Smoother, more youthful hands are just within arm's reach.

By Hana Hong and Stacey Colino
November 11, 2020
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Whether gripping a steering wheel or scrubbing dishes, hands are the workhorses of the body. But while most women are on top of their game when it comes to taking care of their face, we often forget the body part that typically reveals our age first: our hands. Damaging UV rays, harsh soaps, and exposure to chemicals (when you clean your house or paint your nails) can make the skin on your hands age—fast!

If you’re dealing with dry skin, sun spots, wrinkles, or damaged nails (and who isn’t?), it’s time to take action. Most of these problems can be solved at home and with products that you can buy at the drugstore, so you won’t have to spend a fortune on treatments. Have ragged cuticles and hangnails? Nail scissors and Vaseline will work wonders. Suffering with dry, cracked skin from washing the dishes or your hands too much? You can switch out your hand soap for something that's more hydrating and apply a therapeutic hand cream after rinsing. Below, skin experts share eight things that make your skin look older and their best at-home tricks—plus options for in-office treatments if necessary.

1

If you pick your cuticles when you’re nervous, trim them (you shouldn’t) when doing a mani, or have never even thought about moisturizing them, chances are you experience frequent (ouch!) hangnails.

What to do: It’s tempting to rip a hangnail off, but don’t. Instead, snip it with nail scissors. “The results of ripping—a sore finger and an open wound that could end in a bacterial or fungal infection—aren’t worth it,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. If you don’t have scissors, coat the hangnail in Vaseline and cover it with a bandage until you do. Prevent hangnails by applying an oil, like Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil ($9; essie.com), or an ointment with petroleum jelly, like Aquaphor ($14; amazon.com), nightly.

2

Hands are in constant use. “With all that stretching comes a loss of firmness, which can result in wrinkling,” says Neal Schultz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
 
What to do: “Switch to a hand cream with hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Schultz. “It will temporarily increase skin volume from moisture, which fills in wrinkles.” Try Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Hand Cream With Hyaluronic Acid ($6; walgreens.com). Helpful for long-term results: exfoliants, including glycolic acids and retinoids, in products such as Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA ($45; vichyusa.com). “They reduce wrinkles by signaling the skin to make more collagen and increase thickness in its top layer,” says Schultz.

Next level: If hand crinkles drive you bonkers and you have the cash, ask your doctor about hyaluronic acid fillers to plump the skin (such as Restylane and JuvÃderm, $1,500 to $2,500 per treatment). Or consider lasers, like the Erbium ($2,500 per treatment) or Fraxel ($1,500 per treatment), which prompt the body to make more skin-plumping collagen.

3

“Soap may make your hands squeaky-clean, but too much of it can compromise the proteins and lipids in the skin that prevent hands from dehydrating,” says Vermen Verallo-Rowell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

What to do: Skip antibacterial soaps, which have not been shown to work better than plain soap and water, and wash with a gentle cleanser that contains an occlusive like shea butter or petroleum jelly, lipid-replacing ceramides, or hyaluronic acid. “I use coconut oil,” says Dr. Verallo-Rowell. “I warm it between my hands before rinsing.” Follow up with a moisturizer that has the same moisturizing ingredients found in your hand cleanser, like CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream ($13; cvs.com).

4

Your nails become more prone to peeling and breaking as you age because your body produces less moisture.

What to do: Boost nail growth, since a fresher nail equals a stronger one. Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, D.C., recommends taking three milligrams of biotin a day. “It won’t increase the quality of the nail, but it will speed up growth,” she says. Besides keeping nails short to minimize damage, take a break from using drying polish removers. “It’s important to keep the cuticle area moisturized so the nail matrix can continue to deliver blood and nutrients, resulting in a faster-growing nail that’s less brittle,” says Dr. Tanzi. One of Dr. Engelman’s favorite solutions for brittle nails is Nail Tek II ($8; sallybeauty.com). “Apply it twice a day—the proteins seal the brittle nail layers together,” she says.

Next level: Brittle nails could also signal a medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder. See your doctor if there’s no improvement in three to six months, says Dr. Tanzi.

5

As we get older, we lose fat in our hands, making veins more noticeable. Exacerbating the problem is sun exposure, which “breaks down collagen and elastin in our hands,” explains Dr. Engelman.

What to do: You can hide the appearance of veins with a heavy-duty concealer, like Dermablend Leg and Body Cover ($34; dermablend.com). To stimulate collagen production so skin is less translucent, use a glycolic or retinol cream, such as Chantecaille Retinol Hand Cream ($78; nordstrom.com).

Next level: Apply a prescription-strength topical, like Retin-A (which will also improve skin tone and texture). Talk to your dermatologist about hyaluronic acid fillers (like Restylane and Juvéderm, $750 to $1,000 per treatment), which thicken skin by creating new collagen fibers, and Radiesse ($900 to $1,500 per treatment), a calcium-based filler.

6

You’ve been working hard at the gym or out shoveling snow, and you’ve got hard yellow patches on your palms. “Any time there’s consistent friction in one area of the hand, the skin reacts by getting thicker,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Danbury, Conn.

What to do: Reduce calluses by soaking hands in warm water. Then exfoliate the area with a pumice stone or body scrub. You can also apply a moisturizer with urea, a humectant that will break down and soften the callus. Try Eucerin Repairing Hand Cream with 5% Urea ($23; amazon.com). The only way to truly protect hands, though, is with gloves.

7

The skin on your hands is often exposed to UV rays. Spots happen.

What to do: To prevent future damage, smooth on a dime-size drop of lotion with SPF, or spritz hands with a quick-drying SPF spray, every day before heading outside. For special occasions, try a tinted SPF powder to hide imperfections and protect. Treat existing spots with a lightening cream that has 2 percent hydroquinone or natural brighteners like vitamin C. Try Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Hand Cream ($12; amazon.com). “Follow with a nightly glycolic exfoliant,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

Next level: Still seeing spots? Ask your doctor about a prescription-strength retinoid, like Retin-A. The Yag in-office laser treatment ($250 to $500 per session) works for flat brown spots with clear borders, says Dr. Zeichner. For lots of brown or red spots, an Intense Pulsed Light ($400 to $600 per treatment) is a good bet. Or there’s the Fraxel laser ($1,200 to $1,500 per treatment), best for both sunspots and crepey skin.

8

There’s often no known cause for palmar hyperhidrosis, a skin condition in which the sweat glands on your palms excrete extra moisture.

What to do: “If you apply an aluminum-based antiperspirant to dry palms at night, that will plug your hands’ sweat glands, preventing wetness from reaching the skin’s surface for the day,” says Dr. Zeichner. Start with an over-the-counter option, such as Certain Dri ($6; amazon.com).

Next level: Consider asking your doctor for a prescription-based antiperspirant, such as Drysol or Hypercare. Finally, there’s Botox, which prevents nerve signals from reaching the sweat gland. It’s fairly painful and requires 20 to 30 injections in the palms and fingertips, and it needs to be repeated every three to six months (each treatment costs $1,500). “You can experience some muscle weakness, so it’s not a great option for people who use their hands for a living,” notes Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.