When it comes to your face, your anti-ageing routine is a well-oiled machine: UV-shielding sunscreens, hydrating creams, wrinkle-reducing serums, the whole nine yards. Your hands? Not so much. But if you don't have a youth-preserving plan for the delicate, oft-abused skin and nails on your hands, it'll be a dead giveaway of your age, says dermatologist Dr Ranella Hirsch.
Here, 7 things that are making your hands look old - and how to reverse them.
The funny thing about age spots is that they actually have nothing to do with age: "Age spots are the result of sun exposure," explains dermatologist Dr Eileen Lambroza. Though sun-worshippers may get them earlier, they most commonly show up in the 50+ crowd, who’ve accumulated more sun exposure than their younger counterparts. Short of wearing gloves 24/7, you should be smoothing on a dime-sized dab of hand cream with SPF 30 before heading out the door each day - and reapplying after you wash your hands or every two hours if you're exposed to even a little sunlight, says dermatologist Dr Deborah Sarnoff. Tackle existing spots with a fade cream with 2% hydroquinone from your local pharmacy, Lambroza says. Make sure to follow the directions carefully even at that low dose, since the bleaching ingredient can backfire if used improperly. Darker spots may need a 3% solution, but you'll need a dermatologist's prescription - and guidance - to give them a try.
If the backs of your hands are starting to get a crumpled look reminiscent of gift bag stuffing, use a prescription retinoid cream to improve texture and jumpstart the growth of thickening collagen, says Sarnoff.
We'll start with the bad news: The only way to get rid of them for good is to invest in vein removal, which is exactly what it sounds like: the removal of the veins right at the surface of your skin (the deeper network of veins will do the work of taking blood to and from your hands). The good, less invasive news: heavy duty concealers can instantly cover dark veins. You'll have to reapply after washing your hands, but it still beats surgery.
Nothing about dry, scaly skin says "young and healthy." Return them to smooth-and-plump status overnight with this quick pre-bed routine: First, slough off rough, dead skin with a gentle scrub and then create an all-night moisture mask by smoothing on a glycerin and plant oil-containing hand cream and covering hands with plastic wrap and putting cotton gloves on top (skip the plastic and you'll just end up with really well moisturised gloves).
First, figure out why your nails are turning yellow or brown. If the discolouration persists or is accompanied by pain, it's likely a fungal infection - check with your doctor ASAP to treat it - something that causes about half of all nail discolouration. If you see your doctor and it turns out the problem isn't fungal, you can relax, as the discolouration is likely a harmless side effect of things like psoriasis medication or wearing dark polish. Run your nails with a lemon wedge, just like you would when you're rubbing off nail polish (the natural fruit acids will lighten the nail bed), or soaking in denture cleaner for 15 to 20 minutes to remove the stains. Also make sure to apply a base coat before you reapply your favourite red polish.
Water or chemical exposure, seasonal weather changes, and even genetics, can all lead to brittle, breaking nails. But the right supplements can help. Taking a 2.5 mg dose of the B vitamin biotin improves nail strength and reduces brittleness after six to nine months, says a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Popular nail shapes and shades are constantly changing, and keeping up with them is a simple way to make hands look more youthful. Right now, shorter nails are the norm; keep nails no longer than ¼ inch beyond your fingertips, says nail care expert Jan Arnold. Bonus points if you follow up with bold polish, which draws attention to your nails and away from any wrinkles or spots you'd rather not highlight. Try a classic shade like true red or regal purple, rather than a too-trendy shade like neon yellow or green.