14 of the best hand creams for dry hands
Using the best hand creams is more important than you think. No matter what we do to our faces in an effort to stay looking young, there’s one area that will always give the age game away – our hands.
The skin on our hands goes through a lot of trauma that you wouldn’t expose your face to. Cold weather, strong detergents, cleaning products that contain bleach, and alcohol-based hand sanitisers. As we’re all washing our hands more frequently, soap is another seemingly innocuous trigger for dry, itchy skin on the hands.
Consultant Dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall told us, “Most soaps have an alkaline pH, yet our natural skin pH is acidic at around 4.5-5.5. This change in the environment of the skin barrier makes it less effective and also disrupts the natural microbiome, vital for healthy skin.”
This can leave us with red, sore, chapped hands are all outward signs of a damaged skin barrier, that can’t just be fixed with a quick application of hand cream. As Dr Hextall says, “Some individuals find that 15 minutes after applying an emollient, the hands are dry again.”
The solution is simple. Applying a hand cream regularly throughout the day will soothe your hands, keeping them looking and feeling good. We’ve tested out the best hand creams, lotions and gels that promise to keep your hands happy and healthy.
Best hands creams for dry hands
Best hand cream for sore hands
Nursem Caring Hand Cream
Your skin’s ability to retain moisture drops by 25 per cent in winter. As the temperature dips, hands can become rough, sore and chapped. Created by a nurse for nurses, Nursem Caring Hand Cream was designed with relentless hand-washing in mind, and comforts weather-beaten skin with its fast-absorbing formula. It has a soft, fresh scent with a silky texture, easing dermatitis and eczema.
As one dental nurse commented in the hand cream’s reviews on Boots, “I’ve tried many different hand creams but even the best didn’t quite cut it, my hands as a result were always sore and covered in little welts due to being so dry. They were so sore at one point a few weeks ago that I asked my husband to buy me this hand cream as a last resort […] After using it the first time, my hands were instantly soothed and after a few times my hands were relatively back to normal and were almost healed.” Plus, for every hand cream bought, the company gives a month’s worth of free Nursem to a nurse or midwife.
Best hand cream for anti-ageing
As we get older a loss of fat and collagen makes the skin on our hands much thinner and exposes blood vessels and tendons. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Visibly Renew Hand Cream contains special minerals that boost collagen within the skin, while built in SPF 20 helps to prevent dark spots. It has a potent but pleasant scent, although some may find it a little overpowering. Sunscreen can affect the texture of moisturisers, making them feel chalky, but this one doesn’t leave a white cast and soaks in well enough. Give it a few weeks to really see a difference in the texture and appearance of older hands.
Best hand cream for very cracked skin
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands Hand Cream is often touted as one of the best hand creams on the market, and has hundreds of 5 star reviews online. Why? Well for starters, there’s a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not entirely satisfied by the hand cream. We doubt you’ll need to take them up on that offer though because this hand cream is fantastic. It comes in a tub, which perhaps isn’t quite as handbag-friendly as a traditional tube, and the texture is a solid, buttery balm. It smoothes across the skin beautifully and leaves hands silky-soft and comfortable thanks to a good dose of glycerin. This heroic humectant help skin retain moisture so skin feels and looks healthier.
Best hand cream for sensitive skin
When skin is on the sensitive side, it’s a sign of a compromised moisture barrier. When the skin barrier is weak, skin feels irritable, and you may experience increased flushing, inflammation and itchiness. Aveeno Daily Moisturising Hand Cream is all about supporting the skin barrier. It contains prebiotic colloidal oatmeal, which nourishes the skin’s natural microbiome. These living microbes are a crucial component of the skin barrier, and this hand cream helps to bolster barrier function and restore healthy, happy hands. It’s unscented, which is a win for sensitive skin. The texture is thinner than some of the other hand creams on our list but it leaves skin feeling quenched and velvety-soft for hours after application.
Best hand cream for hard-working hands
Garnier Hand Intensive 7 Days Restoring Hand Cream has a fresh, almost aquatic scent, suitable for men and women. The thick, buttery cream melts on contact with the skin and absorbs in no time at all. It’s brimming with shea butter, a great natural source of hydration, and L-Bifidus which stops the formula from evaporating. This means that skin hangs on to all the lovely nourishing ingredients, even after you wash your hands. If you put your hands through a lot of chores, this is a great intensive treatment.
Best hand cream for sensitive skin
With three essential ceramides (remember, they’re the building blocks of a healthy skin barrier) and moisture magnet Hyaluronic Acid, CeraVe Reparative Hand Cream is a tonic for rough hands. If your skin is prone to redness and very reactive, particularly in winter, you’ll appreciate that this is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t block pores. It feels nourishing but lightweight, leaving skin feeling quenched and comfortable.
Best hand cream for painted nails
It’s not just the skin on our hands that suffers from everyday chores, but our nails and cuticles too. Slixir Hand & Polish Cream is a luxury hand cream that smells more like a designer fragrance than a hand cream. It’s on the richer end of the texture spectrum but absorbs nice and quick. It’s enriched with colloidal oats – great for dry skin conditions – and a blend of plant oils, which not only smooth the skin and soften fine lines but helps to keep your nail polish (even gels) supple and therefore chip-free for longer. As one five-star review states, “It really does make my Shellac last longer and my nails look freshly done until the next manicure.”
Best hand cream for dark spots
The hands are almost constantly exposed to the sun, so it’s not uncommon to experience dark spots here from our 40s onwards. If you want to learn how to get rid of liver spots on the hands, try Eucerin Hyaluron Filler Age Spot Correcting Hand Cream, which contains a patented ingredients called Thiamidol that effectively puts the brakes on melanin production (the skin’s natural tanning pigment). Plus, SPF30 helps protect against further sun damage and pigmentation – it also means it smells like a summer holiday! It has a light consistency and massages in well, leaving zero tackiness. Users say their hands looked younger after just a few weeks. It’s worth noting that Thiamidol is a potent ingredient, so it’s advised to apply this hand cream no more than 4 times in a 24-hour period.
Best hand cream for scent-lovers
Some may prefer their hand creams subtly fragranced, or even unscented, but for others the application of hand cream is an act of self-care that is made more sensorially appealing with a discernible scent. In Farmologie Hand Cream Pink Grapefruit, the fresh, grapefruit aroma is really energising, without being sickly-sweet. And it hangs around until your next hand wash. Formula-wise, it’s a solid moisturiser, doesn’t feel tacky or greasy and leaves hands feeling comfortable.
Best hand cream for overnight
Sanctuary Spa Ultra-Rich Hand Cream isn’t marketed as an overnight cream but it is a lot thicker and richer than the other lotions on our list, with a beautiful soothing fragrance that seems made for a relaxing pre-bedtime ritual. Don’t be put off by the ‘Ultra-Rich’ label – although it feels decadently nourishing, it’s not tacky so it’s entirely suitable for on-the-go applications, too.
Best hand cream for sanitising
Hand sanitiser has become part of our everyday ritual, but because of the high alcohol content, most have a detrimental effect on the skin in the long-term, which is why you might be on the hunt for one of the best hand creams on the market. Bioderma Biphase Lipo Alcoolique counteracts the dryness associated with sanitiser with hand cream that delivers protection against drying out even 14 days after use! Shake the bottle to mix the solution and spritz on to your palms then rub in. It smells quite alcohol-y on first spritzing, but the smell and the liquid itself vanishes within seconds, the only trace being a silky-soft feeling across the backs of the hands. It eliminates viruses, including coronavirus, and bacteria in 30 seconds. Best of all can be used by the whole family – even children.
Best hand cream for winter
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Mains Barrier Repairing Cream has a putty-like consistency, more like a balm than a cream, which is particularly welcoming in winter. It feels like you’re really giving your hands a good coating against the elements, like an invisible, imperceptible glove. That being said, it melts into the skin with very little effort. There’s not a hint of tackiness. It is also fragrance-free, good news for sensitive skin, or even those who don’t like the idea of wearing a cream that’s going to clash with their signature scent. I found my hands felt soft for hours after application.
Best hand cream for instant refreshment
When you’re having a hot flush, reach for L’Occitane Verbena Cooling Hand Cream Gel. It has an immediate cooling effect on the skin, which lasts for a good few minutes. Perfectly complementing this refreshing sensation is the zesty Verbena fragrance, which will appeal to both men and women. The gel melts into a watery, serum-like consistency, which means a little goes a long way so you can afford to be quite sparing. We’ve included in our round-up of the best hand creams, as once the refreshing sensation has dissipated, hands feel incredibly soft and silky.
Best hand cream for dull skin
First things first, Grown Alchemist Intensive Hand Cream is a generous tube of cream so it should last a good few weeks. The texture is light and silky, which means it glides across the skin and sinks in effortlessly. The powdery floral scent is subtle and certainly pleasant, but the real perk of this cream is its ability to impart a healthy-looking glow – great for switching on sallow-looking hands.
Will Vaseline heal cracked hands?
Vaseline is one of those staple beauty products that people rely on as a cure for various ailments, anecdotally at least. It’s said to be good for dry cuticles, soothe itchy spots across the body and some people even smear it over their eyes before bed to nourish the eyelashes and prevent eye crinkles and crow’s feet.
But is healing dry, cracked hands one of the best Vaseline uses? “Petroleum based products, such as Vaseline, are good at sealing skin to reduce moisture loss,” explains Dr Justine Hextall. “However they aren’t very successful at helping to replenish a damaged skin barrier.” For that, you’ll need to look for a hand cream with barrier-boosting ingredients such as ceramides. These fatty acids make up the essential building blocks of our skin and help the skin retain vital moisture. Think of ceramides as the cement, holding the bricks of our skin barrier together in a neat and strong formation. And a healthy skin barrier is the key to smooth, soft and hydrated hands, keeping moisture locked in and irritants, bacteria and allergens shut out.
So Vaseline, whilst it makes for an extra layer of defence against moisture loss, can’t reinstate dry, cracked hands with hydration. Dr Hextall adds, “If skin is inflamed, petroleum-based products can trap heat and cause further irritation and pruritus,” she adds.
Is coconut oil good for dry hands?
As part of a healthy diet, coconut oil has many benefits. It’s been found to improve heart health, raise good cholesterol and may even encourage your body to burn more fat. Applying it topically has its perks too. It’s a notable moisturiser, rich in fatty acids that help to support a healthy skin barrier and lock in essential moisture. “Coconut oil is a useful ingredient in a moisturiser,” says Dr Justine Hextall. “Oils are an effective occlusal and work to seal the skin and prevent water loss. However, ideally a moisturiser has many other properties including ingredients that will draw moisture to skin, replace lost fats and oils and seal the skin barrier to reduce moisture loss.”
So while coconut oil is perhaps not the cure-all panacea we wish it to be, it’s certainly a very handy ingredient to keep in your bathroom cupboard, providing relief to particularly dry, itchy skin. If you want to use coconut oil on your hands, we advise applying one of the best hand creams first, allow it to soak in for a few minutes then seal in those replenishing ingredients with a layer of coconut oil on top. Look for organic, virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil, which is less processed and therefore richer in nutrients.
How to prevent dry hands
- Wear rubber gloves when doing the dishes and other household chores. “If hands come into contact with bleach, washing powders or household disinfectant wipes, the skin barrier is almost immediately affected and can quickly cause hand dermatitis,” says Dr Justine Hextall.
- Turn down the temperature of the tap when washing your hands. Hot water will damage the skin barrier so hands become drier.
- Apply a generous layer of moisturiser or one of the best hand creams after each time you wash your hands.
- Keep hand cream on your desk to top up during working hours, and by your bed to apply last thing at night and in the morning.