Madonna looks marvellous for a woman in her early 50s, but the Material Girl has been panned recently for her gnarly hands, and for disguising her ageing neck with more chains than a rap group. Younger beauties such as Angelina Jolie and Kate Moss, both in their mid-30s, have also felt the media heat for the weathered appearance of their hands. Yet the pin-up girl of the over-60s, Helen Mirren, has been universally hailed as stunning when displaying an impressive amount of cleavage on the red carpet.
The lesson? It’s the hands, neck and cleavage that flashlight the signs of ageing first. But if you move into prevention mode earlier in life, you can extend the youthfulness of these vulnerable, thin-skinned areas. It’s not too late, either, if regular late nights or forgetfulness when it comes to sunscreen have taken their toll. When Elizabeth Taylor wore a deeply cut dress for her induction into the California Hall of Fame just after her 76th birthday, her cleavage looked so fabulously lush and unmarked that rumours spread that her birthday gift to herself was a laser décolletage treatment.
Dropping levels of oestrogen, the hormone that also stimulates collagen production in the skin, is the passage of time’s major contribution to ageing hands – an insidious process that causes the skin to thin, resulting in visible veins and the dreaded bony look. But many of the changes we associate with ageing are due to daily exposure to chemicals, pollution and, importantly, sun damage. Which is why women in their 20s can have dreadful-looking hands, too.
Rough patches on the hands can also be the result of a lack of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the diet. Just as the skin on your face needs plenty of nourishment to stay soft and smooth, so does the skin on your hands. Always make sure you eat plenty of foods high in EFAs, such as salmon, seed oils on salads, smoothies and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Dry and chapped hands
There’s typically one reason for this common complaint: not moisturising enough. Put some hand cream next to every sink in the house and apply a squirt or two every time you wash. If the problem is really bad, keep a tube in your handbag and at the office, too.
Everyone knows it’s best to wear rubber gloves when you have to put your hands in water for longer periods. Sadly, knowledge rarely translates into common practice – so to make the idea more attractive, slather on a thick layer of hand cream before putting on the gloves. The warmth of the water intensifies the cream’s moisturising action, so a daily chore can double as a beauty treatment.
After washing your hands, make sure you dry them properly. If you leave water or dampness on the skin, it will only serve to dry out your hands as it evaporates.