Turning back hands of time

February 21, 2008 9:00:25 PM PST
In this age of cosmetic surgery, women and some men aren't satisfied to have years taken off their face. More people are taking a closer look at their aging hands.

With Botox and facelifts so popular, our faces don't always reflect our age, but our hands can reveal much more, and for some, that is reason to take action against the "hands of time"

Lynne Stevens, a dance instructor, knows that being good at her profession takes more than fancy footwork.

This grandmother knows appearance counts. As she notes, "People make judgments about you in a nanosecond."

That includes her hands.

Lynne says they should be expressive and "It is important that they look like something somebody else wants to connect with."

But, one day after freshening her face, Lynne said, "I looked at my hands, and I almost passed out!"

Joanne Stretz of Lafayette Hill, Pa. said her hands didn't reflect her youthful spirit. "The veins were showing, and no matter what kind of cream I was using, it just didn't seem to have that dewy, youthful appearance."

Dr. Marlene Mash, a dermatologic surgeon in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., often sees that "hand-face mismatch".

To erase YEARS from tell-tale hands, she's developed a 4-step process, that is done in the office in one hour. "You can go back to work. No pain involved," she said.

The first step for Lynne, like most people, was to diminish large veins.

Dr. Mash uses sclerotherapy - injecting a solution that narrows the prominent veins.

Next, she flushes the injection site with saline, or salt water.

"There's less bruising with this technique, and the patient's veins will diminish by 50 per cent," she explained.

To get rid of age spots, discolorations from sun exposure, Dr. Mash uses an intense pulsed light.

Over the next few weeks, the discolored area will flake away, leaving clear skin.

Finally, Dr. Mash addresses the thin skin and the bony look that comes with aging.

"We want to rebuild the collagen, the fatty tissue layers that have diminished over the period of time," said Dr. Mash.

She uses a filler to plump up areas that have lost their volume.

The type of filler used varies from person to person. It depends on how much plumping is needed, and how long the filler lasts.

About silicone, Dr. Mash said, "The good news is it's permanent. The bad news is, it's permanent."

She also uses shorter term fillers, such as Sculptra and Radiesse. Transfers of a patient's own fat are also an option.

Joanne Stretz chose the fat transfer. She says it was painless.

"A little bruising for the week, but nobody noticed. I went right back to work the same day. There was no downtime for me. None whatsoever," she said.

For Lynne, Dr. Mash used the filler Radiesse, which helps the body build its own collagen.

After the filler goes in, the hand is wrapped in a bandage and the patient is asked to wear a compression glove as much as possible for a few days.

Many patients find it better to have one hand treated at a time, with a week or so separating the sessions.

A few weeks after her last session, Lynne says the treatment and recovery were easy.

"There was a little discomfort, but it was minor. The only pain I ever had was if I touched it," she said.

In December, before the procedures, her hands were covered with age spots and thin. Afterward, the skin was clearer, plumper, and the bones and joints in her hands were less noticeable.

Lynne said, "It was pretty fantabulous."

But Dr. Mash says the best step is to PREVENT aging in the first place:

  • Use a mild soap for washing your hands. It's the suds, not the strength of the soap, that gets rid of germs.
  • Wear gloves in cold weather, & for housework & chores.
  • Most importantly, use a sunscreen with a high SPF every day, even if you are in the car.

    "The ultraviolet rays are hitting your hands as you're driving," says Dr. Mash.

    The price for hand rejuvenation ranges from $1500 to $3000, depending on how many steps, and how much filler are needed. The results are long-lasting, but additional filler may be needed in 2 to 5 years.

    Dr. Mash says the rejuvenation will last longer if you take daily care of your hands.