Are your hands cracking under the pressure of so much washing and sanitising? Here’s how to get your soft touch back.
Have you glimpsed at your hands lately as you’re padding away at your keyboard or slicing into an onion and been shocked by what you see? Aside from the fact you’ve been washing and sanitising the heck out of them lately, hands age faster than the rest of your body — partly because the skin on the backs of your hands is as delicate as the skin under your eyes, and partly because of what you put them through (think: UV rays, wind, dirty gym equipment, gardening).
Thankfully, there’s a whole category of beauty buys and treatments right at your, well, fingertips, and we have all the info you need to get the situation in hand…
Watch out for all that washing
The most obvious culprit is all the washing — because instead of providing hydration, water actually leaves your skin thirsty and flaky. Pair that with drying chemicals found in some soap and the alcohol in sanitisers, and you’ve got a recipe for irritated and inflamed knuckles.
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But it’s not just redness or dehydration that harasses your hands’ health. Other common skin dilemmas show up as age spots, uneven skin tone, wrinkles and prominent veins. Most of these come with age, but can also be signs of premature ageing caused by the sun. When it comes to protecting your hands, wrists and even arms from the sun, it can be easy to be lax. Perhaps you apply sunscreen in the morning but as soon as you wash your hands that protective layer is wiped away and your skin is ripe for the sun to bake.
These environmental and biological factors combine to speed up the breakdown of collagen, leaving your hands looking tired, lacklustre and older than they are. “An indicator of the strength of your collagen and elastin is the pinch test, where you pinch some skin on the top of your hand and see how quickly it bounces back — the faster the better,” explains Ultraceuticals global education director Liz Fardon. Your results may be scary, but they’ll also be a much-needed wake-up call.
Even if you’re meticulous about looking after other parts of your body and believe that the state of your hands is, well, out of your hands, this is not the case anymore.
“Your hands need more lipid replacement than the skin elsewhere,” Fardon explains. “Your palms have no hair follicles or sebaceous [oil] glands, but a lot of sweat glands, which means they’re naturally deficient in moisturising factors that assist in keeping skin hydrated.”
Plus, she adds, the skin on the backs of your hands are thin and have hardly any fatty tissue, and with little oil secretion there, too, moisture is less able to bind to it. “The pH is also often lower, so the natural acidic protective component of the skin’s barrier is already compromised. The most important aspect of care is to keep your skin well moisturised.”
Fardon recommends getting your hands on mild, pH-balanced cleansers and lotions (like the ones we mention on the left) that replace the loss of lipids to both your skin and your nails. “Look out for ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural moisturising factor — like essential fatty acids, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, ceramides and plant cholesterol like avocado, vitamin E and niacinamide,” she tips.
Treatments to try when the salons reopen
Body treatments now also include a strong focus on hands and arms, and are fast becoming the norm. Ultraceuticals is rolling out a new Ultra Booster Plus+ Hand and Arm Treatment ($95, ultraceuticals.com), which is like a facial for your hands, designed to address sun damage, premature ageing and uneven skin tone. After a deep cleanse with Sonophoresis technology, a lactic-acid peel is applied from your elbows to your cuticles to leave your skin looking brighter, smoother and hydrated.
Even walk-in clinics are offering an array of non-invasive treatments like pigmentation removal using laser therapy, cosmedical-grade peels, skin needling and dermal stamping (from $89.40, laserclinics.com.au) for firmer, plumper, younger-looking hands.
According to aesthetic physician Dr Joseph Hkeik, the founder of Sydney’s All Saints Clinic, in advanced cosmetic private practices, patients are looking for fast, long-term results. “We determine the cause of aged hands and skin health and provide tailored solutions to each client,” he explains.
He says it’s important to treat the hands, face, neck and chest as one unit, as these are the areas that suffer most due to exposure to harsh elements. When it comes to ageing on the hands, he says the focus is on the deeper structures of fat, muscle and bone, and how they’re all affected by the ageing process — the most significant change being volume loss.
“We firstly target the skin with a series of light chemical peels that can be performed at the same time as a facial to improve skin health. In some instances, we do a laser rejuvenation series to remove sun spots, which are very common in Australia. For more severe damage, we use fractional laser.”
When it comes to volume loss, a soft hyaluronic-acid filler is usually used to gently plump up the hands. But if the volume loss is moderate to severe — and your hands start to look skeletal, with the veins and tendons showing, then, says Dr Hkeik, more intense and longer-lasting volumising procedures may be used.
But until the salons reopen, you can do plenty at home to keep your hands and nails in tip-top shape, by investing in some quality creams, nasty-free products and trying your hand at self-massage.
Hardworking hand creams
Start your repair work with these lotions that leave no greasy residue, just results…
1. Kotia Revitalising Hand & Nail Cream ($32, priceline.com.au)
Hero ingredient deer milk was discovered when a farmhand in New Zealand found her dry hands had become soft and appeared younger during milking season.
2. The Chemistry Brand Hand Chemistry ($35, adorebeauty.com.au)
Concentrated skincare actives target eight areas of hand health — firmness, elasticity, density, even tone, brightness, texture, smoothness and hydration.
3. Verso Hand Serum ($88, mecca.com.au)
This supercharged formula contains hardworking ingredients retinol, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to correct skin issues and protect from more damage.
4. [QED] Skincare The Hand Cream ($28, qedskincare.com)
Formulated by a pharmacist using plant ingredients, it’s tough on dryness but safe enough for even the most sensitive skin. Safflower oil nourishes, while a complex blend of oils plump.
Clean up your kit
Because the smell of polish remover is enough to make us want to get rid of the nasties from our manicure drawer…
1. Life Basics Take It Off! ($14.95, nourishedlife.com.au)
This nail-polish remover is packed with organic calendula, aloe vera and vitamin E to soothe and hydrate both your nails and cuticles.
2. Sienna Byron Bay Nail Lacquer Vernis ($25, siennabyronbay.com.au)
White polish is the colour of the season — use this vegan, breathable version.
3. Habit Nail Polish (about $28, clean beautymarket.com.au)
Traditional polish doesn’t allow your nails to breathe and restricts water absorption so they become brittle and dry. This drop is free from those ingredients, so your fingertips can get some air.
4. Mavala Crystal Nail Polish Remover ($11.95, mavala.com.au)
This super-gentle liquid is acetone-free and made from biodegradable and skin-friendly ingredients. Plus, it’s odourless.
5. Raww Kale’d It Nail Lacquer ($14.99, rawwcosmetics.com)
Infused with kale proteins to stimulate keratin production (the stuff responsible for keeping your nails strong). Acai berry, coconut and pomegranate oils nourish and let your tips breathe.
6. Kester Black Self Love Oil ($24, shop.kesterblack.com)
Jojoba, sweet almond and avocado oils not only soften and nourish your cuticles, knuckles and nails, the oil is safe enough to swipe over your lips and lashes, too.
More essential coronavirus reading:
Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.