Most of us have a skincare regime for our face but the same does not always apply to our hands and the rest of our body. This is despite the fact, that our hands almost always betray our age before our face.
How to look after your hands
Just as you protect your face, so you should give the same attention to your hands. Apply hand cream in the morning before leaving the house and in the evening before going to bed. You should also lotion-up immediately after drying your hands when they have been in contact with water.
There are many products that should do the trick. Rich hand creams are good for dry and flaky skin or for giving your hands a night-time treat.
As you get older, you may start to see the gradual appearance of ?age spots' (also called ?liver spots' or hyperpigmentation) on your hands and face. These are patches of dark skin caused by over-production of melanin, the brown pigment within the skin. They are a natural part of the ageing process brought about by long-term exposure to the sun's ultraviolet light.
They tend to appear from the mid-50s onwards, although you may notice age spots as early as your 40s, particularly if your skin has been exposed to UV light without adequate protection.
You can't avoid developing age spots on your hands (aside from protecting your hands from the sun all year round). If you do have age spots switch to a cream rich in vitamin E which can make age spots seem less noticeable. There are lots of readily-available creams which aim to fade spots over time.
Some people use bleaching or lightening creams to reduce age spots but there has been concern about their safety as some products contain illegal compounds that are damaging to health. It's best to consult a dermatologist if you want to go down this route. Another option is to pay for Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) sessions which disperse the pigmentation by applying multiple wavelengths of light to the area.
How to look after your body
The skin on your body may not be exposed to environmental hazards in the same way as your hands and face but it still needs looking after to avoid dull, dry or itchy skin.
Particular trouble-spots can include the elbows and knees where dryness and flaking can cause discomfort. This is because the body has developed lots of extra skin here to accommodate the way your limbs bend. This ?spare' skin undergoes lots of wear and tear.
To bring out the best in your skin you should develop a good cleansing routine. Effective cleansing respects the natural balance of your skin.
If you have very dry skin or eczema, water in combination with ordinary soap can exacerbate the problem by causing further drying. To avoid this, use emollients (moisturisers that reduce water-loss from the skin) frequently. These can be bought over the counter. You should also avoid harsh alcohol-based products that dry-out the skin.
If your skin is oily, sometimes leading to spots and acne on your chest, back and shoulder, then opt for cleansers specially formulated for spot-control. Water-based ones will be more suitable than oil-based products.
You can also exfoliate your body - focusing in particular on any problem areas such as knees, shins, elbows and heels. When using a body exfoliator massage the formula gently in circles to stimulate circulation to the skin.
After cleansing and exfoliating, you should apply a layer of moisturising body lotion or cream to counteract any dry-out and to protect the whole skin structure against water loss.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
- Creams rich in vitamins, E, C and Coenzyme (CoQ10) are all good ways of boosting your skin's health. CoQ10 is also found naturally in some foods including liver, sardines and mackerel.
- If you have very dry skin or eczema you can try bathing in oatmeal which is thought to help keep the skin moist.
- If you are a smoker - try to quit. Smoking prematurely ages skin. It is thought that smoking reduces the skin's natural elasticity by reducing collagen production (collagen is a protein that supports skin strength).
- Ensure you get plenty of shut-eye. Sleep deprivation will make you look older. In one study from Sweden sleep-deprived participants were judged to be less attractive than their well-rested peers.
- Alcohol can dehydrate your body leaving your skin looking old and tired. Stick to recommended limits and if you do drink remember to intersperse boozy drinks with water or fruit juice.
- Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays is the main cause of skin ageing (as well as skin cancer). It's important to always protect your skin when out and about. Try to avoid the sun between 11am-3pm and always use a suncream with a protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Don't forget to protect your hands from the environment. This means wearing rubber gloves when doing housework and protective gloves when gardening or doing other outside activities.
- Enjoy regular manicures at the salon, or at home, to make your hands look great.