Not that you need one more thing to do, but have you looked at your hands lately? Does the skin appear smooth, supple and even-toned? Do they look as young as you feel? Unless they've been swaddled in gloves for the past 20-plus years, your hands are probably showing some signs of wear. The environment (sun, pollution, harsh weather) can be just as damaging to them as it is to the face, says New York dermatologist Steven Victor, M.D., though most women rarely think about skin care for their hands.
For many of us, some damage has already been done. But the good news is that most of it can be reversed and even slowed, thanks to new anti-aging hand treatments, many of which use the same sophisticated ingredients found in products directed at the neck up. Dermatologists are also performing chemical peels, laser treatments and fat injections -- treatments typically only used to erase the signs of aging from the face -- on hands.
"Chemical peels can help fade dark spots and give your hands a much smoother texture," says Howard Sobel, M.D., a New York dermatologist. "And fat injections [using fat transferred from a fatty area such as the buttocks] can plump hands up, so they appear smoother and less wrinkled on top."
Laser treatments can also help get rid of pigmentation spots. But such procedures aren't cheap: They cost $100 and up (and often require several repeat visits per year). The bottom line is that most women in their 20s and 30s simply don't need them and won't ever need them if they learn to care for their hands early on.
The best and often cheapest way to care for your hands is with a quality cream or lotion. Which cream is best for you depends on the results you're after and what time of day you're planning on applying it (many of the night creams can be too greasy for daily activities). Choose a product that's right for you on the following pages. Then, maximize its moisturizing effects by simply applying it to just-washed, still-damp hands.
The problem: extreme dryness
The solution: moisturizers
These creams - best for extremely dry skin - can be more like ointments than lotions, so they're best for use at night (when you're less likely to care about their greasy feel and when they're less likely to be washed off).
The problem: wrinkles or freckles
The solution: anti-agers
These products contain potent ingredients typically found in face-care products: retinol (which helps smooth skin and reduce pigmentation spots) or vitamins A (which helps improve elasticity), C (which helps erase pigmentation spots) or E (which helps the skin retain moisture).
The problem: roughness and calluses
The solution: exfoliators
These contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that gently exfoliate dull surface skin, so hands appear smoother and younger. AHA products -- used daily -- can also help smooth calluses on the palms. But if you use them, always wear sun protection on your hands since AHAs can make the skin more sun sensitive.
Editor's favorites Vaseline Intensive Care ManiCure ($6; 800-743-8640), H2O+ Smoothing Hand Therapy ($12.50; 800-242-BATH) and Estée Lauder Revelation Age-Resisting Hand Cream ($29.50; www.esteelauder.com).
The problem: sun exposure
The solution: SPF lotions
Hands get repeated exposure to the sun, so you need daily sun protection, says Norman Levine, M.D., a dermatologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The easiest way to get it is through a hand moisturizer that contains a SPF of at least 15. Just remember to reapply after washing your hands.
Editor's favorites St. Ives CoEnzyme Q10 Hand Renewal Lotion with SPF 15 ($4; 800-333-0005), Neutrogena New Hands SPF 15 ($7; 800-421-6857) and Clarins Age-Control Hand Lotion SPF 15 ($21; www.clarins-paris.com).
The problem: hands in need of pampering
The solution: at-home spa treatments
These spa-based hand treatments often do in an hour, or overnight, what a regular lotion accomplishes in a week's worth of application. Spa gloves boast softeners built into a gel lining that works deep into dry skin, and masks use powerful humectants like honey to leave hands feeling as if they'd been soaked in moisture.
Pampering lotions, on the other hand, boast a combination of intensive hydrators to infuse hands with a hefty dose of moisture. And many of them contain uplifting scents like grapefruit and lemon that can make the dullest daily activities an aromatherapeutic experience.
Editor's favorites BlissLabs Glamour Gloves ($44; 888-243-8825; www.blissworld.com), Kiehl's Deluxe Grapefruit Hand & Body Lotion ($10.50; 800-KIEHLS-1), Naturopathica Verbena Hand Softener ($22; 800-669-7618) and Aésop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm ($35; 888-223-2750).
Hot wax hype?
Manicurists often try to convince clients to plunk down an extra $20 for a hot paraffin wax. But can dipping your hands in it really smooth skin, as they say? Debra McCoy, general manager of Hands On spa for hands and feet in Beverly Hills, Calif., says paraffin works "as a deep moisturizer for extremely dry skin and soothes muscles and joints."
Softening is immediate but short-lived (lasting just a couple of hours). The bottom line: Wax dips may be best saved for special occasions or when hands need extra TLC. To save money, do your own at home with Conair Paraffin and Manicure Spa ($49; 800-3-CONAIR).