A more surefire way to obliterate sun damage is with a laser. Some types — Nd:YAG, DioLite, Ruby — target brown pigment, one spot at a time. The pigment absorbs the light, cells break down, a superficial scab forms, and in a week or so, the scab flakes off, leaving neutral-pigmented skin underneath. Prices vary widely depending on how many spots you zap and your zip code — anywhere from $250 to $650.
For diffuse spots, an all-over treatment is preferable. The plus: It will address spots and wrinkles in one go. Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) zeroes in on both brown and red pigment, and also stimulates wrinkle-fighting collagen. The light is beamed below the skin's surface, so there's no visible injury or downtime. But in contrast to the laser, you usually need three to five sessions — $300 to $600 apiece — each spaced a month apart. Another all-over approach is fractional laser, or Fraxel. I opted for the mid-strength version known as Re:store. It works under the surface, creating pinprick-size micro-wounds that form new, smoother skin as they heal. While Fraxel Re:store produces more dramatic results than IPL, it requires a day of downtime. You typically need three to five sessions, each about $700 to $1,200, spaced over three to five months. I found it worth the mild pain: The skin tone on the backs of my hands became impressively even.
No matter which option you choose, you have to be vigilant about protecting your hands with sunscreen after treatment, or those spots will reappear. Try Boots No7 Protect & Perfect Hand Cream SPF 15 ($14, Target), a GH 2010 Anti-Aging Award Honorable Mention.
LOOSE, WRINKLY SKIN AND POPPING VEINS
Hands are just like faces — they gradually lose fat, or volume, over time. Without that natural padding, hand skin becomes slack, creating even more wrinkling, and tendons, joints, and veins appear more prominent. In fact, veins may actually increase slightly in size. "They dilate as the connective tissue decreases with age," says New York City dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, M.D., Ph.D. "And if your skin is pale, their bluish-purple color shows through that much more."