What about all those topical treatments promising skin lightening? The key ingredient is hydroquinone, but dermatologists are split on how helpful it can be. "For some people they work wonderfully well -- and significantly lighten the brown spots; for others, they don't work at all," says Marmur.
More worrisome is that some studies have begun questioning the safety of hydroquinone. In 2006, the FDA announced a proposed ban on over-the-counter hydroquinone products, based on lack of data for safety or effectiveness. And though the ban has not been put in place, some doctors advise skipping this treatment, while others approve of its use while under a physician's care. "At this point you are much better off going with a professional treatment -- it's quicker and safer," says Goldberg.
Doctors agree one key to keeping young hands looking young is to avoid direct sunlight. The next best thing is to coat your hands with a good sunscreen several times a day.
Among the newest and most protective products are sunscreens containing Mexoryl SX (ecamsule), developed by L'Oreal, and Helioplex, a technology created by Neutrogena. Both offer long-lasting protection from UVA and UVB rays responsible for brown spots and wrinkling. Sunscreen products to look for include:
- Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 45 Daily Moisturizer (1.7 oz/$11.99)
- Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SunBlock SPF 70 (3 oz/$9.99)
- L'Oreal Dermo-Expertise Revitalift UV Daily Moisturizing Cream with Mexoryl Sunscreen SPF 15 (1.7 oz/$22)
- Lancome UV Expert 20 with Mexoryl SX Daily Moisturizing Cream SPF 20 (3.4 oz/$35)