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, 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.
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.
Helping Hands Topically
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. Choose skincare products, including moisturizers, that don't contain toxins.
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.
Other Ways to Protect Your Hands
Your diet contributes mightily to skin support. Ditch the sugar and load up on foods such as olive oil, red peppers and moderate amounts of dark chocolate. Hydration is also crucial; green tea and plain filtered water are your best bets.
You can also try acupressure: Using your thumb, press firmly on the center of the palm in between the second and third fingers (a spot acupuncturists refer to as Pericardium 8).
Your hands work hard for you. Some tender loving care will keep them looking youthful for years to come.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.