March 19, 2012 (San Diego) -- A woman's hands can give away her age, but a new technique may turn back the clock -- and the hands of time.
In a small study, researchers used radiofrequency -- delivering energy in the form of heat -- and found it visibly improved the appearance of women's hands after three treatments.
''There is a gradual improvement,'' says Flor Mayoral, MD, a Miami dermatologist and voluntary associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine.
She presented her findings here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ellman International, which makes the device used, funded the study.
Younger-Looking Hands: Study Details
Mayoral and her co-researcher, Vivian Bucay, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine, evaluated the technique in 31 patients. In all, 29 finished all three treatments.
The study included only women. Mayoral asked men to participate, too, she says. But they all turned her down, telling her their hands looked just fine.
Radiofrequency was applied to just one hand on each woman. The three treatments were separated by two-week intervals.
The radiofrequency energy is emitted in the form of electromagnetic waves. These eventually trigger the production of new collagen, according to the device developer. As we age, the skin loses collagen, which helps keep hands plump and youthful looking.
The researchers took photos at 45 and 90 days after the last treatment. They evaluated the tightness of the skin and the presence of veins.
At 90 days, 89% of the women had visible improvement of the appearance of their hands, Mayoral says.
Of those, 39% had marked improvement. The others, while not as dramatic, still had noticeable improvement, she says.
There were no adverse effects, Mayoral says. The treatment is mildly to moderately uncomfortable, patients say.
The cost is about $500 per treatment, she tells WebMD.
The device is already approved by the FDA for facial wrinkles.
Younger-Looking Hands: Perspective
"It's a reasonable approach," says Alastair Carruthers, MD, a Vancouver cosmetic dermatologist. He reviewed the findings. Radiofrequency has been around a long time, he says. Other cosmetic procedures use the technology.
However, he says, "I am not convinced." The study was small. More research is needed. "We need more evidence," he says.
Carruthers reports consulting and investigational work for Allergan and Merz.
This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.