The face ages with a classic set of findings including the development of wrinkles, loose skin, fat atrophy and age or brown spots. The rest of the body ages as well but most of it does not have the amount of sun exposure to which the face is exposed. Therein lies the differences in appearance that occurs in skin that has a long history of being covered than the skin that hasn’t. The one place on the body that ages similarly to that of the face due to sun exposure is…the hands.
It is a well known observation that you can look at many female facelift patients in their mid-50s and beyond whose hands do not match their face. The hands look a lot older than the face who has had rejuvenative treatments such as surgery and numerous topical skin care products. The hands undergo an identical aging process which includes the loss of skin elasticity, the development of wrinkly skin, near complete fat volume loss and the development of numerous brown spots and patches. What is unique about the hands is that as the thin fat layer absorbs with thin skin over the back of the hands, the veins and tendons become very apparent. This is known as the skeletonization of the hands. While one is not looking at the bones, the hands become so thin that it looks like it.
There are now a variety of hand rejuvenation procedures that are available. Sometimes called ‘hand lifts’, this term lends an erroneous impression that skin is removed like in a facelift. This is never done as the scars would be visible and would not look very good as widening of them is inevitable. The hand lift concept is really about plumping them up which lifts and fills them out to create a less skeletal look. Various synthetic filler materials are used of which the most common are Juvederm or Radiesse. Just like injectable fillers in the face, they are placed in a simple office injection session lasting about 15 minutes. They will last about as long as that of the face until they are naturally resorbed and depends on the filler material used. (about one year for Juvederm and Radiesse)
The other filling option, and my preferred approach, is the use of fat. Like the buttock procedure, the Brazilian Butt Lift, fat is taken from elsewhere on the body and injected into the back of the hands. Placed right under the skin at the wrist level, fat injections are massaged into the subcutaneous space between the fingers. This technique avoids injuring the large prominent veins which would cause a lot of bruising. Fat is a natural material so rejection or inflammation to it does not occur. Like when it is injected elsewhere in the body, how much fat is retained and is permanent is variable. Between the fat harvest and injecting into the hands, I prefer to perform this procedure in the operation room under either local anesthesia or with a little IV sedation.
Besides the introduction of volume into the aged hands, the skin can also be treated. The brown spots can be very effectively treated with high intensity pulsed light therapies such as IPL or BBL. As a quickly done office procedure, brown spots can be remarkedly reduced or completely eliminated. Many hand rejuvenation patients choose to do this brown spot reduction alone. The skin can also be smoothed and some wrinkles reduced through fractional laser resurfacing. Just like on the face, fractional laser us much better at skin tightening and wrinkle reduction than traditional full surface laser resurfacing. Sun protection, using a combined UVA/UVB product should be generously used after these light and laser treatments to prevent brown spot recurrence with ongoing sun exposure.
There are also treatments for hand veins such as sclerotherapy and stripping out some of the prominent veins. But there are risks in so doing including prolonged swelling, bruising and thrombophlebitis. As a result, they are less popular and often unnecessary with good dorsal hand filling.
Complete hand rejuvenation includes a combined approach of an injectable filler, BBL for brown spots and fractional skin resurfacing. All of these can be done in a single procedure. Expect the hands to take up to two weeks to recover and show the full benefits.
Dr. Barry Eppley