sometimes even cracks in the outer layer of skin. For all-day moisture, Dr. Zeichner recommends slathering on an emollient-rich hand cream that contains aluminum salts. âSimilar to the technology thatâs used in antiperspirants to prevent wetness from leaving the skin, aluminum salts are now being added to hand creams to create a barrier that keeps water in and irritants out.â Find them, plus hydrating glycerin and soothing colloidal oatmeal, in Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream ($8; drugstore.com). Because over-washing can dry out the skin and cause inflammation, minimize prolonged contact with water and reapply lotion each time you wash your hands.
Not only to ragged bits look hella haggard, but they can also lead to infection and nail damage. Follow these steps a few nights a week to keep your cuticles like new: Use a chemical cuticle remover to dissolve dead cells (try Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover, $5; target.com), then gently push back the skin with a nail grooming tool. Never cut the cuticlesâitâs like opening a door for bacteria. Finish by swiping on an occlusive (meaning it sits on the surface of skin) ointment, like Aquaphor Healing Ointment Advanced Therapy ($6; drugstore.com), to repair the skin around the nail.
Yellow nails can add years to your look. While discoloration is likely the result of polish wear and tear, it may be a sign of a more serious fungal infection, so first check in with your doctor. To remove stains caused by nail polish, rub your nail beds with a lemon wedge; the natural citric acid will lighten the yellowish cast. Then smooth the surface and restore shine with a nail buffer. Try the new electronic Amope Pedi Perfect Nail File ($50; amazon.com), which comes with three interchangeable heads.
News flash: A square nail with a thick white tip is pretty outdated. But that doesnât mean you need crazy nail art to appear youthful. Instead, go for a trendyâand flatteringâalmond-shaped mani. Pointed tips are super ladylike and can make short, wrinkled fingers appear long and lean. To start the shaping process, snip the sides of nails at a diagonal angle, leaving a small flat tip to round out. Using a glass nail fileâits fine grit allows for cleaner shaping than a coarse boardâalternate filing both sides toward the center of the nail until the corners are blended into an almond shape, then smooth over the edges with a nail buffer. Stick to sophisticated polish shades like pastel pink or beige, and check outÂ what's on trend for spring.