Updated 01/05/22. We’re constantly talking about how to keep the skin on our faces look fresh and youthful, 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. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone who, thanks to a diligent skincare routine, looks younger than their age only to be betrayed by their hands! In this post, I’ll share my expert tips for creating an effective hand care routine. 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: 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.
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 hand care routine that has kept my hands looking their best.
People often ask, “Don’t estheticians have especially young-looking hands since they’re applying creams and serums all day?” I do believe this has some merit. While our hands are getting dried out from being dipped in water so often while using facial sponges, it’s definitely offset by the nourishment they get from using all the treatment products.
A Guide to Creating an Anti-Aging Hand Care Routine
As I see it, there are four main things that can cause our hands to look older. These are:
- Age spots
- Volume loss
Age Spots and Wrinkles
Let’s talk about preventing age spots and wrinkles first. Age spots and wrinkles are mainly caused by sun exposure, but age spots can also come down to genetic predisposition. Some people naturally form more pigment in their skin. Pigment cells rise to the surface as we age, which is why these spots start to show up as we get older.
- Keep your hands out of the sun and wear sunscreen. 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. This is by far the best preventative technique, as UV rays are responsible for so many visible signs of aging!
- Wear gloves while driving. This is related to keeping your hands out of the sun and wearing sunscreen, but it bears mentioning anyway. You might have never even considered how much sun exposure your hands get while you’re driving, but I guarantee it’s more than you realize. Sun-protective clothing (gloves included!) can keep your skin protected without the need for constant sunscreen reapplication.
- Exfoliate a few times a week. Regular exfoliation can keep the skin on your hands looking fresh, smooth, and youthful. Just keep in mind that if you exfoliate your hands, it’s even more important to keep them protected from the sun!
- Use a retinol or prescription retinoid on your hands a few times a week. Retinol and prescription retinoids have the same collagen-building effects on your hands as they do on your face. Make sure you build up slowly, though, so as to avoid potential dryness, flakiness, and irritation. Again, this makes proper sun protection even more important. (Check out my beginner’s guide to retinol and retinoids.)
How to Address Existing Age Spots on Your Hands
As with anything skin-related, it’s much easier to prevent age spots and wrinkles than it is to address them once they appear. That’s why it’s so important to take preventative measures and make sure you’re properly caring for the skin on your hands. With that being said, if your hands are already showing signs of aging, there are things you can do!
- Use a prescription skin bleach. You will have to consult a doctor before doing this. It can be an effective way to lessen the appearance of stubborn age spots that appear on your hands.
- Consider professional laser treatments. 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 your doctor to find out which professional treatment is best for you.
Dryness makes the skin on the hands appear rough and aged. Proper hydration is the key to any hand care routine, as it will make your hands look smooth and youthful. Here’s how I suggest preventing (and addressing) dryness on your hands.
- Moisturize Regularly. Try to make a habit of applying moisturizer after you wash your hands. This is important because excessive hand washing causes dryness (and everyone’s washing their hands a lot lately!). If you’re struggling with really dry hands, try applying a thicker salve while you sleep.
- Apply cuticle oil. You can apply cuticle oil anywhere you’re experiencing irritation or cracking.
- Wear gloves when possible. Wearing rubber gloves when cleaning or doing the dishes will protect your hands from harsh chemicals and the drying effects of hot water. At night, you can also try wearing cotton gloves over your moisturizer to create a seal and keep moisture locked in.
- Pay attention to your diet. Dry, cracking, or brittle nails could be a sign that you’re not getting enough vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin A, or calcium. Dry, hardened cuticles could also be from a lack of zinc. If you’re concerned about any of these things, consult your doctor.
Even with an effective hand care routine, some people (like me!) are just prone to developing thin skin and veiny hands with age. This is something you’ll be able to tell from looking at your mom’s hands. When we get older, the skin (including the skin on the hands) loses its natural cushion. You’ll notice the hands start to look bonier and veins will appear more prominently.
The only way to realistically address this loss of volume in the hands is with professional treatments. You know the dermal fillers that people get injected in their faces to build volume? Well, they can also be used on the tops of the hands for the same purpose. I actually tried it once a few years ago. 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 says, “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.”
The Bottom Line
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. I suggest taking a look at your mom’s hands, as they 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 them with the motivation they need to develop their own hand-care routine.
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.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”