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The Secret to Keeping Your Hands Smooth and Supple

They crack and turn red in the best of times.

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Mature hands gardening
Alberto Menendez/Offset
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Hands crack and turn red in the best of times. Add copious handwashing and alcohol-based gels to keep from spreading the coronavirus, and our mitts are the pits.

“The skin on your hands isn’t very forgiving,” says Julia Sabetta, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in Mohs surgery, cosmetic laser and dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology. “It’s different than your face. It doesn’t heal as well or have as many moisturizing oil glands.”

There’s a relatively easy fix for that: “To prevent dry, cracked hands, avoid hot water. Use superfatted soap if you can and follow up with an emollient moisturizer every time you wash,” Sabetta says.

“At night, use a hydrating topical serum with hyaluronic acid followed by a protective moisturizer containing no irritating acids, such as Aquaphor or Eucerin,” she says. “This can give you a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in the appearance of hand wrinkles. If you sleep with gloves on they’ll be so smooth and look great when you wake up. It’s amazing!” 

Those looking for deeper results turn to hand rejuvenation.

“Lost hand volume becomes apparent in our 40s,” Sabetta says. “The fat and collagen loss comes naturally with age. Around the same time, brown spots and actinic keratoses from years-old sun damage can start to show. A lot of people are really turned off by their own ‘granny hands.’”

How, and how often, we use our hands can also make them look older because the bones and muscles get bigger and they’re more pronounced under thinner skin.

“What you do at the gym to help your body may not necessarily help your hands. Squeezing weights enlarges the veins, while losing weight reduces the fat on the back of the hand.” That can make them look ropey. If it bothers you, there’s a simple fix: Don’t squeeze the weights any harder than you have to when you lift.

“I tell people if you’re only going to do one thing to correct your granny hands, I’d recommend replacing volume with a filler like hyaluronic acid. It fills in fat loss under the skin and hydrates the dermis layer as well. Results can last nine months and, in some cases, even longer,” Sabetta says. “Another option is fat grafting. It involves two procedures — retrieving fat and then injecting it. It’s not as popular as fillers that are so convenient. Fat can take erratically and usually takes multiple sessions, but results can be permanent.” 

A third treatment is platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, “injected into hands and also topically applied to the surface of the skin after micro channels have been hygienically created,” Sabetta says. “This helps to build collagen and volume under the surface of the skin and improve fine wrinkles and brown spots. You may have to do it two or three times a year, but it builds on itself, is natural and is can be more cost-effective than fillers.”

A board-certified dermatologist will look for and address any signs of skin cancer. If the brown spots are cosmetic, “intense pulsed light works best for fading pigment. If you have raised benign spots, a fractionated laser can slough off these cells,” Sabetta says.

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