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Frequent hand washing and the somewhat overzealous use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been an integral part of keeping ourselves safe in this pandemic. Unfortunately, even though our hands may be clean, the constant exposure to harsh surfactants in hand soaps and drying ethanol means that they’re also in dire need of some serious TLC.
In its natural state, our skin has a protective outer layer composed of oils and waxes which both shield us from outside contaminants and act as a barrier that keeps moisture from evaporating, a process known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Keeping this protective layer properly hydrated is vital to the health of our skin.
Though dryness might seem like a cosmetic concern, anybody who’s ever suffered from dry hands will know just how dangerous and uncomfortable it can be. Our skin is an important organ that protects us from microbes. This is a particularly important point to remember for our hands, as we use them to touch hundreds of objects in a day. When the skin on our hands dries out, this protective organ might even start developing open cracks and fissures that can lead to serious infections later on, which is why it’s important to find the best hand creams and moisturizers.
Our Hands Need Care, Too
It’s no secret that we subject our hands to a lot of abuse. Think about it: we use them in nearly every task we do daily, from typing out an email to making a quick sandwich for lunch. You might think that it’s enough to smear some of your regular body lotions on your hands and call it a day, but do you know that the skin on our hands is markedly different from the skin on the rest of our bodies?
The skin on the back of our hands is particularly thin, and our palms can produce no oil as they have no sebaceous glands. In fact, our hands age just as fast as our faces, hence the timeless saying “Your hands truly do show your age.”
Hand Cream is Essential
Using a hand cream is proven to stop your hands from getting dry, even with frequent hand washing and the use of alcohol-based sanitizer.
Compared to just toweling off, using an appropriate hand cream after hand washing was shown to prevent moisture loss. This is because hand creams lock in moisture to keep your skin soft, smooth, and protected. Hand creams are specially formulated to be more emollient and moisturizing compared to regular body lotion and act as a protective layer between your hands and the world.
However, not all hand creams are made equal. Some might contain ingredients that can cause even more dryness in the long run. It can be intimidating trying to choose which hand cream to buy from the confusing array of different tubs and tubes on display in your local pharmacy.
But don’t worry — we’ll tell you all about what ingredients to look for, along with some helpful tips that will make choosing the right-hand cream for you a breeze. Let us help you find the right-hand cream for you with our top picks below.
Our Selection Criteria
Before we dive head-first into our choices, we think it’s important to let you know that all of these hand creams were rigorously vetted before being put on this list. Trying to find the best hand cream is no easy task, and we took this responsibility very seriously. After all, we use our hands a lot, and they deserve the best treatment.
In our search for the best hand creams, there were a few things we wanted to keep in mind. Our requirements included:
- Price. Our recommendations range in price, from the most affordable budget hand creams to the more luxurious, higher-end creams. However, we wanted to make sure all were within a fairly reasonable price point.
- Effectiveness. If a hand cream is on this list, it means it works, period. Full stop. None of the hand creams listed below are mediocre or just so-so. All of them do what they say they’re supposed to do.
- Ingredients. While these creams do have a variety of ingredients, we wanted to make sure they were all safe to be used by all people. We didn’t want to include hand creams that had known allergens, for instance or toxic ingredients in them.
- Reviews. We carefully combed through all of the reviews on these hand creams to make sure that they were universally loved. Sure, they might have had the rogue bad review here or there, but for the most part? These creams have a loyal following for good reason.
- Availability. It just wouldn’t be fair to tell you about this amazing hand cream, only to tell you that it’s been out of stock for months or you have to travel to the other side of the world to get it. Most of these creams can be found in most online or brick-and-mortar retailers.
- Benefits. Finally, each one of these hand creams was chosen for its known benefits. Whether they’re soothing, moisturizing, or healing, we wanted to make sure you’d benefit from using them.
Best Budget Hand Creams
These hand creams are universally beloved, boasting thousands of 5-star reviews and a budget-friendly price! Soothing, moisturizing, and quick-absorbing, these top-ranking hand creams are all under $10.
Jergens Ultra Healing+ Hand & Body Cream
Enriched with shea butter, this dermatologist-approved hand cream boasts of a vitamin-infused formula, with vitamins C, E & B5 plus Plant Protein Complex. Jergens special formula has many reviews praising its light and non-greasy texture which lets it absorb quickly while still being able to moisturize extra-dry skin. It is also formulated to soothe itching and redness caused by irritation from dryness.
- Gets rid of itchiness and redness
- Very affordable
- Enriched in vitamins
- Light, non-greasy formula
- Pleasant scent
- Not very thick
- May not work for extra dry skin
Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream
Frequently ranked as the best hand cream for dry skin, outperforming hand creams many times its price, Eucerin’s famous Advanced Repair Hand Cream is jam-packed with heavy-hitting moisturizers such as glycerin and urea, all while remaining budget-friendly.
It also contains lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that does double duty by exfoliating the skin while also helping retain hydration. This ensures that hands look smooth and noticeably younger due to cell turnover. Truly fragrance-free, this hand cream is also perfect for sensitive skin and noses alike.
- Completely fragrance-free
- Dermatologist recommended
- Fast absorbing and non-greasy formula
- Can help with eczema
- Softens and exfoliates
- Unpleasant smell
- May cause irritation in some
- Slightly more costly for the volume you get
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Cream
As its slogan suggests (“For Extremely Dry, Cracked Hands”), O’Keefes thick, nourishing formula is a godsend for raw and chapped hands as many reviewers can attest. Hailing it as a miracle worker, O’Keeffes’s numerous fans praise its ability to soften and heal cracks from dryness and even skin conditions like eczema.
Now available in a more convenient squeeze tube, along with the iconic tub, this fragrance-free hand cream even comes with a 100% money-back guarantee, which just proves how effective it truly is.
- Very moisturizing
- Can repair damaged hands
- Comes with a guarantee
- Can help with eczema
- Safe for diabetics
- Can be sticky after application
- Wax-like ingredient in formula flakes off
- More costly than other brands
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula
A true classic and a personal favorite, Neutrogena’s famous hand cream is incredibly rich in glycerin, a humectant that draws water into the skin to keep it hydrated. Formulated with 40% glycerin, it provides instant relief for dry and damaged hands.
This velvety hand cream feels silky on the skin and absorbs quickly, making it a top choice for those who work with their hands and those who hate stickiness. The moisture and silky feeling also last, remaining even after handwashing.
It also comes in two versions, scented and unscented, so there’s something for both those who prefer a light fragrance or no fragrance at all in their hand creams.
- Time-release formula offers 24 hours of moisture
- Does not wash off
- Absorbs quickly
- Unscented option great for sensitive skin
- Developed by a dermatologist
- Feels slimy if you get your hands wet
- Really needs to be rubbed in
- Not the best scent
Dove Dry Skin Relief Replenishing Hand Cream
This velvety hand cream leaves hands unbelievably silky, with reviews raving about the baby-soft feeling after use. Creamy and yet non-greasy, this fast-absorbing and instantly soothing formula especially contain hydroxystearic acid that can help boost the skin’s regenerative power.
It is also rich in hydrating glycerin and chock-full of vitamins and goodies such as silk amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B, and soothing panthenol.
Truly ideal for sensitive skin, Dove hand cream is paraben-free, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and dermatologist-tested. It is also recognized by the National Eczema Association as suitable for eczema-prone skin.
- Super silky formula absorbs quickly
- Soothes dry skin
- Has healing vitamins
- Fragrance-free formula great for sensitive skin
- Dermatologist tested
- Great for eczema
- Pump doesn’t work as well
- Somewhat sticky after application
- Not the best scent
Best Nourishing Hand Balms and Ointments
Creamy and deeply hydrating, these formulas are thicker and richer than your usual hand cream for times when your hands just need a little extra TLC.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Made with 41% petroleum, which is the most effective occlusive, this thick ointment is not for the faint of heart. Advertised as a multipurpose ointment, aside from being used as a hand cream, it can also be used as a lip balm, a foot cream for dry cracked feet, a healing ointment for minor wound care, and many more other purposes.
Much thicker than a lotion or a cream, this ointment is rich and nourishing, forming a protective yet breathable barrier. This creates an ideal healing environment for dry, cracked skin to recover. It is also enriched with moisturizing lanolin and glycerin as well as soothing panthenol and bisabolol.
Preservative, dye, and fragrance-free, Aquaphor ointment is excellent for sensitive skin. It also comes in a hygienic and convenient squeeze tube for portability and ease of use.
- Very affordable
- Multitasking formula
- Extremely rich
- No dyes, fragrances, or preservatives
- Great for sensitive skin
- Almost too thick — hard to get out of the tube
- Somewhat greasy
- A little hard to rub in
L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
The best-selling hand cream from French beauty giant L’Occitane, the famous Shea Butter Hand Cream is overloaded with organic shea butter. With 20% shea butter and even further enriched with organic honey, almond extracts, and coconut oil, this hand cream has a lusciously creamy balm texture that deeply moisturizes even the driest of hands.
Aside from their shea butter is 100% certified fair trade, L’Occitane also uses recyclable aluminum tubes as packaging, so you can feel good each time you use this luxurious and eco-friendly hand cream.
- Very luxurious formula
- Classy packaging
- Rich in shea butter
- 100% fair trade and environmentally friendly
- Not oily or greasy
- Quite costly
- Strong scent
- May need to reapply frequently
Best Hand Creams for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, then you probably understand the struggle of finding something that won’t cause a reaction. These hand creams are fantastic for those of you with sensitive skin, however, giving you an option that won’t irritate your delicate skin!
Avène Eau Thermale Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream
With an ingredients list that’s hypoallergenic from start to finish, this thick yet quick-absorbing hand cream is perfect for those with dry, chapped, and sensitive skin.
- Hypoallergenic formula
- Not greasy
- Can heal hands and nails
- Very costly
- Strong fragrance
Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream
Enriched with a soothing Triple Oat Complex containing a veritable buffet of fantastic ingredients (including oat oil and extract, oat flour, moisturizing glycerin, and natural shea butter), this nourishing hand cream has hundreds of rave reviews for its smoothening effect.
It relieves dry skin and forms a protective glove against the elements, providing 24-hour moisturization. Its rich formula, boosted by the occlusive petrolatum, lasts even through hand washing, making it a great choice for this pandemic.
Quick-absorbing and non-greasy thanks to Avena Sativa (oat) kernel flour, this fragrance-free hand cream provides a great barrier against outdoor elements without any residue.
- Fragrance-free formula
- Fast absorbing, non-greasy
- Gives 24 hours of moisture
- Quite affordable
- Not the best scent
- Need to reapply frequently
Best Natural Hand Creams
For those of you who prefer only all-natural hand creams, you’ll want to take a closer look at these options!
Herbacin Kamille Hand Cream
Made with a synergistic triple-complex of soothing chamomile, softening glycerin, and smoothing silicone, this iconic hand cream by the German brand Herbacin is a surefire way to get rid of dryness.
Chamomile extract helps heal and restore, while glycerine smooths the skin and moisturizes, keeping the skin elastic. The silicone acts like an invisible glove around your hands, protecting them against everyday environmental elements.
- Very moisturizing formula
- Healing and protecting
- Light and pleasant scent
- Somewhat costly
- A little bit sticky
J.R. Watkins Hand Cream in Lemon Cream
This deliciously tart hand cream is enriched with shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, and macadamia nut oil, along with a plethora of other nourishing plant extracts.
Free of all dyes, silicones, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, MIT, EDTA, and mineral oil, this yummy, citrus-scented hand cream in a vintage apothecary-inspired packaging is a great choice for those who want a truly natural product. Also available in Aloe & Green Tea, Coconut Milk & Honey, and Lavender variants.
- Soothes and restores dry skin
- Has a variety of scents
- Healing oils and moisturizers
- No dyes, silicones, or other dubious ingredients
- Slightly costly
- Scent can be overpowering
Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Hand Cream
From the French brand Caudalie, famous for their use of grape-derived ingredients, the Vinoperfect Hand Cream is for those who want something more than just moisturization from their hand cream. This antioxidant-rich offering claims to correct dark spots with brightening Viniferine and white peony.
Formulated especially for dull, uneven skin, it is clinically tested and has been shown to fade dark spots and prevent them from reappearing. This lightweight hand cream melts into the skin for quick hydration and dries down to a matte finish.
- Can help brighten and heal skin
- Pleasant scent
- Clinically tested
- Light and quick-absorbing formula
- Fairly expensive
- Can cause sensitivity in some
Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy
Rich in herbal extracts, this botanical hand cream contains macadamia seed oil and shea butter to help replenish lost moisture. It also contains ceramides and cholesterol to build up the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
Scented with Crabtree & Evelyn’s signature Gardeners fragrance, with notes of freshly-cut grass and summer flowers, this lovely hand cream is a great choice for all nature lovers.
- Pleasant scent
- Can heal chapped, dry skin
- Rich, soothing formula
- Fairly expensive
- Hard to get out of the bottle
Best Hand Creams with Sunscreen
Did you know that your hands are one of the first places on your body that show signs of aging? This is because UV radiation damages the skin whenever we are exposed to the sun and other artificial sources such as tanning beds. This damage can cause the skin to age prematurely, leading to unsightly wrinkles, roughness, and liver spots. Yikes!
If that’s not bad enough, sun damage is also cumulative, meaning that it adds up and increases your risk of developing skin cancer over time. Although our skin can repair some of the damage, it cannot fully undo it.
Our hands are frequently exposed to the sun, and so it’s important to pick a good hand cream with a reliable SPF (Sun Protection Factor), especially in the summer. Below are some of our recommended hand moisturizers with added sun protection.
Supergoop! Hand screen
This powerful SPF 40 sunscreen is formulated with a complex of antioxidants that synergize to boost sun protection and prevent oxidative damage. Made with eco-friendly ingredients, this reef-friendly sunscreen is good for your hands and the Earth.
- Broad-spectrum SPF formula
- Has nourishing oils and antioxidants
- Environmentally and reef-friendly
- Quite costly
- Not as emollient as other products
Eucerin Daily Hydration Hand Cream with SPF 30
This fast-absorbing formula provides hydration and sun protection at the same time at a great price. With broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection that helps defend against sunburn and the skin-damaging effects of the sun.
- 24 hours of hydration
- Broad-spectrum SPF formula
- Multitasking: Can be used on the body, too
- Fragrance and dye-free
- Great for sensitive skin
- Can be greasy
- Not coral reef safe
- Has white cast
Gold Bond Ultimate Age Defense Hand Cream with SPF 20
This hypoallergenic hand cream provides broad-spectrum protection and dries down with no white cast. Formulated with seven moisturizing agents and three nourishing vitamins, Gold Bond Ultimate Age Defense hand cream also helps revitalize skin with continued use.
- Includes broad-spectrum SPF
- Highly moisturizing
- Can help heal chapped hands
- Somewhat expensive for the amount
- Overpowering scent
Best Light Hand Creams
For those of you who are looking for a lighter moisturizer, these hand creams just may be exactly what you’re looking for. Just as moisturizing as their heavier counterparts, they work great — without leaving a film on your hands!
CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream
Packed with skin-repairing ceramides, this silky hand cream keeps hands moisturized and healthy without any stickiness or residue. Dermatologist-approved.
- Thick, non-greasy formula
- Can protect chapped hands
- Dermatologist recommended
- Formula can be watery
- May need to reapply frequently
- Somewhat expensive
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream
This Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream instantly quenches thirsty skin by boosting hydration with the superstar ingredient hyaluronic acid. Ultra-light and ultra-absorbent, its unique gel-cream texture sinks into hands instantly and leaves zero residues.
Scented with a light, refreshing fragrance, this gel-cream is also paraben-free.
- Extremely moisturizing
- Absorbent, non-greasy formula
- Lasts up to 24 hours
- Somewhat costly
- Scent can be too strong
Question: Why are my hands dry?
Answer: Dry hands are an extremely common complaint during this pandemic, as health authorities have urged people to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and to use an alcohol-based sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.
It’s undoubtedly a good thing to follow these guidelines, as keeping our hands clean helps prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, when we wash with soap or use an alcohol-based rub, it gets rid not only of dirt, microbes, and other unwanted debris, it also helps break down our skin’s protective barrier.
Use of alcohol-based hand rubs or sanitizers, along with repeated hand washing, especially with hot water, can exacerbate this damage, causing dryness, tightness, roughness, flaking, and possibly even cracking, with the skin splitting and creating tiny fissures that act as open wounds.
However, there are many other possible causes of dry hands, including environmental or even medical factors. Below are some of them:
• Weather. The dry, cold air in winter can dehydrate your skin. This is made even worse by indoor heating as they sap the air of humidity.
• Household Chemicals. Laundry soap, dishwashing liquid, and bathroom cleaners have harsh surfactants and other irritating ingredients.
• Hot Water. Using hot water to wash your hands, do the dishes, or even taking hot baths or showers can lead to dryness, as hot water strips away protective oils more effectively than cold water.
• Allergies or Other Skin Issues. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can cause dry, chapped hands or constant peeling. Allergies such as contact dermatitis can lead to weeping rashes and redness as well.
Question: How do I keep my hands from getting dry?
Answer: With all the cleaning and sanitizing we do, our hands can get dry very quickly. Wearing gloves while doing chores such as washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, and doing laundry can keep exposure to harsh chemicals to a minimum.
Due to the pandemic, we have to wash our hands multiple times a day, which leads to dryness. We often choose harsh liquid soaps that advertise themselves as being antimicrobial. But did you know that all soaps work the same way? Any soap will get rid of microbes as long as you use the proper handwashing technique. A soap that lathers less will help get rid of microbes just as well as a high-lather liquid soap while being much gentler on your hands.
Fragrances and dyes can also contribute to irritation and may even trigger allergies. Choose ones that say “fragrance-free” and “dye-free” on the label.
Question: What’s the right-hand cream for me?
Answer: Depending on your activity level, occupation, and preferences, you might find hand creams to be too heavy or not moisturizing enough. If you’re working in healthcare or food preparation, the constant hand washing will prove quite drying and you will probably need a heavy-duty cream. For those who are working from home who only need to wash a few times a day, a light, non-greasy lotion might be enough.
Question: What ingredients should I look for?
Answer: To make sure that the hand cream you’re using is effective, it must contain ingredients that can soothe the skin, add moisture to your skin, and prevent moisture loss by forming a protective barrier. Here are the top ingredients you should look for in your next hand cream.
• Soften with Emollients. Softening and protective, emollients are usually oils that repel water. These can be plant extracts or of animal origin and will soften the skin and help heal any cracks. These deeply nourishing ingredients are what give hand cream its smoothing effect.
• Lanolin. Derived from sheep wool, lanolin is a rich, waxy substance famous for its conditioning properties. It is a popular ingredient in everything from lip balms to nipple creams for nursing moms.
• Beeswax. A naturally moisturizing substance produced by honeybees, beeswax is a great choice for sensitive skin and has anti-inflammatory effects.
• Shea butter. Extracted from the fat of the nut of the African shea tree, shea butter is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Due to this, it is widely found in creams for conditions like eczema and dermatitis and is an excellent moisturizer for dry skin.
Also included are other plant extracts such as cocoa butter, plant oils such as sweet almonds, coconut, and macadamia, and squalane oil from olives. These are often preferred over odorless mineral oil due to their pleasant smell, natural provenance, and additional anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
You’ll also want to hydrate with humectants. These are ingredients that attract water into the skin, either from the environment or from the deeper layers of the skin. They hold moisture in the skin — literally moisturizing it — and help give skin its plumpness.
• Glycerin. A powerful water attractor, glycerin is a colorless, odorless liquid that keeps skin soft, supple, and hydrated.
• Hyaluronic Acid. This amazing molecule can hold a thousand times its weight in water and keeps skin bouncy and plump.
• Urea. This star ingredient is a triple threat that softens and exfoliates while also adding moisture back into the skin.
It’s important to seal it in with occlusives, too. After adding hydration and moisture to our hands, occlusives seal all of that goodness in, preventing water loss and forming a protective barrier over your skin. Overlapping with emollients as many ingredients qualify as both, these are thick, non-breathable ingredients that repel water, such as the below:
• Dimethicone or other silicones. A real smooth operator, dimethicone is a popular ingredient in hand creams because it imparts a silky feel to the hands, forming a layer over the skin that protects without feeling heavy.
• Petroleum. The “gold standard” in occlusives, petroleum (or petroleum jelly), more commonly known by the brand name Vaseline, is often found in heavy-duty creams in combination with other hydration and moisturizers.
• Plant oils and butters. Almond oil, coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter all double as good occlusives while giving an emollient effect to the skin.
Finally, focus on soothing and protecting your hands. Sometimes even moisturized hands can still itch and sting. Many hand creams contain additional ingredients that can help soothe irritations and protect from environmental damage such as harmful UV radiation. These include the below:
• Aloe vera. This well-loved ingredient is famous for its soothing effect. Rich in polyphenols which help treat a wide variety of skin problems, it is added to everything from hair masks to after-sun lotions for its healing properties.
• Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E has been shown to help speed healing, protect against damaging UV rays, and strengthen the skin’s barrier.
• Ceramides. These are lipids (fats) that are abundant in the top layer of the skin and make up more than half of the skin’s natural barrier. Ceramides help restore damaged barrier function and strengthen the skin’s ability to protect itself.
Question: What are some tips to make my hand cream more effective?
Answer: To maximize hydration and minimize moisture loss, make sure to apply hand cream right after washing your hands, while you have toweled off most of the water but your hands are still damp. This helps to seal in moisture and allows your chosen hand cream to sink in better than it would have on dry skin, leaving your hands silky and residue-free.
Apply all over your hands, focusing on the palm, fingers, and back of your hand, but don’t neglect your fingertips and nails! Work the cream into each fingertip to keep your cuticles in good condition.
At night, you can also apply a thick layer of hand cream right before bed and put gloves on top. The gloves will act as another protective layer, boosting your hand cream’s hydrating and emollient effects as it prevents any loss of moisture. You’ll wake up to soft, smooth hands.
The recent pandemic has changed the way we approach our hands, and because of this, it’s especially important to find the right product to help keep them soft, smooth, and supple. We’ve all been struggling with dry hands lately, and we absolutely understand the struggle in combating this.
Because of this, we are strongly steered toward Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula as our personal favorite. Timeless, classic, and surprisingly affordable for all of its benefits, we believe it would be the best hand cream to help keep your hands protected.
At the end of the day, making our hands a priority should be something we all think about. Our hands are constantly exposed to the elements, so let’s show them a little TLC. With the wide array of hand creams available, you will surely be able to find one that will suit your preferences and lifestyle.