Though wrinkles and sagging skin may be the most obvious signs of aging, there are other clues that can also make you appear older than you’d like. The surface of your hands, the thickness of your hair and the texture of your skin are all indicators of age — but you can be clever about how you take care of yourself.
“Some changes to the skin and hair are inevitable with age; [and] some are even determined by genetics,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City. “But we also have a lot of control over the pace of age-related changes, depending on how we treat ourselves.”
Due to a thinner layer of skin and lack of fat (especially on the back), hands tend to age faster than any other part of the body. Wrinkles and visible veins are particularly prominent. Zeichner points out that though most people know how to care for their faces, they tend to ignore the hands.
- Sunscreen and antioxidants: Prevent (or at least postpone) superficial aging by slathering on hand lotion that protects skin from UV rays and the collagen-damaging free radicals they produce.
- Retinol: This ingredient (and its prescription-strength cousin, Retin A) is one of the few proven to help stimulate collagen production. The more collagen, the more likely your skin will stay thick and appear young.
- Fillers: “Fillers (like Radiesse or Sculptra) can be injected into the back of the hands to plump them up and hide prominent veins,” says Zeichner.
According the American Academy of Dermatology, hereditary hair loss affects about 30 million American women. “As we age, we not only lose hair, but the diameter of each hair thins as well,” says Zeichner. So even if you’re not seeing visible bald patches, you might feel that your hair simply isn’t as thick and full as it used to be.
- Diet and supplements: Make sure you’re getting a balanced diet that contains ample amounts of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. You can also get tested to see if your blood iron stores or vitamin D levels are low, as deficits of those nutrients have been shown to contribute to hair loss. If so, supplements are a beneficial option.
- Minoxidil: This topical medication is available in many over-the-counter products and has solid science to back up its claims to help slow hair loss. “It increases blood flow to the hair follicles and lengthens the active growing phase so that strands come out thicker,” says Zeichner.
- Lasers: Low-light laser devices (sometimes called cold lasers) can be used to treat pattern hair loss because they help stimulate the follicles to grow hair. It doesn’t work for everybody. You can opt for weekly treatments at the dermatologist’s office or invest in an at-home device for daily use.
Long before subtle fine lines turn into worrisome wrinkles, you may start to see dark spots that can make your skin look older. Overexposure to the sun is the main culprit for hyperpigmentation on the face. “Sun damage results in an increase in the number of pigment producing cells in the skin,” explains Zeichner.
- Sunscreen and antioxidants: Protecting skin from the sun is the best defense against dark spots. Use an antioxidant serum topped with a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher every day.
- Hydroquinone: Available in over-the-counter products and prescription-strength creams, this ingredient lightens spots by decreasing the formation of melanin (i.e., pigment) in the skin.
- Lasers: Non-ablative fractional lasers can refresh and resurface the skin, lightening dark patches and improving the skin’s overall texture and tone.
Consider making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist to discuss your options. If you opt for treatments such as lasers or fillers, it’s essential these are done by a trained doctor who is experienced in taking care of the skin. Some skin treatments may increase your sensitivity to sunlight, so plan accordingly -- you may even want to consider joining the ranks of those who look forward to the relative darkness of winter, not only for its many bright holidays, but also as a time well suited for rejuvenating skin treatments.