"Your hands heal the world." A dear friend and mentor of mine once shared this profound statement as we spoke over coffee. The epiphany has lived rent-free in my head ever since. It's true that even if we don't perform daily acts of manual labor, most of us don't have the luxury of idle hands. And though the work our hands do—preparing meals, performing daily tasks, cleaning and organizing our spaces, and raising children—might fly under the radar, it takes a toll on our skin. When it comes to skincare products, our face often gets all the love. That's why today, I'm highlighting the best anti-aging hands creams to help us all perform this simple act of self-care.
Over the phone last month, my mentor expressed how much small aspects of her life have changed since adding both a baby (the cutest little girl with the widest eyes) and a dog to her family. Sure, they're cute, she said—but boy can they make a mess. And as the owner of a skincare brand herself, she was quick to point out the most noticeable change: her dry, cracked hands.
If you're trying to get serious about preventing crepey skin, look no further. Consider this your ultimate guide to anti-aging hand creams that work fast, while flooding your skin with long-term moisture.
Featured image by Belathée Photography.
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The best hand creams for dry skin don't have to be medical-grade ointments from the pharmacy. But they also don't have to be expensive creams too precious to actually use. The trick is to find a middle ground.
"Unlike our face, we’re simply not culturally trained to protect our hands like we do our face from the environment and especially UV exposure," says Tanuj Nakra, MD, FACS, a triple board-certified facial cosmetic and oculoplastic surgeon and the founder of AVYA. But it hasn't always been this way, he says. "There’s a reason women in the Victorian era wore gloves all the way up to their elbows."
When it comes to preventing and treating dry, aging hands, the best time to start is now. So stock up on your creams and sunscreen, it's time to invest in hand care.
While laser and other medical treatments might be an option, the best anti-aging hand creams should deeply hydrate and nourish in the short term, while fading age spots and smoothing fine lines in the long term for prolonged hand health. I spoke to Dr. Nakra and Dr. Gary Goldfaden, a board-certified dermatologist and lifetime member of the American Academy of Dermatology, to uncover what to look for in a hand cream, and where to find the best treatments.
"The hands are one of the first places on the body to show the signs of aging," says Dr. Goldfaden. This is partly because "there are no sebaceous glands on the palms of the hands, and the tops of the hands have very little fat tissue and lose collagen and elastin as they age."
"Our hands are constantly exposed to the elements—think about outdoor activities, driving, etc," says Dr. Nakra. Over time, this thin, sensitive skin starts to get worn out. "This all adds up to rapid aging of the skin of our hands and forearms, as compared to skin elsewhere that may be less exposed."
"An important factor in the aging process is the gradual loss of collagen and elastin that are manufactured by specialized skin cells called fibroblasts," says Dr. Goldfaden. "A dynamically effective strategy for preventing skin aging is to reduce collagen breakdown while simultaneously increasing fibroblast production. Studies showed that niacinamide stimulates new fibroblast growth and collagen secretion."
As for prevention, Dr. Nakra says, "there are invasive options, such as laser resurfacing and fillers, including fat injections. However, for options that do not require dramatic maneuvers and downtime, I strongly recommend using products that contain vitamin C and peptides to help rebuild the molecular health of the skin."
"The same damage that UV can cause our facial skin also occurs elsewhere," according to Dr. Nakra. So make sure to take the same care of your hands that you do of your face. "UV protection is critical to prevent ongoing aging, and deep moisturization helps thicken the skin, promote hydration, and enhance tone. Use sunscreens, and cover up whenever possible."
According to Dr. Nakra, "the same ingredients that work for your face also work on the hands and forearms. Specifically, vitamin C and peptides can be helpful for restoring tone and reversing aging. Of course, sunscreen is critical to prevent aging changes, and deep moisturizing helps skin retain moisture and treats fine lines and wrinkles."
Dr. Goldfaden notes, "Topical application of niacinamide helps preserve valuable enzymes that defend your skin against many of the common factors that accelerate aging."
Other anti-aging ingredients for hands include:
"A cream with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients is the best for hands," says Dr. Goldfaden. "Hands are dry and do not produce oil as our faces do, so a serum is only going to do half the job. An oil may sit on the surface of the skin and not penetrate or treat the issue."
However, oils can act as occlusive to lock in and retain moisture. "Products heavy in oils and fats (like butters or balms) enhance the skin’s barrier properties that retain inherent moisture," says Dr. Nakra. "Serums are products containing active ingredients that can promote rejuvenation. Creams work in both ways as a vehicle for active ingredients and also a source for hydration."
Choose products with a cohesive mix of ingredients that work together to deeply nourish from within, then lock in moisture without sitting on the surface of the skin.
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