Show me a woman with dishpan hands and I'll show you a mother. And vice versa. Having hands periodically submerged or in need of a thorough washing comes with the territory even though women are no longer (necessarily) chained to the kitchen sink. Mums are like the invisible fairies of the household, performing minor miracles every day: the paired socks, wiped surfaces, filled lunchboxes and correct change. And lots of washing. So a Washing-Up Fairy for Mother's Day really appeals.
It's not a dishwasher and nor is it a smiley person with clip-on wings. It is a green and pink bubble bar fairy-on-a wand from Lush. You swirl it under a hot tap and it releases hand-softening, lemon-flowery scented bubbles. It is apparently the world's first solid washing-up liquid, it's $7.95, reusable for a dozen washings-up and it is fun and smells nice. It even inspired me to wash all the Lego, Little People and dolls' cups and saucers in the laundry sink on Sunday. But if you want to get serious about preserving your hands, some less novel methods may be a good idea on all the non-Mothers' Days.
The most obvious but tedious, as it delays you from an urgent mopping-up or rinsing off, is wearing rubber gloves. The thick ones are useless for fine glasswear and the thin ones are useless for hard scrubbing so a small selection is a good idea. Of course you'll accumulate lots of onesies as one hand will hole first (chuck 'em I say) and you'll need those exy surgical-type disposable gloves for dusting and other fiddly work (as well as applying self-tanner when the work is done) but it is worth it. If you're really keen, you'll apply a hand cream beforehand for a nourishing sauna affect. If you are dedicated you will use a sunscreen on the backs of your hands before you go outside. And warm gloves on cold days. You'll use cuticle oil and hand cream whenever you think to use it. Yes, clog that keyboard. I always do.
The main marker of age - this week we'll call it ''mother wisdom'' - in the hands is variation in colouring and veins, rather than wrinkles, according to Dr Susan Austin of the Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia. "Variations in colour include brown spots, such as seborrhoeic or actinic keratoses, also known as sun or liver spots. Prominent veins and tendons often lead to a 'claw hand' appearance due to the loss of dermal and subcutaneous volume," Dr Austin said. The Daily Mail in Britain has reported a new £850 ($1350) ''fruit and veg'' jab designed to provide more youthful looking hands. The treatment from France, called Stylage, is a filler that can be injected into the skin and combines hyaluronic acid with mannitol, a chemical found in fruit and vegetables, to plump the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Dr Austin says that in Australia the most common treatments for hand rejuvenation include topical creams containing hydroquinone or other bleaching agents to reduce pigmentation; laser and IPL to remove spots and improve skin tone and texture, and dermal fillers, which are placed in or below the dermal layer to hydrate the skin and fill in the ''volume deficits'' so that veins and lines appear less obvious.
"There are pros and cons to most treatments,'' says Dr Austin. "While resurfacing lasers can be effective, the procedure is often painful and can also be expensive. Dermal fillers are not overly painful although bruising can occur following treatment. Anaesthetic cream and ice applied to the back of the hand can numb the area to help manage discomfort and the entire back of the hand can be treated in approximately five injections. Chemical peels are another option for people seeking to rejuvenate their hands and can be used to reduce colour variations, although individual results vary.''
Don't think I'll be putting up my hand for any of those. And most mums, I imagine, do not have the downtime, the inclination or resources for cosmetic hand treatments so Dr Austin suggests using, under the guidance of a professional, prescription-strength Vitamin A and glycolic acids. ''They are effective solutions for removing dead skin cells to help keep hands looking and feeling smoother. In fact, applying prescription-strength Vitamin A cream at night and a glycolic hand renewal cream during the day along with sunscreen is one of the most economical ways to maintain a youthful appearance in your hands.''
There you have it. Sunscreen, gloves and commonsense. That's what a mother needs to hear as well as to dispense. Do you have any handy beauty tips for mums? Is there something you do or use that works a minor miracle? What are your ideas to keep busy mums looking good? How do you manage?