You may work to maintain a face that looks youthful, always wearing wide-brimmed hats whenever you’re outside and following an elaborate nighttime regimen of facial creams and serums.
But it’s not just smile lines that reveal one’s age: Often your hands are the first to show signs of time’s passage.
“Skin on the backs of the hands is thinner than facial skin, making it more susceptible to aging changes,” explains Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, cosmetic and medical dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “There is also very little fat on the back of the hands, so when the skin starts to lose collagen and elasticity from sun exposure, it becomes very noticeable.”
She explains these changes can appear as dry, wrinkly and crepe-like skin, with prominent veins and tendons showing.
Hands that are active in the outdoors, whether tending a garden or switching gears on a bicycle, are also susceptible to sun spots. The age that such spots start to develop depends on how much sun exposure you’ve had over your lifetime.
There are medical options to help rejuvenate aging hands; Khetarpal says injectable fillers can help the veins and tendons seem less prominent and make hands look plumper, while lasers can be used to treat sun spots. However, there are more natural ways to keep your hands looking lovely.
Since sun exposure is such a crucial factor in the way your hands look, sun protection is the best place to start.
Khetarpal suggests slathering on a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. That even includes those days when you don’t spend much time outside: Remember that your hands are exposed to the sun when you drive and even tinted windshields generally don’t block out all of those damaging rays.
It’s also important to use a moisturizer every day. “The hands are exposed to the elements much more than other areas of the body, so it’s very important to keep them hydrated and moisturized,” Khetarpal says. While a moisturizer won’t reverse sun damage or stimulate new collagen, it can leave skin looking plumper and more youthful.
You may use masks regularly on your face. But they can do wonders for your hands, too, helping brighten the skin so it looks more youthful, says Pearl Dworkin, a licensed esthetician and holistic nutritionist in Cupertino, California.
For a mask to treat sun-damaged hands, Dworkin suggests mixing one tablespoon each of raw honey and organic plain yogurt along with a half-teaspoon of sea buckthorn oil, five drops of frankincense oil, five drops of helichrysum oil and four drops of carrot seed oil. Apply the mixture to the back of your hands and leave it there for 15 minutes before rinsing well and massaging in tamanu oil.
For everyday care, a high-quality hand balm can help smooth rough, chapped hands and support healthy, strong nails. It should contain oils, such as shea butter to ease irritation and a coconut oil component called decyl cocoate that helps give skin a light feeling, along with zinc oxide for natural sun defense, vitamin E and fat-soluble vitamin C, and such plant extracts as gently astringent St. John’s wort, inflammation-calming witch hazel, soothing calendula and chamomile for sensitive, delicate skin. Look for a product that absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy film.
The skin on your hands may not be all that needs fixing.
Brittle, discolored nails tend to occur over time, and Khetarpal says that can make one’s hands look older than they should. She suggests taking supplemental biotin, a member of the B-complex vitamin family that may help improve the structure of keratin, a key nail protein. Khetarpal says biotin can help make your nails look healthier and stronger.
Biotin is also required for the proper utilization of essential fatty acids to help skin stay young-looking. (That explains why a biotin deficiency may result in rough, cracked, blemished or rash-prone skin.) Flax seeds contain the especially crucial omega-3 fatty acids, which help make skin softer and more supple.
In fact, your overall diet contributes mightily to skin support.
Ditch the sugar and load up on foods such as olive oil, red peppers (which contain 190 milligrams of collagen-building vitamin C) and moderate amounts of dark chocolate. These foods help tame low-level inflammation, which is important because, as LA-area acupuncturist Carine Camara, LAc, puts it, “If the foods you are eating are creating inflammation, your body will use your skin as an outlet.” (Hydration is also crucial; green tea and plain filtered water are your best bets.)
Actually, Camara says acupuncture is a great way to bring more blood and circulation into the hands; she explains this ancient practice can also improve collagen production and muscle tone. For self-care at home, Camara suggests applying pressure to certain acupuncture points, such as Pericardium 8 in the center of the palm in between the second and third fingers; adding essential oils like rose, neroli and or palmarosa can increase the benefits. She also warns about what products you use on your skin, saying, “You should avoid products that contain any chemicals or toxins.”
Your hands work hard for you. Some tender loving care will keep them looking youthful for years to come.