Beauty

Hollywood's Latest Beauty Fad: Hand Jobs

The latest fat grafts, laser treatments, chemical peels and skin products are de-aging hands to make them (finally) match forever-young faces
Illustration by: Carole Wilmet

When Nora Ephron at age 65 penned her collection of essays on aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck, she despaired: "Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth." And yes, back in 2007, crepey necks were the dead giveaway of age -- even with the best face-lifts. Cut to 2014, when experts finally have mastered how to youth-enize the neck, matching the shoes, if you will, to the clothes -- hallelujah.

The final frontier? Hands.

Look at photos of high-maintenance women like Madonna. Contrasted against muscle-riddled bodies and baby-smooth faces, veiny, knotty hands reveal one's years like the rings of a redwood. "Leaving your hands aged when you fix the rest is like Limoge china on a dinner table with Dixie cups," says Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer. To take the notion further, ignoring the hands means the handbag doesn't match the rest of the now-matching outfit.

Luckily, the new hand jobs range from invasive options (like, ouch, a hand-lift) to gentler ones, including such products as color correctors. All of these treatments can get your paws from hiding behind your back to full-frontal view where they belong -- showcasing your fancy gel manicure and hard-earned jewelry.

The first rule of anti-aging for hands: sunblock. "Skin gets thinner as we get older," says plastic surgeon Lawrence Koplin, referring to men and women "of face-lift age," or in their mid-50s. "The skin on hands can get looser with loss of volume. And the sun causes brown spots and loss of collagen around blood vessels, which weakens them, leading to increased bruising." Koplin prefers spray-on sunblock, while Lancer recommends his Sheer Fluid Sun Shield SPF 30 ($48). Dermatologist Peter Kopelson suggests his AM Quench sunblock ($29).

De-aging treatments work from the outside in. "The idea is to fix the leather first -- the outside part -- for color and texture before you plump thinning skin," says Lancer, who uses chemical peels (starting at $750 per treatment) and fractionated Erbium laser treatments over months (starting at $1,500 per treatment) to recondition and color-correct the skin on the back of hands. Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Leif Rogers also uses chemical peels: "A light acid TCA peel, or glycolic peel, works well." Topical options include vitamin C and Retin A products (ranging in price from $50 to $250), which can be very effective with improving texture and color. Bleaching creams for spots, such as prescription-only hydraquinone, also will even out skin tone.

Kopelson tackles brown age spots on the hands "with an IPL, or intense pulse light, machine" before injecting filler, which is "practically painless," he says. "You put it in the knuckles." That's one cubic centimeter at $800 per hand, which lasts a year. "The more often you do it, the less you need it, as it causes the skin to increase collagen as well," says Kopelson. For veins, he finds sclerotherapy -- injecting a solution, generally a salt solution, to collapse them -- a viable option for ones that aren't too thick. Big purple veins "can't be injected or lasered," notes Lancer. "We camouflage them with volume. Some people use fat grafting, but I prefer Radiesse," which costs $600 and up per syringe.

Fat grafting is a more permanent option than a filler -- and more expensive. Koplin says he prefers it because "it instantly restores volume between the tendons, causing veins to become less prominent. They don't look like they're standing up. The thinner a woman, the more prominent the hand veins -- so the more stuffing in the cushion, the softer hands look." Plus, fat has beneficial effects on skin, giving it better blood supply and oxygenation. (Fat grafting on hands costs $5,000 to $8,000 and takes about an hour, with mild sedation.)

Rogers performs liposuction on the back of hands if needed -- which leaves bruises for about a week. For extremely loose skin, he suggests, yes, hand-lift surgery. "But then you're trading loose skin for a scar," he admits.

Most spas offer hand therapies as add-ons, but Beverly Hills facialist Ronit Falevitch is known for her arm and hand rejuvenation treatments ($95). They include microdermabrasion with glycolic acid to remove dead, tired cells. After that, a hydrating serum and a honey mask (which smells great) are applied, and hands and arms are dipped in warm paraffin, then wrapped for 20 minutes. To keep them silky, Falevitch suggests Valmont Hand Nutritive Treatment ($115).

While the expression "warm hands, cold heart" has never been proved by scientists, perhaps a new saying should be "young hands, young at heart." Because even if mismatched clothes are sometimes chic, mismatched limbs never are.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.