by Molly Fisher
Nothing reveals age faster than red, cracked, veiny hands. "The skin on the back of the hands is very thin," explains Dr. Stuart Maddin, board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor emeritus at the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science of Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. "Hands are therefore very susceptible to damage, which translates into loose skin, age spots, and visible veins."
1. Invest in latex gloves.
Dishwashing liquid may do wonders for your cutlery, but over time it wreaks havoc on your hands. "Cleaning products like dishwashing liquid are alkaline," explains Dr. Maddin, "The chemicals that dissolve dirt, grease, and who-knows-what from your pots and pans are too harsh for your skin." Cleaning products strip skin of its natural oils, which can cause serious damage over time. "Invest in gloves," advises Dr. Maddin. "And, when your hands are unprotected, reduce exposure to hot water and chemical agents."
2. Choose a gentle hand soap.
Remember how we said harsh dishwashing liquids strip skin of its natural oils? Regular hand soaps do the same thing. "Liquid soaps often contain irritants that cause the hands to become inflamed and susceptible to cracking," says Dr. Maddin. If your soap is too harsh, switch to a brand that contains gentle ingredients. Never use temporary irritation as an excuse to stop washing your hands altogether. Disinfectant kills germs, which prevents bacteria from getting into your pores when you touch your face. Pro tip: When it comes to hand washing, always remember to dry your hands properly. Damp hands can cause chafing and chapping.
3. Protect your hands from the sun.
Sun damage can take the form of wrinkles, sun spots, and uneven pigmentation. Invest in a hand cream that has an SPF of at least 15. Use it daily, not just when you're at the beach. As Dr. Maddin reminds us, "Sun damage occurs 365 days a year, even in the cold winter months. You put yourself at risk anytime you go outside without protection." Always plan ahead. Wear gloves whenever you work outside or play golf. Remember that when you're behind the wheel of a car, sunlight can penetrate the glass and damage skin.
4. Prepare for cold weather.
Mittens don't just provide warmth. "Cold air and fierce winds deplete the skin of oil production," explains Dr. Maddin. "When the skin loses oils that provide natural moisturizing elements, it can become very dry, inflamed, and cracked." To provide protection from the cold, keep hands covered whenever possible. Also, remember that during cold weather months your hands are at-risk for damage even when you're not outside. Warm air from furnaces can have a drying effect on the skin. Moisturize regularly with an emollient based moisturizer that has ceramides added and, if need be, invest in a humidifier.
The road to premature aging is paved with dry skin. Without proper protection from sun and harsh soaps and cleansers, hands become dry, cracked, and prematurely aged. Moisturizer restores hydration and repair the skin barrier. Dr. Maddin stresses the importance of choosing the right moisturizer for your skin type, "The newer formulations are more effective at restoring skin function."
6. Invest in an emollient moisturizer that contains ceramides.
"Ceramides enhance the lubricants that smooth and protect skin," explains Dr. Maddin. In other words, ceramides turn moisturizer into a hot Thai massages for your hands. "Use as needed," says Dr. Maddin, "Apply throughout the day, after tasks that are taxing on hands, or nightly, if once a day suffices."
7. Consider making an appointment with a derm.
Not every skin condition can be self-diagnosed and cured with Internet wisdom and over-the-counter products. If after weeks of following Dr. Maddin's tips your hands are anything less than soft and supple, it's time to make an appointment with a dermatologist. A derm will be able to determine if you are suffering from an underlying condition, like eczema or atopic dermatitis. A derm can also teach you about the multitude of practical treatments available, if you're interested in reversing pre-existing damage and improving the appearance of your hands.
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