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From brittle nails to age spots: how to care for your hands

Jocelyn Bailey
Article written by Jocelyn Bailey

Date published 28 February 2024

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Our hands are constantly exposed to the environment, so it's no surprise they can be one of the first areas to show our age, says beauty editor Jocelyn Bailey. Here's her advice for keeping hands soft and healthy-looking.

🕒 4 min read

Ageing hands?

Most of us do not care for our hands as scrupulously as we do our faces. When we add environmental exposure, and the fact that the skin covering the backs of our hands is naturally thinner than the skin elsewhere, it's easy to see why our hands are particularly prone to ageing.

UV-exposure is particularly detrimental, as it gradually breaks down skin's collagen and elastin (they're the springy fibres that make skin plump and supple) and also leads to hyperpigmentation (age spots). As that youthful cushioning and plumpness declines, the hands appear bonier and veins become more prominent.

Other forms of environmental exposure also play their part, drying out the skin and making it increasingly crepey, lined and wrinkly.

Although dermatologists can rejuvenate the hands with fat or filler to volumise the skin, these treatments aren't for everyone. Instead, many of us look to skincare to help keep our skin healthy and there are lots of effective ingredients and products which can help old-looking hands. Simple lifestyle changes can also add up over time.

Protect hands

As with our faces, the best treatment always starts with protection. We need winter gloves to shield skin from the drying effects of cold weather, and rubber gloves all year round to protect against harsh soaps, detergents and water.

Bearing in mind how hands are exposed to housecleaners, furniture polish, gardening products and more every single day, that's a lot of potentially drying chemicals if you don't wear gloves!

Hand washing

Washing our hands is, of course, essential: but be aware that many hand soaps use harsh agents to remove dirt, bacteria, and grease, and that these also remove the skin's natural lipids (oils). As the skin becomes drier, its barrier function and natural protection is reduced further.

In addition to wearing protective gloves for housework, it's best to switch from harsh, oil-stripping soaps and hand gels to gentler cleansing agents, such as those in the Protect & Nourish Hand Wash and Anti-Bacterial Gel. Both contain glycerin to moisturise and hydrate, and do their job without harming the skin.

Don't underestimate hand cream

After every wash, it's important to dry hands thoroughly (never let them air-dry) and then apply a hand cream (preferably a SPF hand cream).

A protective, nourishing formula such as the Replenish Hand Cream SPF15 is ideal for the bathroom, as well as your handbag. As well as pro-vitamin B5 to condition skin and nails (great for dry hands), and antioxidant vitamin E to help reverse environmental damage, it contains a UV-filter to help screen out damaging rays.

Special ingredient Tyrostat (which helps fade and improve the look of age spots on hands) is what really sets it apart as the best hand cream.

Replenish Hand Cream SPF15

Replenish Hand Cream SPF15

Rich and nourishing cream for mature hands

  • Helps give hands a more youthful appearance
  • Helps restore skin density
  • Includes pro-vitamin B5 for its skin and nail conditioning benefits and antioxidant vitamin E to protect against sun damage.
Shop now

Brittle nails

Fingernails may appear tough and resilient, but they're made of the same basic protein (keratin) as our skin and hair, so are just as vulnerable to damage. Furthermore, since they have no oil glands of their own, they can dry out even faster than skin, which means that they lose their suppleness and sheen, and become increasingly brittle and prone to breakage. A combination of dryness and age can even lead to grooved vertical ridges from cuticle to tip, and to yellowing.

Your general health is also reflected in the condition of skin and nails, so ensure your body gets a wide array of protein, vitamins, and minerals (especially antioxidants) plus omega 3 fatty acids. A nail supplement, such as Hair & Nail Strengthener Supplement can make a big difference. Every tablet contains eighteen carefully selected micronutrients, including B vitamins, silica and natural plant oils to strengthen hair as well as nails.

For the 50-plus age group, Replenish Hair & Nails 50 Plus includes soy isoflavones (plant hormones) to support the body when oestrogen levels decline, plus co-enzyme Q10 for cell energy and a helpful keratin-assisting cocktail of vitamins, minerals and natural plant elements.

Poor circulation can also deprive nail cells (which are made in the matrix, the living part of the nail under the cuticle) of valuable nutrition, so it is well worth giving the area a little massage when applying hand cream. I also recommend giving nails a weekly 15-minute soak in warmed almond oil. It's like a conditioning face mask for nails!

Collagen for skin

Collagen supplements and 'shots' are particularly popular at the moment. The new and highly-anticipated Collagen Glow contains 5000mg marine collagen as well as vitamins B2, C and D3, and hyaluronic acid in a convenient drink format, which makes looking after your skin and nails feel like a little treat.

How to make hands look younger

Overall, it is perhaps not that surprising that the best way to beautify our hands and delay the signs of ageing is with techniques and ingredients we already use for our faces. It's why familiar-sounding ingredients such as antioxidants and SPFs appear in therapeutic hand creams, why collagen and hyaluronic acid are important in our supplements, and why clinical techniques include lasers to break up pigmentation spots and needling treatments to smooth out wrinkles and volumise skin.

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Jocelyn Bailey

About Jocelyn Bailey

Jocelyn Bailey has been a health and beauty journalist for over 30 years, including 10 as beauty editor of Woman magazine. She is an expert in top-to-toe beauty, with a particular interest in ingredients.