Sometimes hands get so chapped, normal creams won't do the trick. Take mine: They had become chronically red, exacerbated by a prolonged period of constant hand-washing when I was caring for my husband, who was ill with cancer. My skin had become "compromised," as Francesca Fusco, M.D., a New York City dermatologist, put it. I had scoured off its buffering lipids and needed stronger help — a barrier cream with fat molecules called ceramides (lipid-building blocks) and hyaluronic acid, a moisturizer. She recommended CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($15, drugstores), and also gave me a prescription for a more potent hand cream, EpiCeram. They began to alleviate the chapping and redness within weeks.
For maximum absorption, Dr. Fusco recommends wearing cotton gloves overnight; I found it worked — in the mornings, my hands were less dry and less red. Even more effective: gel-lined gloves like Bliss Glamour Gloves ($48, Sephora), which moisturize continuously but are so thick, they make dialing a number or flipping a book's pages a challenge. For more practical (if less spa-like) conditioning, she suggests cutting the fingers off a pair of your nighttime gloves. Wear them over moisturizer, and you can hydrate while you work.
AGE SPOTS AND WRINKLES
Among the most obvious age giveaways are age spots — dark splotches that are bigger than freckles and not as cute. "We don't know why pigment collects into spots, but we do know that the sun's ultraviolet rays are the culprit," says dermatologist Susan H. Weinkle, M.D., affiliate clinical professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Repeated UV exposure also leads to wrinkles, and hands are especially vulnerable to damage, thanks to their thin skin.
Just as bleach lifts stains out of clothes, hydroquinone helps fade pigment from age spots. A 4% concentration, available only by prescription, works best, but can be irritating. More gentle are over-the-counter creams with 1% to 2% hydroquinone, such as Porcelana Skin Lightening Cream ($8, cvs.com) or Ambi Fade Cream ($5, drugstores). Another alternative: creams that promise to inhibit pigment with nonirritating botanicals (see 5 Ways to Fade Age Spots for suggestions). However, the nonprescription options can take months to work, and while they may fade spots to a lighter shade of tan, they are unlikely to vanquish them altogether.