A woman never tells her age, but her hands might -- if she hasn't been protecting them properly. The good news: You can slow the signs of aging with some smart skin care strategies and wave goodbye to sun damage, dryness, and brown spots for good.
You can learn a lot about a person from her handshake -- including her age. Hands tend to show the signs of aging much faster than our faces do. Why? "We often forget to take care of our hands the way we do our faces," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. We tend to skip the daily sunscreen and reserve the anti-aging treatments for above the neck. The result: sun damaged, dry hand skin. Fortunately, you can repair and prevent further damage with a few simple tips.
Overzealous hand washing with soap and water might keep away the common cold, but it leaves skin dehydrated -- and that gives your hands an old appearance, Zeichner says. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also be drying, he says. To spare your skin, Zeichner suggests switching to a soap-free cleanser, which can be used without water. Simply apply and wipe off with a towel. Try C.O. Bigelow Chapped Hands Soap-Free Cleanser No. 140 ($12; bigelowchemists.com).
"The best hand creams contain emollients, humectants, and occlusive ingredients that smooth, hydrate, and prevent water loss," Zeichner says. Scan labels for dimethicone, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea. Apply cream post-washing or after any time your hands were exposed to water. Try Aveeno Positively Ageless Skin Strengthening Hand Cream ($6; drugstore.com).
Brown spots speckled across the tops of your hands are a telltale sign of sun damage. Fade them with topical treatments that contain lightening agents such as vitamin C, kojic acid, or arbutin, or exfoliating ingredients such as lactic or glycolic acid, Zeichner says. And to keep the spots from coming back, daily sunscreen is crucial. Try Avon Anew Clinical Absolute Even Spot Correcting Hand Cream SPF 15 ($15; avon.com) with glycolic acid and sun protection. FYI, you don't have to get these in a hand-specific product. You can go off-label with your face product and dab it on your hands, too, Zeichner says.
Like other skin on your body, hand skin naturally thins with age -- and that process is only accelerated by UV damage. As collagen and elastin are damaged, you're left with wrinkled, crepe-y skin, Zeichner explains. If that's your issue, thicken and smooth the surface with a treatment that contains collagen-stimulating ingredients such as retinoids, peptides, and growth factors. Try Skincare Cosmetics Retinol Anti-Aging Hand Cream ($13; ulta.com).