Credit photo: Ian Dooley
The skin on our hands is exposed to more harm than probably any other skin on our bodies. From repeated hand washing (and constant use of hand sanitizer in recent times) to harsh chemicals and cleaning products… not to mention the inevitable cuts and scrapes our hands go through on a near-daily basis. And yet, we tend not to look after the skin on our hands as well as we do for other parts of our bodies. Often times your hands will start to show signs of aging far earlier than your face or neck. The good news is that taking care of your hands is quick and easy, and with the right skincare routine your hands will be looking and feeling gorgeous in no time.
Why do hands show signs of aging?
As we said above, your hands go through a lot on a daily basis, but that isn’t the only reason they tend to age more visibly than other parts of your body. As we age, the skin on our hands, face, and arms, can all lose volume leaving it looking crappy and showing more wrinkles. This ‘thin skin’ is a normal part of aging for some people, and while there’s not a lot that can be done to slow the process, you can give your skin the nutrients it needs to stay hydrated and fend off other signs of aging to maintaining a youthful appearance.
As well as thinning skin, hands tend to be particularly prone to pigmentation changes that result in ‘age spots’ which look like small areas of slightly darker skin. These areas generally aren’t raised, and can actually be minimized through a combination of good skincare and, if you want to eradicate them entirely, minimally invasive laser therapies.
Nails can also become more brittle as we age, while it doesn’t happen for everyone, some people can find their nails become thinner, break more easily, and don’t grow as quickly as they did when they were younger. Once again, taking care of your hands, particularly your cuticles, can help with nail health. Diet can also play a role here, so it's always a good idea to keep your intake of fruits and veggies high, and make sure you get a healthy amount of good fats like Omega-3 included in your diet, too.
What should your hand skincare routine look like?
Much like facial skincare, hand skincare will vary depending on the specific needs of your skin. But in essence, the routine will follow a formula for each person, the changes will come in terms of the actual products and ingredients you choose to address your skin concerns.
Step 1 - Wash your hands
One of the things we’ve all been doing a lot more in the last few years is washing our hands. As well as being something we do sporadically throughout the day for hygiene purposes, it will also be the first step in your hands’ skincare routine. It’s always important to use a cleanser that is gentle, and that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils. Researchers have actually found that hand soaps can be so harsh on the skin that irritation is one of the leading reasons people don’t comply with hand washing instructions!
Look for hand washes that are free from harsh chemicals, including SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), fragrances, and parabens. Humectants, including natural oils, can be helpful to keep your skin's moisture levels up, argan oil, jojoba oil, and olive oil are all known to help your skin retain moisture.
Step 2 - Exfoliate
The most effective way to avoid dull skin is to exfoliate regularly - but not too often - so you can remove dead skin cells without causing irritation. As with most delicate areas of skin, including on your face, using a chemical exfoliant is preferable to a physical one. You can use the same product on your hands as you would on your face, just remember that if your exfoliant contains retinol you’ll need to apply SPF the day after because it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
You’ll be looking at exfoliating once or twice a week. The best time to do it is when you’re using the same product on your face.
Step 3 - Use a serum
So many of us already use serums on our faces, but we don't use them anywhere else. Arguably this is because of the format they're available in: no one wants to waste an entire bottle of serum to cover ourselves from head to toe. But that doesn't mean you can’t treat other areas of your body from time to time. Serums are designed to pack a punch in terms of ingredients to deliver targeted care for a particular skin concern. Picking the right one for your hands will depend on what you’re looking to take care of.
For uneven skin tone:
Look for a vitamin C serum that will work to address hyperpigmentation and halt the development of sunspots.
For fine lines:
Opt for a peptide serum that will help plump your skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines and help your skin to retain more moisture.
For dry skin:
Hyaluronic acid will be a good ingredient here, it will attract any moisture in your skin to leave it looking healthier and cared for.
Step 4 - Moisturize
Sealing in the nutrients you have given to your skin is important, and moisturizers will do just that. The difference in performance between a regular drugstore moisturizer and luxurious named brand ones is debated, so find something you'll enjoy using daily. Most people will find they like using a thicker cream on their hands, particularly if dry skin is an issue, but lighter options will also be effective. Again, ingredients will be key here: avoid fragrances and any harsh chemicals that could irritate your skin.
Step 5 - Cuticle care
As well as eating a balanced diet and having healthy levels of minerals, your nail growth is also affected by how well you care for your cuticles. Nails are made up of very fine layers of keratin, which can be supplemented with a good quality keratin cuticle oil. Another ingredient that can help your cuticle health is vitamin E which will work to soften your nails, too. Follow the directions on the specific oil you choose, but you can usually apply it daily by placing a drop or two on each nail and gently rubbing it into your cuticles.
Step 6 - Nail care
As well as healthy and cared-for skin, healthy nails will help keep your hands looking youthful, too. Whether or not you wear colorful nail polish , using an enriched base coat will help keep your nails strong. If you don’t like the look of shiny nails and don’t want to wear color over your base coat, there are plenty of matte base coats available that pack in the nutrients but keep your nails looking bare.