Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Dr. Ayad Harb, one of the world's leading plastic surgeons
The hands are often said to be the true indicators of one's age. While much focus is given to facial skincare and aesthetic treatments, the hands frequently go unnoticed until visible signs of ageing begin to surface. When they do, it can be a startling realisation that the hands have been neglected for so long.
One of the primary reasons hands age so distinctly is due to their consistent exposure to the elements. Our hands are our tools, our communicators, and our workers. From a tactile perspective, they experience almost everything we do, from handling various materials to being exposed to the sun, cold, and harsh chemicals. Unlike our face, which we shield with sunscreens, moisturisers, and hats, our hands often remain unprotected. This consistent exposure, coupled with the natural ageing process, can lead to some pronounced changes over time.
The skin on our hands starts to become thinner as we age. This thinning results from a combination of factors. Collagen and elastin, two proteins responsible for skin's volume and elasticity, begin to diminish in production as we grow older. This decline means that our skin doesn't bounce back as it once did and loses its plumpness. On the hands, this loss is especially noticeable. As the skin becomes more translucent, the underlying structures, such as tendons, veins, and bones, become more evident. The result is hands that appear more skeletal and frail.
Additionally, with reduced skin elasticity comes another problem – crepey skin. Crepey skin resembles the thin and wrinkled appearance of crepe paper, and it's especially common on the inner wrists and the backs of the hands. The texture changes and fine lines begin to emerge, making the skin look aged and tired.
However, it's not just the structural changes that age our hands. The appearance of age spots or liver spots is another significant concern. These flat, discoloured patches, ranging in colour from brown to grey to black, are the direct result of prolonged sun exposure. Over time, the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage our skin, and these spots are one of the aftermaths. While they are generally harmless, they are often considered unsightly and a clear sign of ageing.
The relationship between our genetics and ageing hands is also quite intimate. Observing our family members, especially our parents or grandparents, can give us a glimpse into how our hands might age. Genetics can dictate the rate at which our skin loses its elasticity, the prominence of veins, and even the appearance of age spots. While we cannot alter our genetic predisposition, understanding it can empower us to take preemptive measures.
Prevention and early intervention are vital. The same way one would approach facial skincare — through regular moisturising, sun protection, and gentle handling — our hands deserve that level of attention too. The good news is that with the advancements in aesthetic treatments, there are now more options than ever to address the signs of ageing hands, making it possible for them to look as young as we feel.
Veiny hands are perhaps one of the most immediate signs of ageing that many individuals notice. This particular manifestation is all about the heightened prominence of veins on the back of one's hand. So why do veins become more visible as we age? It's a combination of several factors.
Firstly, as the skin's natural collagen and elastin diminish with age, the skin becomes thinner and loses its once youthful suppleness and volume. This increased translucency makes it easier for the veins to show through. Additionally, the loss of fat padding under the skin means there’s less cushioning over veins, tendons, and bones. As a result, veins which were once hidden or barely noticeable begin to surface more predominantly.
External factors like sun exposure can exacerbate this appearance. Sun damage breaks down collagen more rapidly, leading to even thinner skin over time. Moreover, overworking hands or engaging in activities that require excessive hand strain can also make veins more prominent.
Understanding veiny hands is crucial because it helps individuals recognize that this is a natural progression of ageing. It's also vital for those looking to seek treatments, as targeting the root causes can lead to more effective solutions.
Spotted hands are characterised by the presence of age spots, sometimes referred to as liver spots or sunspots. These are flat, discoloured patches that can range in colour from light brown to grey or even black. Their appearance is directly tied to accumulated sun exposure over the years.
Every time our hands are exposed to sunlight without protection, the skin tries to defend itself by producing melanin, the pigment responsible for our skin colour. Over time, and with repeated exposure, melanin can clump together or produce in high concentrations in certain areas, leading to these distinct spots.
Although the name 'age spots' implies a direct relationship with ageing, it's crucial to understand that it's cumulative sun exposure that's the primary culprit. Individuals who've spent a lot of time outdoors without adequate sun protection might notice these spots appearing even in their 30s.
Addressing spotted hands requires both preventive measures, like regular sunscreen application, and corrective treatments to reduce or remove the existing spots.
Wrinkled hands, as the name suggests, display signs of crepey skin, fine lines, and deeper wrinkles. The texture of the skin changes, making it seem older and more tired. While wrinkles are a natural part of the ageing process, their appearance and depth can be influenced by several factors.
External factors play a pivotal role. For instance, repeated exposure to water, especially hot water, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to drier skin that's more susceptible to wrinkling. Similarly, the usage of harsh chemicals without protective gloves can damage the skin's barrier, accelerating the wrinkling process.
Internal factors include the body's decreasing production of essential oils, leading to drier, less supple skin. Furthermore, with time, the hands lose their natural fat cushion. This loss not only reveals veins and tendons more but also removes a layer that once smoothed out the skin, preventing wrinkles.
Combating wrinkled hands involves a regimen of moisturization, protection from external damage, and, if desired, aesthetic interventions that target the depth and appearance of wrinkles.
Addressing the signs of ageing on our hands requires more than just daily moisturising and protection. As our understanding of skin health has evolved, so have the treatments available to rejuvenate our hands. Today, individuals can benefit from a suite of procedures that can significantly turn back the clock on their hands.
Dermal Fillers are one of the first lines of defence against ageing hands. These are gel-like substances introduced beneath the skin. What makes dermal fillers particularly effective for ageing hands is their ability to restore volume almost instantaneously. As we age, the natural fat that cushions our hands dissipates, leading to a more skeletal appearance with visible veins and tendons. By reintroducing volume through dermal fillers, hands can regain their youthful plumpness, effectively masking these signs of ageing. Apart from immediate volume, these fillers also stimulate the body's natural collagen production, thereby offering dual benefits. Depending on the type and brand of filler used, results can last several months to even years.
Another groundbreaking treatment that's gained traction in recent years is PRP Plasma therapy. Standing for Platelet-Rich Plasma, this procedure harnesses the body's healing potential. A small amount of the patient's blood is drawn and processed to concentrate its platelets, which are then reintroduced into the ageing areas of the hand. The principle behind PRP is that these platelets release growth factors that promote cell repair and regeneration. For ageing hands, this means enhanced collagen production, increased skin thickness, and an overall improvement in skin health. PRP can rejuvenate the skin's appearance, reduce wrinkles, and offer a more youthful texture, all using the body's natural resources.
Lastly, there's Morpheus8, an innovative treatment that's changing the landscape of non-invasive aesthetic procedures. Morpheus8 ingeniously combines microneedling with radiofrequency energy, targeting the deeper layers of the skin. As the micro-needles penetrate the skin, they deliver bursts of radiofrequency energy, thereby promoting collagen production right where it's needed most. The immediate result is tighter, firmer skin. But the benefits of Morpheus8 don't stop there. Over time, as the body responds to the treatment, there's an improvement in skin texture and a notable reduction in the appearance of age spots. Morpheus8 bridges the gap between more invasive procedures and topical treatments, offering a non-surgical yet highly effective solution to ageing hands.
While each of these treatments offers distinct benefits, the key to rejuvenating ageing hands often lies in a combination of procedures tailored to the individual's specific needs. It's always best to consult with a qualified aesthetician or dermatologist to create a treatment plan that aligns with one's goals and the unique characteristics of their skin. With the advancements in aesthetic treatments, the dream of youthful hands is more attainable than ever before.