Everyone has seen this phenomenon–an otherwise vibrant-looking woman of a certain age with the mitts of a crone. I've been getting a fair amount of pitches lately identifying two celebs (one was on a popular television series about sex in New York City and is launching a shoe line; the other one's name rhymes with Schmadonna) as the poster children for the scourge. I'm going to leave it to Star and its ilk to report on celebrities' hand angst, but in the meantime, there are options if this is something you're worried about.
But, first of all, how does this even happen? According to Dr. Richard Chaffoo, a California-based board certified plastic surgeon, it's because of collagen and elastin breakdown, thinning of the skin, and loss of volume, all of which cause the veins to pop out. You'll usually start noticing it anywhere from your 30s to your 50s. And it all happens faster in your hands than on your face, mostly because women who are slathering sunscreen and $100 serums on their faces often forget all about their hands.
Obviously at this stage of the game, the best thing to do is to try to prevent it. Here's how, followed by all the new treatment options out there:
- Sunscreen: You knew this one was coming, right? Well, it's one of the most important things you can do (Laurel Pantin's mom knew this a long time ago!). Go for a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and use it every single day, recommends Dr. Luis Navarro, who's the director of the Vein Treatment Center of New York. Sun damage accelerates the loss of collagen.
- Moisturize: This should also be a daily activity, because dry skin ages more quickly and generally looks older. Dr. Navarro also recommends gentle exfoliation on the backs of your hands. And you can put the same collagen boosting lotions and dark spot correcting serums on your hands as you do on your face. TryVaseline Intensive Care Renewal Age Defining Body Lotion, which will moisturize and boost collagen, and I love Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Corrector.
- Wear gloves: Cover them up when you're doing dishes and scrubbing toilets to protect your skin. Remember what Rhett Butler said to Scarlett in Gone With the Wind? You can always tell a lady by her hands.
- Use mild hand soap: Harsh soaps will strip away oils and leave your skin dry, which we've already determined is the quick path to zombie-ville.
Historically, there haven't been a lot of treatment options available to make hands look younger, but now there are actually quite a few, if you're so inclined. Here they are from least invasive to most:
- Topicals: Topical treatments are best for hands that are still in the early stages of zombification. Dr. Chaffoo tells us that Retin-A, which helps with collagen production, is the best option. Obviously prescription strength will work best, but there are tons of really good over-the-counter preparations that you can try, too. (Like Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0.)
- Lasers: Lasers have become so much less scary these days–they're more efficient and require less down time than the lasers of yore. And they do the same thing on your hands as they do on your face. "The Fraxel Re: Store Dual Wavelength has the ability to reverse signs of aging and sun damage," Dr. Navarro told us. The laser works by penetrating the skin, stimulating collagen production and resurfacing the top layer. Your skin will be a little pink and will feel like you have a sunburn for a few days, but there's no downtime.
- Fillers Hyaluronic acid fillers like Restylane and Juvederm can be used for plumping the hands, but there are a few caveats. You need to use a lot in the hands (as compared to the face) and it can get pretty expensive. And according to Dr. Chaffoo, the results only last about six months, after which you'll have to pony up again.
- Sclerotherapy: While all the treatments mentioned so far address the skin, this one is for the ropy veins that are often the signature of zombie hands. "The best and easiest way to remove visible veins is through sclerotherapy, which consists of injecting a chemical solution into the offending veins to shut them down," said Dr. Navarro. There's no downtime and the results are immediate, but you may be bruised for a few weeks.
- Fat transfer: If you can get over the Fight Club imagery here, this is the only so-called "permanent" solution. It's also the riskiest. "As more volume is lost, some surgeons will perform fat transfer to the soft tissue of the backs of the hands," Dr. Chaffoo said. "This is a permanent option but does require an operation and may result in some re-absorption or lumpiness to the hands as the skin is so thin." (Also you have to let them suck some fat out of you.) It can usually be done as an outpatient procedure.
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