If age spots, wrinkly skin, or other signs of aging bother you, you can have more youthful-looking hands. Thanks to advances in dermatology, it’s possible to diminish these signs of aging safely and with little or no downtime.
Many adults develop age spots on their hands. These spots tend to gradually increase in size with age and time spent in the sun.
You have options. A board-certified dermatologist can effectively lighten or remove age spots on your hands with:
- Cryotherapy (freezing)
- Laser therapy
- Chemical peeling
- Skin-lightening creams and lotions
The creams and lotions take the longest to deliver results, but they cost less.
Rough, scaly patches (AKs)
If you have fair skin and spent quite a bit of time in the sun without sun protection, you may notice rough patches on your skin. Rough patches frequently develop on our hands because the hands get lots of sun.
These rough patches may be actinic keratoses (AKs), which are precancerous growths. AKs usually develop in fair-skinned people who are 40 years of age or older.
AKs can develop earlier if you used tanning beds or live in a state that gets lots of sunshine, such as Florida or California.
To find out how dermatologists diagnose and treat AKs, go to:
Actinic keratoses: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome
Do you feel a rough patch on your hand or elsewhere on your skin? If so, see a dermatologist to find out if it’s an AK. Some AKs turn into skin cancer.
Loss of youthful fullness
When hands lose their youthful fullness, skin becomes lax and starts to develop a crepe-paper-like texture. With less fullness, the veins in your hands also become more noticeable.
To restore lost fullness, your dermatologist can inject:
- A filler
- Fat from another part of your body
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one filler, calcium hydroxylapatite (hi-drox-e-lap-ah-tight), to treat the hands. With this filler, you’ll see more fullness immediately. The results last 6 months to 1 year.
Other fillers are also used to restore youthful fullness to the hands. Sometimes a person’s own fat may be the most effective option.
A board-certified dermatologist who has experience rejuvenating hands with fillers (or fat) can tell you what will work best for you.
While a filler or fat transfer can restore youthful fullness, some veins are just too big to hide with a filler or fat transfer.
If a large vein bothers you, a dermatologist can treat it safely.
Laser treatment is often the go-to treatment today. During this procedure, your dermatologist inserts a laser fiber into the vein and then fires the laser. This destroys the vein, which will gradually disappear.
Sclerotherapy (sclare-oh-ther-a-pee) may be another option. During this procedure, your dermatologist injects a substance into the vein to destroy it. This causes the vein to disappear slowly.
Wrinkly skin (looks like crepe paper)
Applying sunscreen to your hands every day can prevent wrinkly skin on your hands. If you haven’t been doing this and now have wrinkly skin, treatment can help.
Your dermatologist may recommend one or more of the following:
- Lotion containing a retinol or glycolic acid (apply before bedtime)
- Light chemical peel, every 1 to 3 months
- Laser treatment
When treating wrinkling, the lotion and light chemical peel are often used together.
If laser treatment is an option, it can also help diminish age spots.
As we age, our skin loses collagen and elastin, substances that keep our skin firm and plump.
Radiofrequency, a procedure that sends heat deep into the skin, can tighten loose skin. Most people need only one treatment on their hands.
A filler or laser treatment can also tighten loose skin.
As we age our skin holds less water, so our skin becomes drier. This can cause your skin to feel rough.
To smooth rough skin on your hands, your dermatologist can apply a mild chemical peel.
To maintain the results you get from treatment, it helps to apply a moisturizer every day. Your dermatologist can recommend an effective moisturizer.
About 20% of us have brittle nails. You’re more likely to have brittle nails if you are a woman over 60, but anyone can develop this condition.
If you have brittle nails, you’ll likely see lines running lengthwise on your nails (ridges), as shown in this picture. You may also notice that your nails peel or break easily.
To treat brittle nails successfully, you must stop doing everything that could be causing your brittle nails. Spending lots of time with wet hands or using harsh chemicals without wearing protective gloves can cause brittle nails.
Your dermatologist can help you figure out what’s causing your brittle nails.
After you stop doing what’s causing your brittle nails, you’ll want to rehydrate your nails, cuticles, and the surrounding skin. Your dermatologist will recommend a moisturizer, such as urea cream or mineral oil.
Most people apply the moisturizer before bedtime. After moisturizing, you may need to wear a light cotton glove. This helps your skin and nails absorb the moisturizer. You’ll wear this while you sleep.
For many patients, the above helps diminish brittle nails. Some patients need more help, such as using a special nail enamel. Your dermatologist can tell you what can help treat your brittle nails.
Making your results from hand rejuvenation last
While you cannot stop aging, there are things you can do to make your results last longer. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:
To protect your hands from the sun, apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to your hands every day before going outdoors.
- Protect your hands from the sun. This is essential if you want to maintain the results you see after treatment.
Many dermatologists also recommend wearing a thin, sun-protective glove while driving.
- Wear gloves while cleaning and gardening. Hot water, detergents, and yard work can dry your skin, which can age your hands.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Applying a lotion or cream after washing your hands and bathing helps to trap water in your skin, which can plump up your skin.
- Keep appointments for maintenance treatments. If your dermatologist treated you in the office, getting follow-up treatments as recommended can help you maintain your results. For example, if you had a filler, you may need another injection in 8 to 12 months.
Why see a dermatologist
Your results depend largely on the skill and experience of the person performing your treatment, so it’s important to see a board-certified dermatologist. These doctors have the expertise and training necessary to perform these treatments safely. They can also tell you whether a treatment will deliver the results you seek, given the condition of your skin, your age, and your health.
1,2,9: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
- J Am Acad Dermatol. 2006;54:S262-71.
- J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;68:S2-9.
- J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;57:31-6.
4: Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
3,5,6,7,8,10: Getty Images
American Academy of Dermatology, “Dermatologists have firm grip on new treatments for the aging hand.” News release issued August 4, 2011. Last accessed November 10, 2017.
Ortonne, JP, Pandya AG, et al. “Treatment of solar lentigines.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:S262-71.
Rosen T, Lebwohl MG. “Prevalence and awareness of actinic keratosis: Barriers and opportunities.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2013;68:S2-9.
Sadick N. “Arm and hand rejuvenation.” In: Hirsh R, Cohen JL, et al. Aesthetic rejuvenation. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2009:162-72.
Simonacci F, Bertozzi N, et al. “Procedure, applications, and outcomes of autologous fat grafting.” Ann Med Surg (Lond). 2017;27;20:49-60.
Stern DK, Diamantis S, et al. “Water content and other aspects of brittle versus normal fingernails.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2007;57:31-6.