Nearly every actress in nearly every film has one sure-shot bedtime ritual: manically wringing and twisting her wrists in a bid to moisturise her hands. It’s a smart move, given that our hands are dishearteningly quick to age. And yet scaly palms that are dry to the touch and covered in peeling flesh have been a cosmetic casualty of constant sanitising in the time of Covid-19.
Coupled with unmanicured nails – as salon visits become less frequent – and the inexorable wrinkles that afflict the fingers and knuckles over time, hands have become a focal point of beauty concerns for women in 2020.
Acrobatics on celluloid aside, hands were often overlooked by time-poor laywomen, who would much rather focus on facial features – forehead wrinkles and unplump lips, for instance. “Overworked, exhausted hands often get the short end of the skincare stick, yet with their constant exposure to the elements, hands are one of the first places to show signs of ageing,” says Samantha Wilson, director of Skin Republic, a skincare brand specialising in sheet masks developed in South Korea.
Dr Malda Aldaoudi, dermatologist and aesthetic specialist at Eternel Clinic in Dubai, agrees. “Hands are more exposed to harmful practices and substances, and they are being washed with different types of chemical products – especially now because of the coronavirus – yet people tended not to take serious care of them.”
That has changed to some extent now as, alarmed with the appearances of their rapidly ageing mitts, a number of women in the UAE are opting for cosmetic procedures. Though Eternel Clinic introduced hand fillers more than a decade ago, Dr Aldaoudi has noticed a surge in their popularity during the pandemic, especially to treat hands dermatitis caused by the excessive use of sanitisers and wearing gloves
So how do hand fillers work? Fat, explains Dr Aldaoudi, dissolves through our bodies as we age, and some people tend to have less fat on their hands, which gives less coverage over tendons and veins, and ages the appearance of hands. “Injecting fillers restores the loss of volume resulting from fat dissolving. To put it simply, we replace the loss of fat with fillers. Injecting fillers make the hands look less aged, and gives a glow and deep hydration.”
Dr Aldaoudi says that the majority of clients who request hand fillers are female, but she adds that the requests are not always purely for aesthetic reasons. While the majority of her clients wish to look younger, some seek hand treatments to combat hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excess sweating from the body.
The clinic offers Botox injections for hyperhidrosis in the palms, as well as the underarms and soles of the feet. “We inject small amounts of botulinum toxin over the palms and the fingers. This procedure results in a decrease of the secretion of the sweat glands,” she explains. “It doesn’t stop [perspiration] 100 per cent, but it gives people who suffer from excess sweating some comfort and self-confidence.”
For those grappling with the simpler, but now widespread issue of dry skin, there are non-invasive solutions to keeping hands young-looking or rejuvenate dull skin. Applying hand cream regularly for instance, can help the skin retain moisture and act against the drying effect of chemicals and soap.
"There are many natural methods you can use to sustain youthful hands such as moisturising them right after you wash your hands and exfoliating daily," says Niki Schilling, innovation and sustainability director at Rituals Cosmetics, the beauty brand from Amsterdam that combines natural ingredients with Eastern traditions.
“The hands show age just like any other area of skin and respond to active ingredients so they can be rejuvenated with topical products just the same as facial skin,” adds Jeremy Mujis, founder of Australian-formulated, organic skincare brand Grown Alchemist. “As we are all washing and sanitising more often than we ever have, we must be more careful with what products we are using. Look for wash products with natural ingredients that don’t strip the hands. For hand sanitisers look for 70 per cent or more alcohol, but make sure they also have hyaluronan to help lock in the moisture.
“Using these kinds of products will support the hand cream for soothing and hydrating the hands. Use hand cream in lighter layers more often, avoid anything with silicone, and [moisturise] as much as required. These days, [there is no such thing as] too much.”
A survey by McCabes Pharmacy found that one-third of people who use moisturiser didn't start doing so until the age of 45 or older, but moisturising is key to retaining healthy skin from a young age, as every hand model – who is sought for his or her youthful, soft and smooth hands – will attest. Zainab Zuberi, 21, from Dubai, was a hand model for Huda Beauty, and was shot for package openings, product shoots and blog content for the brand. "I'd make sure I was moisturising before all shoots," she tells The National.
“With everyone washing their hands more thoroughly and frequently because of this pandemic, the demand for products that provide moisture and hydration to the hands has risen,” explains Schilling. And yet moisturiser isn’t the only product essential for hand care. There are a host of dedicated anti-ageing skincare products – from serums, salves and scrubs to balms and even hand masks.
Wilson says that Skin Republic launched its hand mask more than a decade ago. Formulated with ingredients such as collagen, vitamin E and shea butter, it targets five key signs of ageing: loss of firmness and elasticity, dark spots, freckles and dryness. The dual-layered mask contains the serum within the inner glove, while the outer layer remains completely dry. “This helps trap heat and prevents evaporation,” she explains.
Rituals also has a hand mask from its Ritual of Jing line, which Schilling says “helps soften rough, dry hands, and promotes better sleep [as it is] enriched with the fragrance of sacred wood and lavender”.
While youth-reviving motivations and concerns over vanity may be driving forces behind the boom in hand care treatments and products, it isn’t all clinical – for some, the cleansing and creaming rituals are infused with deeper elements of self-care.
“There is more awareness and movement towards body care now, including for the hands. Consumers are approaching beauty more holistically than ever before,” says Schilling, who emphasises the links between mind, body and soul. “I enjoy making a small meditative moment out of my hand care ritual. The calming effects of self-massage are known as one of the easiest and most effective ways to promote relaxation. You can really put a lot of love into this moment, by connecting with yourself.”
7 hand care saviours
1. Soothing Hand Cream, Grown Alchemist
This moisturiser contains healing and soothing active ingredients, and is infused with cactus flower and cedarwood atlas for a subtle yet aromatic scent; Dh245, Comptoir 102
2. Resurrection Hand Balm, Aesop
This non-greasy balm uses a concentrated blend of botanicals to provide hydration for the hands and cuticles, and can even be applied to the feet; Dh335, aesop.ae
3. Ritual of Jing Hand Mask, Ritual Cosmetics
Promising to soothe and soften rough hands while promoting calmness and sleep, this hand mask is enriched with sacred wood essence and lavender; Dh50, en-ae.rituals.com
4. Ultra Nourishing Hand & Nail Cream, Farmskin Freshfood
Rose water and sunflower E+ complex are the main ingredients of this pink salt hand cream, which claims it is "superfood for skin"; Dh34, Glambeaute.com
5. Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands, Badger Balm
An earthy, minty scent is the cherry on top of this soothing balm formulated with beeswax, extra virgin olive oil, vitamins and essential fatty acids; Dh22, asteronline.com
6. Hand Repair Mask, Skin Republic
This glove mask contains moisture-boosting collagen and shea butter to provide a 30-minute intensive rejuvenation treatment; Dh27, noon.com
7. Lips, Hands & Nail Kit, The Body Shop
The Body Shop’s Christmas collection features festively packaged mini gift sets targeting the hands and nails, available in strawberry or mango aromas; Dh69, The Body Shop