Did you know that your hands can reveal your true age, well before other areas of the body begin show signs of aging? While aging of the hands typically begins by age 50, with the first signs being discoloration and age spots, hands can start to age sooner if individuals are frequently exposed to the sun without the proper protection. By age 50-60, people also tend to lose volume in their hands, making veins and tendons more prominent and further contributing to aging hands. The good news is there are treatments available that can slow or reverse some of the signs of aging hands. Treatments can be tailored to the individual, depending on their specific concern:
Pigment-specific lasers are used to treat dark brown spots on the hand by delivering a beam of light that penetrates the skin surface. Following treatment, brown spots appear darker for about a week and then will scab, fall off, and turn pink as the skin begins to heal. One to two treatments are usually needed before improvement is noted. Results can last for years as long as proper care is taken to avoid sun exposure to these areas.
Topical retinoids and bleaching creams, like hydroquinone, can also be used to diminish the appearance of dark spots. They can be used either alone, or in combination with lasers, to reduce the appearance of age spots.
Injecting fillers into the back of the hand is a quick, in-office procedure that can be achieved by using a non-allergic product called calcium hydroxylapatite. Results are immediate and can last for 1-2 years.
Applying a lotion or cream after washing your hands helps to trap water in your skin, and can provide a temporary plumping effect.
Rough, scaly patches:
If you have fair skin and spent a lot of time in the sun, you may notice rough spots or patches on your hands. These rough patches may be actinic keratoses (AKs), which are pre-cancerous growths that need to be evaluated and treated by a dermatologist. Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) can treat the individual AKs, while topical medicated creams or photodynamic therapy can treat the entire area at once.
Wrinkly “crepey” skin:
Applying sunscreen to your hands every day can prevent wrinkly skin on your hands. To treat wrinkles that are already there, your dermatologist may recommend a lotion containing retinol or glycolic acid or light chemical peels.
Radiofrequency treatments, which use heat directed deep into the skin, can help tighten loose skin. Most people only need 2-3 treatments on their hands to see results.
Brittle, aging nails typically present as lines running lengthwise on your nails, appearing like ridges. You may also notice that your nails peel or break easily. Certain activities such as cleaning with harsh chemicals or spending a lot of time with wet hands, can cause brittle nails, so it is important to wear rubber gloves when cleaning and doing dishes.
It is also important to moisturize the hands regularly with a urea- or petrolatum-containing moisturizer, preferably after every hand washing and before bed.
The nails reflect overall health. Changes in nail color or shape can signify a systemic problem that should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
It is important to follow up with your dermatologist after your treatments to help maintain your results as long as possible. Sun protection is essential at all times, and can be achieved by using a broad spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and reapplying regularly throughout the day. UV-protective driving gloves are also helpful in blocking out the sun’s harmful rays.
American Academy of Dermatology. “What can make my hands look younger?” Available online at: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/anti-aging-skin-care/younger-looking-hands
American Academy of Dermatology (August 2012). “Busy moms deserve a hand: Dermatologists offer tips to prevent premature aging of the hands.” Available online at: https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/busy-moms-deserve-a-hand-dermatologists-offer-tips-to-prevent-premature-aging-of-the-hands