Are My Hands Aging Faster Than Normal? I’m Worried

The other day I was listening to a dating and relationship podcast called We Met At Acme and the host, Lindsey, asked her guest a question that felt kind of random: "Do you think your hands are aging faster because of Covid?" The guest (I don't remember who it was), took a beat, as if considering their hands — maybe taking a peek down at them, though I wouldn't know considering the medium — and answered: 'Yeah, actually, I do.'
From what I recall, the conversation then meandered back into the purview of dating, but the question made me consider my own hands. They're not bad, I thought, but they're also not good: I have a smattering of freckles, wrinkles, and incessant dryness around my cuticles. So, I reached out to a dermatologist, Dr. Mona Gohara M.D. who had lots to say on the topic — along with simple, straightforward interventions we can do to keep your hands soft and aging at a healthy rate.
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Look for a 'non-soap' hand wash

Dr. Gohara admits that we're not crazy for observing our hands aging faster in the time of Covid. "I've never seen hand dermatitis as bad as it's been over the past two years," she tells me. "We're seeing eczema of the hands, largely from the use of harsh cleansers and hand sanitizers that we're using these on a regular basis — they're messing with the skin barrier."
You're probably picky with your face cleanser, and understand that the wrong one can dry you out. According to Dr. Gohara, you should also be choosey when buying your at-home hand soap. The somewhat-confusing key: look for 'non-soap' on the label. "The biggest thing is to use non-soap cleanser," Dr. Gohara explains. "Bars and soap are not analogous. By soap, I mean that the product has a high pH. A dishwashing soap is a soap. But a lot of the antibacterial hand soaps out there have a really high pH, so you want to look for and use a non-soap cleanser."
Dr. Gohara recommends the Dove Deep Cleansing Moisturizing Hand Wash, but other drugstore options include Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar and Pharmaceutical Specialties Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser. These are fragrance-free options, but Dr. Gohara tells me: "Fragrances can be a problem...for people who have problems with fragrances. Or, they can be fine. It really depends on how sensitive your skin is."

Try hand 'slugging'

If you're slugging your face at night, you can also slug your hands with moisturizer, petroleum jelly, and a pair of gloves, to keep it from becoming a mess. "My son gets really dry hands from the soap he uses at school, so before bed, we moisturize his hands, then he puts Vaseline on, and then we put a pair of thin cotton gloves over the top," Dr. Gohara tells me. "With the gloves, you can just you can buy them at any drugstore, and just cut the fingertips off. With finger holes, you can type, text, play video games, whatever you want to do, and they can go right into the washing machine. It's a spa-like treatment that's not annoying and really works."
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Use the back of your hand as a skin-care palette

My favorite piece of advice is probably the easiest to implement: Use the back of your hand as a kind of palette for the skin-care products you're putting on your face. "We have pretty compulsive regimens about our face — people are good about sunscreen, vitamin C, retinol, antioxidants — all to prevent the signs of aging," says Dr. Gohara. "But if you think about it, the hands and the face have the same amount of exposure — even worse, because of all the hand washing and sanitizing. So, at night, when I'm doing my skin routine, I use my hand as a palette, literally like an artist's palette: I I drop my antioxidant serum on the back of my hands, and then my retinoid, too. That way, my hands are getting the exact same benefit and I don't have to think about it."

Powder (sunscreen) your hands

When it comes to sun exposure, the hands are constantly being hit with damaging UV rays, especially when we're driving. "Even before we were compulsively hand washing during Covid, the hand conversation was actually happening in our dermatologists' offices because of sun damage to the hands," Dr. Gohara explains. "When I talk to my patients about sunscreen application, I always say: Wear sunscreen 365 days a year on your face and your hands. A lot of people look at me and are like, 'Why am I putting sunscreen on my hands?' Well, it's exactly because of what we're seeing: Hands are actually the first spot where people note the signs of aging with sun spots, wrinkling, dryness, all visible signs that the skin that's not as resilient as it used to be."
Think about every time you get into your car and your hands are on the steering wheel, you're in direct sunlight with zero protection (the windows do nothing). To give yourself some protection, Dr. Gohara recommends keeping a sunscreen brush in your center console. "People don't want to put on greasy sunscreen before they get in the car," she says. "So I keep a sunscreen powder in my center console and just dust my hands before driving. Colorscience, ISDIN, Avene — a lot of brands have them. It's not messy or gross, and it protects your hands." Your next manicure shot will be better, trust.

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