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7 Subtle Signs Your Hands are Begging for TLC

Our hands work hard—typing, driving, dishwashing and cooking—but we give them no love. And it shows. Here, the top signs of wear and tear and how to reverse the damage.


You have age spots

Have you noticed any new freckles, moles, or brownish spots appearing on your hands lately? Did you think anything of them? “Hands are often neglected when people think about their anti-aging routine,” says dermatologist Saber Jaber, MD, of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. “It’s very common for me to see patients do all the right things for their face—wearing sunscreen regularly, using vitamin C serum and a topical retinoid—but not do anything for their hands.” The appearance of your hands can easily give away your age, according to research, and the most common signs of aging skin of the hands is brown age spots. Fortunately, age spots can be prevented. “The number one cause of age spots is sun exposure,” Jaber says. “Because the hands are regularly exposed to UV rays, it’s critical to use daily sun protection with an SPF 30 or higher. Start in your 20s, as it is easier to prevent than treat signs of aging.” If you notice any changes in your age spots (also called liver spots or sun spots), such as darkening, growing discoloration, an irregular border, or the spot being slightly raised, it is worth having your dermatologist check them out to rule out melanoma. Read more about how to treat stubborn age spots.


You get calluses

If your hobbies have you wielding a hammer or garden hoe, swinging a golf club or tennis racket, or hefting dumbbells, you likely have calluses, hardened skin that comes from repeated pressure or friction on certain spots on your skin. Although calluses don’t tend to hurt, having them means you’ve put so much pressure on your bare hands that your skin has needed to form a hard, protective layer. Calluses may not seem like a major cause for concern, but it’s important to quickly treat them when they occur or, better yet, prevent them from forming all together. The easiest way to stop a callus from growing is to wear gloves and protective padding when using tools that require a forceful grip. The best method for treating a callus that has already formed is to soak your hands in warm water, then use a pumice stone to gently wear away the dead skin. If you ignore a callus and let it grow, there’s a chance that it will become so thick and dry that it will tear open. A split callus is extremely painful even for the healthiest person, but for people with diabetes, it can spell disaster. Check out these reliable home remedies for calluses.


You have prominent veins

Bulging veins on the hands are the direct result of the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which happens naturally as you get older. With this loss of soft tissue, the veins below simply become more visible. Dermatologists’ go-to tool for this volume loss is a calcium-based filler called Radiesse, which is one of the most well-studied dermal fillers in the United States. “Injections of dermal fillers, like Radiesse, can restore some of the volume loss and minimize the visibility of the veins of the hands,” Dr. Jaber says. Your doctor will inject Radiesse into the back of your hands in a blob, usually along with an anesthetic, then smooth it out manually for results that last nine months to a year. Poor or reduced circulation can make prominent veins seem to bulge more, so some dermatologists recommend performing daily hand exercises and stretches to promote blood flow and help drain accumulated blood from away from the affected veins.


You have crepey skin

We get wrinkles on our hands the same way we get wrinkles on our faces—from sun damage, repeated exposure to elements, and natural loss of collagen and elastin. Together, those forces change the texture of our skin from smooth to wrinkly, crinkly, and crepe-like. Dry skin, because oil production slows with aging, can worsen the crepe-y texture. Once crepey skin beings to appear, take immediate action to restore collagen. “To treat crepey skin, you can use an OTC Retinol cream, like the Olay Professional Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment, which can improve skin texture and restore collagen,” Dr. Jaber says. Some products, such as Hand-MD Restorative Duo, use retinoids and other ingredients to tackle not just crepiness but also age spots and other forms of hyperpigmentation. Hand-MD’s Daily Hand Renewal, the accompanying cream, has SPF 30 to protect against further damage. Here’s how dermatologists take care of their skin.


You have brittle nails

If your fingernails break frequently and are generally brittle, your hands are absolutely screaming for attention. Brittle nails aren’t something that happens overnight; a weak nail surface will have been in the works for quite some time. One cause of weak nails is chronic chemical and water exposure, so wear protective gloves and always moisturize after washing. Another possible cause of brittle nails is poor eating habits, as a diet lacking in iron, zinc, or calcium can lead to brittle nails. The best way to treat brittle nails is to take the time to enrich your diet and avoid nutrient deficiencies, and in the meantime, consider taking vitamin B supplements, using an acetone-free nail polish remover, and always use a base coat beneath your polish to protect the nail. Here’s how to get healthy, shiny nails.


You have dry, ashen hands

Dry hands are a clear moisturizing fail. To remedy ashen hands, choose a hydrating moisturizer, such as Neutrogena Norwegian Hand Cream or Lano Rose Hand Cream. When skin is especially chapped, go for a heavy duty emollient, like Chuda Hydrating Healing Cream or CeraVe Healing Ointment. Dr. Jaber’s favorite trick is to apply Vaseline at night followed by plastic wrap and white cotton gloves. “In the morning your hands will feel softer and smoother than they have ever felt,” Dr. Jaber says. Don’t miss these home remedies for dry hands and feet.

iStock/Astrid Gast

You have swollen fingers

Many people have looked down at their hands and noticed that their wedding ring is suddenly constricting their ring finger, or that their hands look a little plumper than usual. There can be a number of factors leading to swollen fingers and hands, and some of them are harmless (steaming, hot weather, or long-haul flights), but there can also be serious reasons behind it. If your fingers are continually swollen, it’s best to visit your doctor to get a professional diagnosis, as swollen hands may be triggered by Raynaud’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lymphedema and a diet of too much salt.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Aubrey Almanza
Aubrey Almanza is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University and King's College London. Her writing has appeared in Prevention, SHAPE, and Reader's Digest, among others. She specializes in data-driven content on topics of wellness, beauty, culture, art, and fashion.