Fight Wrinkles and Roughness
The sun also causes loose, crepey skin, which is exacerbated by loss of fat in the hands — a natural part of aging. Although you can't significantly plump your hands with topical treatments, these moves can improve skin's texture so hands look smoother and more youthful:
Peel away fine lines. AHA masks and at-home peels, applied to the top of hands, slough off dull, dead skin and help speed cell turnover. When the new, healthy cells reach the surface, they give skin a smoother texture, making lines and wrinkles less noticeable, Dr. Baumann says. Try Avon Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel with glycolic acid ($25, avon.com).
Build new collagen. Both AHA peels and retinoids/retinols exfoliate the skin, but the latter penetrate deeper to increase cell turnover and trigger new collagen production, explains Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., a dermatologist in Washington, D.C. The more collagen you have to support and strengthen the skin, the smoother and plumper it will look. Try a peel or mask in the morning, and a retinoid (such as Renova ) at night. Peels and retinoids both make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so always use SPF to protect hands.
Reverse Moisture Loss
Even if a combination of good genes and sun smarts have saved your hands from the agers above, the look of dry, cracked skin may still be tacking on years. With the passage of time, cell membranes become more porous, so they can't hold as much water. "Cells are about 75 percent water at birth, but the average adult woman's cells are just 50 percent water," says Dr. Murad. Skin also produces less oil over time, which makes it feel drier. Here's how to ensure your hands stay well hydrated:
Slough off dead skin. Otherwise, it will be like watering your lawn before you rake it. "Dead surface cells are to skin what dry, crackly leaves are to grass: They prevent adequate hydration," Dr. Murad says. "Once you remove the cells, moisturizers will penetrate more deeply." Use a scrub with gentle synthetic or jojoba beads, or easily dissolved sugar or salt; avoid ground-up shells, which can scratch fragile skin. Try Sephora by OPI Exfoliating Scrub ($10, Sephora) or The Body Shop Almond Oil Refining Hand Scrub ($12, The Body Shop).
Be selective. Before you buy hand cream, scan the label for these proven ingredients, suggests Dr. Draelos: glycerin, which grabs water from deeper tissues to soften the top layers; petrolatum to trap water so it doesn't escape; and dimethicone to temporarily fill in skin cracks and leave a smooth, greaseless feel. Another promising hydrator to look for: Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B, increases production of ceramide (a natural emollient), which helps strengthen skin's lipid barrier to keep water in, says Dr. Baumann. Curél Targeted Therapy Hand & Cuticle Cream ($5, drugstores) contains the first three ingredients, while Olay Body Quench Therapy Hand Cream ($7, drugstores) has all four.