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My Hands: A Hatestory
Lasers aren't just for your face — they can help turn back the clock on your hands too.
Author Nora Ephron famously wrote a book called I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. I'm beginning to understand how she felt, though it's my hands I'd like to enter into the catalog of body-part complaints. I'm not taking issue with my hands as a whole — I have long, slender fingers and passable nails — I'm reserving my kvetching to the top of my hands, you know, the area that shows the most.
Recently I've noticed that my hands have started to look a little speckled, which a nice way of saying that pigmented spots (I really can't bring myself to use the term age spots) have begun surfacing. I suspect these brown dots have long been lurking beneath the surface, lying in wait for an opportune time to crop up and ruin my day.
Hyper-pigmentation is my arch nemesis. It's one of the skin issues that ages us more than wrinkles. And I know from experience that even though sun spots and their clingy cousin, melasma, are formidable enemies, they can be fought and conquered with the right procedures, products and perseverance. Enter Dr. Eunice Park, a dual board-certified facial and reconstructive plastic surgeon and founder of AIREM Modern Beauty Rituals in Syosset, New York. At AIREM, Dr. Park marries state-of-the-art technology and a deep understanding of skin science with a concept from Korea, her birthplace, called gwallee, which essentially means self-care.
From the moment you walk through the door at AIREM, you sense that it's not a typical doctor's office or medical spa. Everything from the beautiful design to the tea ceremonies to the friendly staff communicate that this in not a conveyor-belt practice, but one that cares enough to spend time with their clients. And then there is Dr. Park — an incredibly impressive physician and mother of three whose impeccable skin and graceful manner instill the kind of confidence you want to feel when you're about to be zapped.
I visited AIREM to get their Fade Away treatment, which uses pico laser technology to "disrupt the pigment particles that are responsible for the photo damage — stubborn discoloration — that shows up on our faces, hands and other part of our bodies," explains Dr. Park, adding that one of the great things about this particular technology is that unlike other lasers, it's safe to use on a wide range of skin types and tones.
Here's what I experienced and what you can expect:
I sat with numbing cream on for about 30 minutes before Dr. Park began working on my hands. Pico doesn't "spot treat" — it covers an entire surface, targeting the darkest areas.
After the treatment, Dr. Park covered my hands with a thin, gel-like substance containing exosomes, which are akin to stem cells and activate the body's natural cellular repair process to mitigate inflammation and promote collagen deposits. AIREM became an early adopter of exosome aesthetic treatments after Dr. Park visited the global headquarters of one of the leading exosome manufacturers in South Korea. The clinical data is promising—studies have shown that exosomes speed up the wound healing process, which is technically what is happening when you get a laser treatment; the skin is injured so that it can regenerate.
My hands were a little red and inflamed, but calmed down after a couple of hours. A few days later, the dark spots looked a little darker, but faded significantly after about 10 days. As effective as the pico laser is, this is not a one-and-done procedure (Are any of them?). So to get the results I'm hankering for, I'll need to get several more (up to six) and then maintain the results with an annual treatment. Needless to say, it's never too late to fall back in love with the parts of yourself that you've been neglecting.
Here, are a few more ways to ward off granny hands:
Solid stick sunscreen: We often forget to apply sunscreen to our hands — and even when we do, it can easily wash or rub off because we use our hands so often. For that reason, Dr. Park likes the K Beauty stick sunscreens that are popular in Asia; they are packable, portable and convenient to re-apply. One of her favorites for warding off sun damage is the ACH SPF 50 stick.
Estrogen "hand" cream: You read that right. My friends over at Alloy Health, a telehealth company aimed at supporting women over 40, is now able to prescribe a cream that is formulated with estrogen. We have estrogen receptors in our skin, so applying a cream that contains topical estriol (especially as we age and natural supply diminishes) can help increase collagen production, restore moisture and increase firmness and elasticity. The cream is intended to be used on the face, but I've always been an off-label kind of girl.
Hand fillers: Though a little more aggressive, hand fillers such as autologous fat, hyaluronic acid, calcium hydroxyapatite and poly-L-lactic acid "can be a good option for people who have moderate to severe signs of aging on the hands," says Dr. Park. "These types of treatments improve the quality of thin skin as well as provide a volumizing effect in the hands," says Dr. Park, who cautions that there can be significant swelling of the hands for several days to weeks after the injections and repeat treatments are required to maintain the effect.