There’s no doubt about it; being a nurse is hard work. You have to care for your patients, help them get dressed, update charts, and report to doctors and other staff all the time. And in between all these, you also have to wash your hands with powerful soaps. Then you have to sterilize them with strong hand sanitizers that can dry out and chap your skin. That is… unless they don’t.
One of the many misconceptions about hand sanitizers is that they can cause dryness and chap the hands’ skins over time. The truth is, though, that they really don’t. Or, at least, modern hand sanitizers don’t. They all contain emollients, stuff that make the hands feel soft so they wouldn’t dry out.
Then again, just because modern hand sanitizers don’t dry your skin doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave them be. If anything, nurses are among those folk who have to use special hand creams to keep their hands feel soft like cotton candies.
What Makes Hand Creams Important for Nurses
Over the course of a day, between writing up charts and caring for patients, the palms of your hands tend to take a good beating and try to toughen up. They will eventually form calls to protect the thin skin underneath.
While these aren’t too bad, they do tend to crack, forming little holes where alcohol could enter and sting a little. That’s going to be a bothersome issue for nurses, with having to disinfect their hands every few minutes or so.
The fact is, calls will always form on the hands. It doesn’t matter if you type or write a lot of information or carry a gas tank from storage to the operating room. It will always be where your hands take some beating over the course of a workday.
And yes, they will crack. So for the nurses who don’t want to feel the disinfectant’s sting, hand creams are like a blessing in a tiny bottle.
How Hand Creams Work
In their most basic forms, hand creams are, well… creams. They’re made from fats and oils that form a protective layer on top of your skin. It’s a lot like a force field that keeps water and moisture from passing through.
So how does this anti-moisture force fieldwork? If you’ve ever tried mixing water and cooking oil in a glass jar, you’d probably feel disappointed because they won’t mix. Instead of a water-oil mixture, you’ll find droplets of whichever one’s less abundant.
This is because oil is actually hydrophobic. When oil is placed in a layer, water will either move around it or form a droplet instead. Think about how water droplets tend to form on cell phone displays (take note: “unshattered” displays).
Oil layers will keep water and moisture from passing through. Place it on your skin and your skin will remain hydrated because the water won’t go out in the form of sweat.
Doing this stuff with oils and water is actually something that people have known for a long time. Even among the ancient Romans, they’ve used creams made out of animal fat and starch in their own cosmetics. We’ve been doing the same thing, too, but with more ingredients available to us.
Water-Based Hand Creams
Perhaps you’re thinking: if hand creams are meant to trap moisture, then how do water-based hand creams exist? The thing is, that’s not only their purpose nowadays. While water-based hand creams work in a different way, they still work to achieve the same goal.
Both oil-based and water-based creams are there to keep your skin soft and moisturized. Water-based hand creams are more readily absorbed by the body. They penetrate deep into the skin and bring moisture into the softer tissues underneath.
So if oil-based hand creams are force fields, water-based hand creams are more like internal power-ups. They give your skin that glows while the other one keeps it from disappearing.
Water and Oil: They’re Not Exactly BFFs
When it comes to picking the base for your hand cream, it’s worth noting the kind of treatment you do on your skin. For one, it’d be pointless to put on a hand cream if you already put a certain body cream all over your body. And if you already use a moisturizer, then water-based creams would just be a waste.
On the other hand, a nurse’s hands are very special. They expose their hands to frequent washing and sanitizing. From the kind of soap they use to the sanitizer on their desk, they usually strip off the protective oil layer on their hands.
Others sweat a lot under gloves that warm up from their own body heat. And then, add even start getting dry and called skin from lifting heavy stuff, including patients. Because of these unique considerations, it’s all the more important to be careful when choosing the best hand cream for yourself.
What’s the Difference Between Hand Creams and Lotions?
So now you know there are different kinds of hand creams. So what makes them different from lotions?
The thing about hand creams and lotions is that they’re so similar yet so different. Both of them trap moisture into the skin, giving you that rejuvenated look. But unlike hand creams, lotions are:
- Less greasy
- Less protective with your body’s moisture
Sure, they’re nice additions to better skincare, and you won’t turn a dollop of lotion down in a pinch. But nothing really beats a good hand cream if you want something that really locks in the moisture in your skin.
Lotions have more water content than your typical hand creams. That’s because they are used more for adding moisture than trapping it. They also have this wet consistency that’s a lot like moisturizers. But unlike moisturizers, they generally do not moisturize as much.
This is also why you might often find lotions in tubes. With larger ones, you’d even see them in pumped bottles. They act more like liquids than creams.
Just because lotions are less effective doesn’t mean they are useless, though. They’re just as useful as hand creams and moisturizers. As liquids, they’re easier to apply and less greasy than hand creams. You could easily apply them in hard-to-reach areas.
And unlike hand creams, lotions are usually meant to be used on your whole body. Many offer sun protection so you could protect every inch of your skin. It’s not like hand creams don’t have those. Some do have sun protection, but it’s not like they’ll protect your face and neck, right?
Choosing the Right Kind of Hand Cream
When it comes to hand creams for nurses, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s because everyone has different skin types and, in turn, different needs. While some people may form calluses or get drier skin much quicker, others are just born with skin that tends to stay soft for longer.
So what should we look for when it comes to hand creams? Before we dive into that, here are a few things you might want to take note of before buying one:
- Your skin type
- Your routine
- And your conditioning
They are quite general, so here’s an explanation for each of them.
Your Skin Type
The skin on your hands is often different from what’s on your face. That’s because palms are only made of skin cells, calluses, and sweat glands. They also tend to be a lot drier than the rest of the body.
Besides that, nurses tend to use their hands a lot in the hospital or clinic. This encourages callus growth, especially when carrying around heavy instruments. Even something as simple yet repetitive like notetaking puts some strain on the part of the skin where the fingers apply pressure on the pen.
If you’re the kind of person who easily gets calluses, then you’ll need something a bit stronger on the moisturizing side. The same goes for those who easily get eczema. These tend to get a bit expensive, though. So you might want to use something that’s just about right for you.
The things you put on your hands can affect how well your hand cream will work on your skin. This means you’ve got to watch for the products you use, what they’re made of, and if you’re using your bare hands to put other stuff all over your face.
Besides the normal stuff that affects most people, things are a lot harder if you’re a scrub nurse. Depending on how often you go into surgery, you’ll have to wash your hands with strong soaps several times a day, every day, as long as it’s a duty day.
Given enough time, these strong soaps can strip away whatever you’ve put on your skin the night before. Just as a scrub nurse, you might want something strong that penetrates deep into your skin. This makes sure you won’t have to keep reapplying throughout the day.
Climate and Conditioning
So here’s the thing with people’s skin pretty much everywhere: they’re picky and hate high humidity. If you feel that your face is often oil, then your hands are probably too. Oil-based moisturizing hand creams don’t usually work in this case.
Instead of moisturizing hand creams, you might want to use something a bit closer to the stuff you put on your underarms. Believe it or not, many antiperspirants work for just hands as well as they would for underarms.
But the best antiperspirants for the hands come in hand cream formulas that help keep your hands from drying out too much. That’s also why, if you are going to use a full PPE during a hot day, you might want to change your hand cream to something that’s more suitable.
The air and moisture that’s trapped inside your gloves and suit will just keep accumulating more humidity and make you sweat out too much. Now that you know all this stuff, it’s time to look for the best hand creams for your needs.
Our Top Picks
Here’s a list of hand creams that work best for the different factors we’ve shown you. Some of these are great moisturizers. Others have antiperspirant properties. Whether you have eczema, carry patients from bed to bed, or skirt through the operating rooms like a scrub nurse boss, just be sure to read through this list. We’re sure you’ll find the best one for you.
But First, Our Evaluation Criteria
While choosing the items on our list, we skipped all the general hand creams in favor of the more specialized ones. Even though some of these items may have been made for general use, they can each be classified into one of the following:
- For dry skin
We also made sure that each of these products was:
- Reasonably priced
- Dermatologically tested
- Neutral fragranced
Like the rest of the population, we’re sure that even nurses don’t want to waste their hard-earned money on something that might either harm them or the environment. And if they’re useless, then that’s more of a reason why they shouldn’t be used at all.
As for the neutral fragrance, some fragrances might not sit well with the smell of latex gloves and hospital-grade chemicals. After all, it’s the patients who would probably smell these. We wouldn’t want patients complaining about the smell when their nurses are just trying to do a temperature check, would we?
Now with that out of the way, here’s the list of our top hand cream picks!
Good-bye Dry Skin: Norwegian Formula Hand Cream by Neutrogena
Normally, hand creams are there to keep your hands from losing too much moisture. They are moisturizers first, hand implements second. But with the Norwegian Formula Hand Cream by Neutrogena, even the driest of hands will start feeling softer afterward.
Furthermore, it’s also got a neutral scent, so there’s no problem with patients smelling something awful from your hands. While this hand cream is effective for the driest of hands, you should apply just enough so your hands don’t feel sticky.
Not that there’s anything bad about it — it just feels uncomfortable to have paper clips stick on your fingers. We’re sure you’d agree with us, too.
- Neutral odor
- It only costs about $5
- SPF 30
- Great for dry skin
- Can feel a bit sticky when too much has been applied
Healing You Up: Anti-aging Hand Cream Moisturizer by Salcoll Collagen
This one’s something you could call a premium product. The Anti-aging Hand Cream Moisturizer by Salcoll Collagen lasts long and heals your skin, helping with the irritating sting when you put on a hand sanitizer. And using this over the long run helps your skin look and feel younger.
The only problem with this product is that it’s so expensive. But isn’t that true for most anti-aging products? Plus, this one penetrates deep into the skin. So it won’t be a problem when you wash your hands all day. It’s no longer on the surface. It’s one of those things that tell: who’s to say that nurses can’t try to be younger?
- Heals cracks and broken skin
- Keeps you from feeling irritated
- Can be somewhat expensive
Moisturize and Hand Cream-ize: Water Bank Moisture EX by Laneige
Most hand creams only work to trap moisture. On the other hand, the Water Bank Moisture EX by Laneige brings in the moisture so it doesn’t feel bad throughout the day. It’s a deep-penetrating, water-based, long-lasting hand cream that works as well as the product descriptions say.
However, it does feel a bit dried out on the surface, even though the skin feels soft. It’s good to use this with other products that make the surface feel smoother. So if you’re already using essential oils and essences as part of your night routine, this one won’t ruin what you already do every night before work.
- Lasts for 24 hours
- Feels drier on the surface compared to other hand creams
Sweat Under PPE? No Problem: Antiperspirant Hand Lotion by Carpe
For many nurses, whatever they have to do should be done as quickly as possible. This goes double for scrub nurses and those under emergency room duty. For nurses who have to scrub in all day, the Antiperspirant Hand Lotion by Carpe is a godsend. It’s fast-acting and does exactly what its name says — it keeps your hands from sweating so much.
Just make sure you’ve got clean, dry hands before putting this on, though. It works best when your hands’ sweat doesn’t interfere and keeps this hand cream from getting absorbed by your skin.
- Money-back guarantee
- Keeps hands from sweating
- A bit expensive
- Only works if you start with dry hands
- Can feel greasy when applied on hands with sweat
Oily Skin? Don’t Sweat It: the Water Cream by Tatcha
One problem with oil skin is that hand creams don’t work on them while they’re oil. So what’s a pair of accursed oily hands got to do? With The Water Cream by Tatcha, your natural oils won’t be a problem. It’s a water-based hand cream that brings water into your skin while giving it all the benefits of a full-blown anti-ageing hand cream. It’s practically the perfect hand cream, if only it wasn’t so expensive.
You’re less likely to use this while on duty, though. This hand cream works best when applied before you sleep at night so you could take advantage of its long-lasting effects.
- Great for oily skin
- Won’t stick when your hands are wet with sanitizers
For the Nurse who Likes Organic: Dry Finish Hand Cream by Consonant Skincare
When you’re on duty, scented hand creams are either a practical impracticality or a policy no-no. Some patients just don’t like the scent of flowers and fruits mixed in with the scent of rubber gloves.
But with the Dry Finish Hand Cream by Consonant Skincare , that’s not going to be a problem. The usual problem with organic products is that they’re scented with flowers and fruits. That’s not a problem with this product, with its neutral scent.
If only it isn’t as expensive as many other organic products out there, we’d be stockpiling this product!
- Neutral Scent
- Can be slightly expensive
For those with Eczema: Therapeutic Hand Cream by CeraVe
Whether you’re a nurse in gloves or a regular office worker without one, eczema is eczema. It’s irritating at best, painful at worst, and makes you want to scratch yourself all day. But with the Therapeutic Hand Cream by CeraVe, eczema on your hands shouldn’t be something you’d have to worry about all day.
This hand cream works fast and is non-greasy (unless you put too much, of course). It also works great for normal folks without eczema but still wants to try doing something with their dry skin.
- Best for folks with eczema
- Would feel a bit greasy if too much is applied
- Multiple applications per day for the driest of skins
Question: Which goes First, Hand Cream or Sanitizer?
Answer: This one depends more on what your hand cream is made of. If it’s oil-based, like most hand creams out there, it’s okay to put it on even at the same time as you use a sanitizer. That’s because the oils of hand creams and the alcohols in sanitizers are miscible. This means they can mix together without a problem. On the other hand, water-based hand creams won’t mix.
However, you might be better off washing your hands before applying hand cream at all. This makes sure that the water your skin absorbed from all the washing gets trapped inside. It’s a great thing to know when you’re on the clock all day with your hands inside humid gloves.
Question: Are Moisturizing Sanitizers Better?
Answer: Moisturizing sanitizers are great because you get the effects of two products in one package. But does this make them better than hand creams at all? Honestly, it doesn’t. Moisturizing sanitizers moisturize the skin. What hand creams do is trap the moisture inside the skin. While frequent moisturizing also works, that won’t be possible when you’re scrubbing for hours, right?
Question: Will Gel Sanitizers Still Sting as Much Alcohol Sanitizers Would?
Answer: Funnily, there’s not much that separates gel sanitizers from alcohol sanitizers at all. It’s just that gel sanitizers come in gel form while alcohol sanitizers come in the usual liquid form. This also means that they’re made out of the same stuff that stings your hands. They are alcohol through and through, no matter what form they come in.
Question: Why do We Use Moisturizers?
Answer: Moisturizers serve one purpose. That’s moisturizing and taking good care of your skin. Some products, like alcohol sanitizers, are mixed with moisturizers so they don’t dry your skin. This is great for nurses who have to sanitize their hands several times a day. Add hand creams also double the moisturizers. They add moisture inside the skin and trap this moisture with an oil layer on top of it. This is more common among water-based hand creams that penetrate deep into the skin and anti-aging creams that are meant to be absorbed.
Question: How are Corns Different from Calluses?
Answer: In a way, corns and calluses are like gel and liquid sanitizers: they’re almost the same thing. It’s just that corns are usually smaller and appear to be surrounded by what looks like inflamed skin. For nurses, corns are more common around the feet than they would be around the legs. That’s because moving around the hospital puts a lot more pressure on the legs than it would on the hands. But it’s not like they’re impossible to grow on your hands.
Question: Will Moisturizers Prevent Corns from Forming?
Answer: Corns are best prevented by stopping calluses from forming in the first place. This means that moisturizers can help calls from getting worse. This keeps them from turning into painful corns if you ever by a lot of heavy lifting around the hospital. Another way of preventing corns is to stop doing stuff that causes calluses. By this, we don’t mean that you should stop working. Calluses form by applying pressure on the skin. But with the right safety equipment, there’s little chance that your calluses would turn into corns any time soon.
Our Final Thoughts
Nurses and hand creams are like moisturizing oils and sanitizers. They mix well. But more than that, they’re meant to be together. Nurses need them to keep their hands healthily soft and hand creams are made for exactly that reason. So if you’re a senior nurse, scrub nurse, trainee, or anything related, you should try to get one as soon as you can.
As for our most favorite among our chosen picks, it’s quite hard to choose. Add some of them, like Norwegian Formula Hand Cream by Neutrogena, fill in as a use-as-needed hand cream. On the other hand, the Antiperspirant Hand Lotion by Carpe fills a niche role for folks with oil and sweaty skin.
So if we really had to choose just one, perhaps that should be Anti-Aging Hand Cream Moisturizer by Salcoll Collagen. Why? This hand cream saves you the hassle of reapplying several times thanks to its long-lasting properties.
And because it’s absorbed deep into the skin, you won’t have to reapply after washing. It also heals small cracks that sting after putting on sanitizers. Regardless of what we choose as the best though, you should always choose the one that’s right for what you do. If you’ve got dry skin, choose the ones we picked for dry skin.
And if you’ve got a little bit of a lower budget, then you might want to choose the cheaper-yet-effective option. Hopefully, you’d get to enjoy your smooth hands as often as you apply these hand creams!