4 Reasons Your Hands Look Older Than They Are—And What You Can Do About It

Your hands do the talking when it comes to revealing your age. Sadly, sunspots and bulging veins can scream 60 when you’re only 40. What makes hands look older than their years? For starters, more use and abuse—and less pampering—than your face. From easing dryness to lightening discoloration, these solutions will keep your hands looking timelessly beautiful.

The issue: Thin, wrinkly skin
“Sunlight breaks down collagen that keeps skin supple and firm,” says Mary Lupo, MD, a dermatologist in New Orleans. As the already slight cushion of fat thins, hands start to look skeletal.

A host of ingredients—retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, and peptides— build collagen and thicken skin over time. You don’t need a special hand cream, though. “If you’re using a product that contains these ingredients on your face, apply it to your hands,” suggests Kimberly Butterwick, MD, a La Jolla, CA, dermatologist. For best results, use an Rx retinoid like Renova or Avage. Also helpful: a weekly home peel that dissolves dead cells to reveal smoother skin and a monthly do-it-yourself microdermabrasion to gently polish the skin’s surface. Though neither works to the same extent as pro treatments, “they can improve skin thickness,” says Lupo.

The issue: Veins
“Veins that normally wouldn’t be visible under plump skin become prominent with collagen and fat loss,” says Lee Schulman, MD, an NYC-based phlebologist.

Moisturizers that build collagen (see “Thin, Wrinkly Skin,” above) can help plump skin so veins stand out less. To minimize the color contrast between your skin and the purple vessels, apply an opaque concealer or use a self-tanner. Other fixes: jewelry and manicures. In a recent study, people thought women were younger when their hands were adorned with polish and rings. Keep nails short—the white tips should be about ⅛ inch long. “Shorter nail shapes soften the appearance of pronounced knuckle joints and veins,” says Jan Arnold, cofounder of Creative Nail Design, a nail care company.

The issue: Sunspots

You can reverse the effect of UV exposure on your hands.

UV exposure damages pigment-producing cells (melanocytes), causing brown spots to form. “Among drivers, the left hand—the one the sun hits—often looks older,” says Butterwick.

Use a separate lotion that contains 2% hydroquinone (HQ), the most effective bleaching agent. “HQ works inside the melanocytes to suppress production of melanin, the pigment that makes up this discoloration,” says Lupo. Start now—it could take months to notice a difference. For speedier results, choose one that also contains retinol or alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps drive HQ into skin. To prevent new spots, sunscreen is key. Use a product that contains a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15. For the best protection, check the label for avobenzone (aka Parsol 1789), Mexoryl, or Helioplex.

The issue: Dryness

Skin can dry with age; here's how to keep hands smooth and moisterized.

With age, the skin on your hands produces less lubricating oil and loses its ability to hold on to moisture.

Applying lotion throughout the day boosts hydration; rub it on immediately after washing your hands to seal in the moisture your skin has absorbed. Invest in a hand cream; they’re formulated with humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or urea, which draw in and hold moisture in the skin. Choose one with an SPF—years of UV exposure disrupt production of a protein that helps form the skin’s outer moisture-sealing layer, depleting hydration. To spare hands, apply cream and pull on cotton-lined gloves before exposing them to household cleaners or plunging them into soapy water.

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