The 20 Best Hand Creams We Loved Using All Day, Tested & Reviewed

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You won't find any slimy hand creams here.

<p>InStyle / Kristin Kempa</p>

InStyle / Kristin Kempa

There’s a lot at hand when it comes to the health of your hands. For many of us, we probably don’t think about what happens to our hands over the course of the day. “Cold weather, low humidity, frequent hand washing, exposure to harsh chemicals or detergents, these are all factors that can contribute to dry hands,” explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose. “Our hands are exposed to trauma all day,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Diane Madfes. “They need an extra barrier of protection.”

We lose moisture through our hands constantly and if you don’t take preventive action, you could end up with hands so dry they feel like you’re touching everything and everyone around you, including yourself, with sandpaper. Not to mention the negative aesthetic impact of dry, cracked skin against your manicure. “With frequent hand washing and alcohol-based hand sanitizer use on the rise since the pandemic in 2020, we’ve seen a huge increase in cases of hand dermatitis, or eczema,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King

So a good hand cream can come in, well, handy. We polled three board-certified dermatologists for their insights, then we spent two weeks testing dozens of the most popular hand creams across a range of prices, ingredients, textures, and scents. As we slathered each one onto our hands every day, we paid careful attention to the hand cream’s scent, quick absorption (or not) and whether any greasy or slimy residue was left behind, and its overall moisturizing ability. This list curates our favorite, top-scoring hand creams.

Best Overall: L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream

$30 at

$13 at

What We Love: Not too thick. Not too thin. This hand cream has a truly Goldilocks consistency that locks in moisture longer than most without leaving your hands feeling gooped up.

What We Don’t Love: It carries a very mild scent, which might become bothersome for some.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it certainly should not take a village to rub in your hand cream. Which is why the Shea Butter Hand Cream from L'Occitane is a perennial favorite for us. With a consistency that is neither too thick nor too thin, this hand cream spreads and absorbs quickly and easily. That’s thanks to an impressive array of occlusive ingredients, like shea butter and coconut oil, that blend together seamlessly to trap moisture without any sort of lingering slippery feel. And once it rubs in it stays for hours, requiring far less reapplication than most of the competition. You won’t need to pull the attractive metallic tube out of your bag often, but, when you do, the security of the twist cap closure ensures you’ll end up with lotion on your hands and not the inside of your bag.

The only sign that we were wearing a cream—besides our hands staying moisturized for hours on end—was the subtle, natural scent. It’s not overwhelming but it is noticeable when you bring your hands in proximity to your face.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, honey, marshmallow root extract | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 5.2 oz

Best Drugstore: Dove Body Love Intense Care Hand Cream

$10 at

What We Love: A derm-approved “ideal” combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives that leaves your hands feeling soft and clean—not greasy and oily—for hours on end.

What We Don’t Love: The pump packaging found at most stores is not as good for on-the-go as the flip cap option that is more widely available online.

A personal favorite of Dr. King—and approved by thousands of dermatologists around the country—Dove’s Body Love Intense Care Hand Cream provides what Dr. King calls, “an ideal formulation.” The rich, moisturizing blend of humectant (glycerin), emollient (ceramide serum), and occlusive (sunflower oil) ingredients hits exactly the right balance to leave your hands hydrated without ever feeling greasy or slick.

The one place we can find fault is in the inconsistency of the availability of our preferred packaging. Most physical stores seem only to carry the large format pump bottle and we much prefer the smaller flip cap option that makes keeping this cream close at hand all day long much easier.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Ceramide serum, sunflower oil | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 3 oz

Best Dermatologist-Recommended: CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream

$10 at

$13 at

What We Love: Our dermatologists were in consensus. This is the hand cream they would recommend to anyone for its moisturizing benefits and tolerance for any skin type and condition.

What We Don’t Love: The packaging is practical but looks decidedly medical, which might not be the look you’re going for.

When it came to polling our dermatologists on their favorite hand cream, the undisputed victor was CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream. So trusted is this hand cream for its ability to moisturize any skin type or condition that several of our experts recommended it multiple times across our survey.

“The formula is packed with fine line plumping humectants (hyaluronic acid and niacinamide) and barrier-supporting ceramides and is completely hypoallergenic, so it is well tolerated by even the most sensitive skin,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. It’s also fragrance-free and non-greasy, which means that it goes on without a trace. However, while an extremely practical and efficient option, it lacks any hint of luxury in the ingredient list or, especially, in the packaging. It’s a workhorse of a hand cream for sure, but if you’re looking to inject a bit of indulgence in your daily self-care, this is not the cream for you.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 3 oz

Best for Dry Skin: Davines OI Hand Balm

$23 at

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What We Love: We are obsessed with the hydrating effects the brand’s signature roucou oil line has on our hair and equally impressed when we apply it to our hands.

What We Don’t Love: Roucou oil carries a fairly distinctive scent. We find it quite pleasant and not overwhelming but those with a particularly sensitive nose might disagree.

The wonders of the Amazon rainforest will never cease to amaze us. Chief among them is the signature ingredient of Davines’ OI Hand balm, roucou oil. Derived from the fruit of the achiote, a shrub native to the world’s largest rainforest, roucou oil’s hydrating effects are revelatory. And it’s also loaded with antioxidants that help further combat environmental damage caused by the elements.

The formula is non-greasy and rubs in almost instantly to leave your hands feeling luxuriously hydrated but never slippery. As with a lot of hand creams, our one hesitation is around the scent—roucou oil carries a fairly distinct one. Our olfactory glands perceive the scent as clean but others might find it clinical. Either way it isn’t overwhelming and really only present when you draw your hands very close to your face.

Key Ingredients: Roucou oil, glycerin | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 2.54 oz

Best for Dermatitis: Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

$19 at

$24 at

What We Love: The thick, rich formula is a classic that feels great going on and hydrates for hours of protection.

What We Don’t Love: Like cilantro for some taste buds, some noses find the scent of this cream to be very distinct and unpleasant. We don’t have that problem.

Like many of the brand’s products, the Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is classic and reliable. The formula contains a rich blend of shea butter and avocado and sesame oils, that offers a satisfyingly thick consistency. It takes a little effort to rub in but it provides a coat of protection that feels almost glove-like and stands up well against hand washing throughout the day. We found ourselves reapplying less frequently than some of the competition, yet the effects of the cream didn’t really fade. Our hands stayed supple and soft.

To most noses—ours included—this formula doesn’t carry any real scent. But, like cilantro from some taste buds, some noses take real offense to this cream.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, glycerin avocado oil, sesame oil | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 5 oz

Best for Cracked Skin: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

$15 at

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What We Love: Our dermatologists agree. This is the ultimate occlusive formula for when your skin needs serious protection and repair.

What We Don’t Love: A luxurious product experience this is not. It’s slippery and greasy but it gets the job done.

When your hands are so dry they crack there is only one product that our expert dermatologists reach for—Vaseline’s classic Petroleum Jelly. Luxurious and well-rounded this product experience is not. It’s slippery and greasy to a fault. But when your hands are so dry that they have become cracked and are on the verge of bleeding, the quickest way back to healthy skin is to coat them in the 100 percent petrolatum formulation that this classic offers. “It’s the perfect occlusive to use, especially if you have sensitive skin,” explains Dr. King. “Many other occlusives are notorious for triggering allergies, but not petrolatum.”

Key Ingredients: Petrolatum | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 13 oz

Best for Aging Skin: Beauty Pie Super Retinol Anti-Aging Hand Cream

$15 at

What We Love: The formula, loaded with retinol to stimulate collagen production, is ideal for overnight treatments and left our skin looking visibly healthier.   
What We Don’t Love:
The consistency is much thinner than you would expect with ingredients like shea butter.

While the brand may claim this product is a “Fountain of Youth,” we don’t disagree. And neither does Dr. King. “It’s the perfect combination of humectants to hydrate the skin, emollients to support the skin barrier, and occlusives to lock in moisture,” she says. That’s thanks to a laundry list of ingredients including glycerin, triglycerides, dimethicone, shea butter and soybean oil. But the real kicker is the inclusion of 1 percent retinol, which actively stimulates collagen production and helps to decrease discoloration.

Put this hand cream on before bed and you’ll wake up to the benefits of reduced fine lines and age spots—thanks collagen!—and skin tone that is brighter and more even. Our one drawback is that the formulation is surprisingly thin. Still, it rubbed in quickly and never left our hands feeling greasy.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, shea butter, glycerin | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 2.5 oz

Best Luxury: Dr. Barbara Sturm Super Anti-Aging Hand Cream

$80 at

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What We Love: A laundry list of anti-aging ingredients compliment hydration boosters for a winning combination.

What We Don’t Love: It’s expensive, especially considering the small size of the bottle, but it returns outsized results.

If you’re looking for an anti-aging hand cream that eschews retinol, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Super Anti-Aging Hand Cream should be your go-to. The excellent anti-aging ingredient list scrolls on and on like a CVS receipt: purslane and vitamin E plump up the skin with antioxidants; daisy flower extract reduces the appearance of dark spots; mangosteen and quince extract deliver lipids to further plump the skin and reduce the the appearance of fine lines. Compliment that with the hydrating powers of hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and prickly pear and the protective benefits of ceramides and you have a formula that lives up to its “super anti-aging” name. It’s also fragrance-free, making it an excellent choice for all skin types.

What isn’t so super? The price and small size of the bottle. But as they say, beauty comes with a price and this one is worth it.

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 1.69 oz

Best for Sensitive Skin: Aquaphor Healing Ointment

$19 at

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What We Love: This formula has a very low potential for hypersensitivity according to experts yet it still locks in moisture where you want it.  

What We Don’t Love: It comes in a few different packaging varieties, the most common of which is a cumbersome jar, which is not great for on-the-go hand care. It’s worth seeking out the more portable tube varieties.

If you ask Dr. Murphy-Rose, there is only one hand treatment she trusts for her patients with particularly sensitive skin, Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment. “It has a low hypersensitivity potential and very effectively traps moisture where we want it while providing a protective coating to the skin,” she says. That’s largely due to the ingredient list, which is heavy on petrolatum (41 percent) to offer a heavy dose of occlusive properties. Yet it remains a little less slick than its ultra slippery cousin Vaseline thanks to the inclusion of humectant glycerin and emollient mineral oil. It’s also preservative and fragrance-free so no matter who is using it, it’s sure to provide relief from dryness and even helps to soothe and repair minor cuts, scrapes and burns.

Depending on how and when you’re planning to use this product, you’ll want to pay attention to what packaging you purchase. One of the more commonly found varieties is a large-format jar that is definitely too cumbersome to take on the go. Be on the lookout for the vastly more portable tube varieties.

Key Ingredients: Petrolatum, glycerin, mineral oil | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 14 oz

Best for Winter: Juara Coconut Illipe Hand and Nail Balm

$23 at

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What We Love: In the dark of winter, this deeply hydrating, thick formula moisturizes to the nines thanks to a rich blend of oils and butters.

What We Don’t Love: The coconut scent evokes tropical breezes, which might be a bit much for some.

Deep in the doldrums of winter, when your hands are at their most parched, you’ll want to look for a hand cream that heavies up on occlusive ingredients, says Dr. Murphy-Rose. And for that, she turns to Juara’s ultra-rich Coconut Illipe Hand and Nail Balm. Featuring a blend of candlenut, buriti, and coconut oils and illipe and mangosteen butters, this hand balm feels luxurious going on and keeps your hands as soft and supple as if you lived in warmer climates.

It also keeps them smelling that way. Evoking warm tropical breezes, the ingredient list gives this hand balm the distinctive scent of coconut, which could be a welcome reprieve and pick me up from winter weather for some but a fragrant fiasco for others.

Key Ingredients: Coconut oil, illipe butter, mangosteen butter | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 2.5 oz

Best for Eczema: Skinfix Eczema Hand Repair Cream

$25 at

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What We Love: The rich blend of ingredients both soothes red, angry skin and helps to combat the source of the problem, adding back moisture almost instantly.

What We Don’t Love: The oat scent, while very common to eczema products, might be a turn off.

If you suffer from eczema—the dry, itchy, red, angry looking skin that flares up particularly in winter—Dr. Madfes recommends you look no further than Eczema+ Hand Relief Cream from Skinfix to soothe and heal your hands. She credits the blend of colloidal oatmeal, almond oil, and allantoin for their deeply nourishing, soothing characteristics that simultaneously improve the skin barrier to retain moisture. We couldn’t agree more. When our skin was inflamed, we found that this cream helped relieve itch and visible signs of redness within minutes of application. And a little goes a long way when it comes to that application. The formulation spreads easily and evenly, absorbs rapidly, and leaves hardly a trace of its presence. Our hands went from looking angry to serene in no time flat without any greasy residue.

Key Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, almond oil, allantoin | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 3 oz

Best Smelling: YonKa Creme Mains

$40 at

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What We Love: The formula is packed to the gills with soothing and moisturizing ingredients and it carries an irresistible citrus scent.

What We Don’t Love: The package is smaller than many and the thick consistency can make it difficult to squeeze out of the tube.

Crack open the cap of YonKa’s Creme Mains and you’re instantly transported to a gorgeous french Orangerie. Okay, not actually, but the citrus scent of this very excellent hand cream is intoxicating and the formula has serious moisturizing credentials to boot. The ingredient list reads like a fever dream of essential fatty acids, skin-soothing and moisturizing ingredients: Shea butter, coconut and grapeseed oils, vitamins A, B5, C, and E, and bisabolol. It’s no small wonder it’s a favorite of Dr. Murphy-Rose.

It’s a thicker formula than many others and that has its benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, it offers a very luxurious, hydrating experience. On the other, it’s difficult to squeeze out of the tube—which is also a smaller size than many of the other creams we tested. But that might not be an issue because just a little of this beautifully perfumed powerhouse cream goes a long way in combating dryness.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, glycerin, grapeseed oil, vitamins A, B5, C, E | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 1.73 oz

Best for Very Dry Hands: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm

$32 at

$33 at

What We Love: The Cedar, Mandarin and Rosemary scent is delightfully earthy and refreshing and the satisfyingly creamy, but lightweight formula left our hands feeling and smelling fresh. 
What We Don’t Love:
The scent could be perceived by many as masculine which could be a deterrent depending on your preferences. The price is on the higher side considering the size of the packaging.

Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm from Aesop certainly lives up to its name. It feels like a delicious body butter made just for our hands, and the aromatics are outstanding. We’d expect nothing less from the brand, which has been a favorite of discerning noses for years. Featuring Mandarin Rind, Rosemary Leaf, and Cedar Atlas, the scent is delightfully fresh and earthy—although we will admit it does veer on the masculine side.

Luckily, the formula also excels across the board. It’s satisfyingly thick out of the tube, yet it felt remarkably lightweight rubbing in and left our hands feeling as fresh as they smelled, without a trace of grease. Plus it’s full of all sorts of occlusive ingredients, like shea and cocoa seed butters, along with coconut oil, that made our hands feel supple and moisturized, while the humectant effects of glycerin locked that dreamy moisture in.

Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, glycerin | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 2.6 oz

Best Lightweight: Chanel La Crème Main

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What We Love: It rubs into the skin almost instantly and left our hands feeling luxuriously soft and supple, not oily or sticky. The distinctive, egg-shaped package gives off a serious air of luxury as well.

What We Don’t Love: For the price, there is very little product in the tiny 1.7 oz bottle.

This Chanel cream melted into our hands almost instantaneously, repairing pesky dry spots and cracks, leaving our hands feeling nothing but soft and supple. It absorbed so quickly we were able to get right back to pecking away at our keyboard without worrying about any sort of oil transfer. Adding to the luxury of the experience is the somewhat exotic ingredient list, derived almost entirely from a bouquet of camellia. Ceramides extracted from camellias build up the moisture barrier; camellia oil nourishes and softens skin, and camellia yeast provides an extra boost of hydration. Add on the emollient properties of shea butter to retain water and a dash of iris extracts to help even and enhance skin tone and you’ve got a blend of ingredients that offers up a seriously luxurious hand feel.

And there is no denying that the Chanel logo and the very playful, egg-shaped packaging add to the experience. We felt a little bit of adrenaline every time we pulled it out to apply—and maybe even made a little show of it for people around us.

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, camellia oil, shea butter | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Splurge: Cellcosmet Creme Mains

$145 at

See at

What We Love: The formula has serious credentials and is packed with peptides and skin proteins that provide outstanding anti-aging and moisturizing results.

What We Don’t Love: The price. We laughed out loud.

Has anyone ever told you, don’t knock it until you try it? We learned our lesson here. When Cellcosmet’s Creme Mains hit our desks, the $145 price tag for a 3.52 oz tube and ingredient list composed primarily of marketing speak landed with a thud. Until, that is, we tried it. Holy hydration! Whatever these proprietary Cytopep cellular extracts, and postbiotic and hydroprotect film complexes are, they work. In spades.

Within a few uses, our dry cuticles were transformed, and our hands looked visibly younger and moisturized. Despite our initial doubts, the formula has real credentials. It’s packed with proven peptides and skin proteins like collagen, fibronectin, actin, keratin, that repair the skin and a boat load of thick skincare oils (almond, olive, flaxseed, borage) that provide serious moisturizing power. The formula also has an excellent consistency, not too thick and completely non-greasy. The brand claims this cream carries a floral scent, but we found it to be subtle to the point of non-existence, which only added to its appeal. If you have money to burn and are looking for a next level hand cream, this is for you.

Key Ingredients: Collagen, fibronectin, actin, keratin, almond oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 3.52 oz

Best for Wrinkles and Dryness: Nécessaire The Hand Retinol

$35 at

$35 at

What We Love: For long term preventative care, the ingredient list, featuring 0.25 percent retinol, alpha hydroxy acids and peptides, plump and nourish the skin to help fight off wrinkles and chronic dryness.

What We Don’t Love: The funky yellow color looks almost as if the product is spoiled. It rubs in quickly and clearly but it’s not the most appealing first impression out of the tube. The packaging claims this to be fragrance-free but we detected, and the brand also calls out, that it is scented with rosewater.

If you’re looking to head off wrinkles, the ingredient list of Nécessaire’s Hand Retinol is a good one to turn to. With a lower dose of retinol (0.25 percent) and a healthy dose of alpha hydroxy acids (5 percent) and peptides this formula does wonders to both repair the skin and reduce inflammation to help increase blood flow and promote healthier skin over the long term. The humectant properties of glycerin provide the hydration and barrier protection that your hands crave and the formula, while thick, is non-greasy and rubs in fairly easily.

The brand recommends use overnight and that might be because this product is better applied with the lights off. The cream is an unsightly—dare we say almost putrid—yellow when it comes out of the tube. Definitely not the best first impression, but given that the cream rubs in very quickly and cleanly, also not a major concern. One other sticking point is the confusing claim on the packaging that this cream is fragrance-free. It most certainly is not and the brand even admits that it is scented with rosewater—to help mask the smell of the active ingredients—beyond the packaging. That still wouldn’t stop us from using this excellent hand cream to fight off fine lines.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, alpha hydroxy acids, peptides, glycerin | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 2.2 oz

Best for Working Hands: Badger Balm Badger Balm

$7 at

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What We Love: The super simple ingredient list is ultra effective for locking in moisture and creating a protective barrier on your hands that lasts.

What We Don’t Love: This is truly a balm rather than a cream thanks to the inclusion of beeswax. It definitely coats the skin and does not absorb the same way as a cream.

This product is a fixture in the glove boxes of construction workers, which is why Dr. Madfes has no hesitations recommending it for those of us whose jobs put extra stress on our hands throughout the day. The formula is so simple it only contains five ingredients but they check all the boxes of humectants (aloe vera) to draw moisture to the skin and occlusives (beeswax, castor, wintergreen, and olive oils) to firmly lock that moisture in place. The result is a formula that Dr. Madfes finds “incredible” for the way that it not only moisturizes and protects hands, but also helps heal cracks and, thanks to the purity of the ingredient list, is even appropriate for sensitive skin.

However, we would caution that the inclusion of beeswax in the ingredient list places this product firmly in the realm of hand balms. It has a very different application feel than most of the creams we featured. It coats your hands like a glove and does not readily absorb. But in our minds, you wouldn’t go onto a job site without work gloves, so why would you go without a good hand balm?

Key Ingredients: beeswax, aloe vera, olive, castor and wintergreen oils | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 2 oz

Best for Nurses: Avène Eau Thermale Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream

$20 at

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What We Love: This rich formulation stands up to very frequent handwashing, making it ideal for medical professionals.

What We Don’t Love: The packaging is small, but readily fits into the pocket of scrubs.

When you work in a medical office, chances are you are washing your hands many more times a day than the average person. And with that many trips to the sink, it becomes very impractical to have to reapply a hand cream every time. Enter: Avène Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream, a miracle hydrator that Dr. King says can last through five hand washings. "Plus, it's fast-absorbing and paraben-free, and contains glycerin to hydrate the skin," she says.

Additionally formulated with the brand’s signature thermal spring water, jojoba oil and bisabolol, the cream carries a very pleasing, but difficult to place, scent that is so enjoyable you may find yourself wishing you needed to apply it more often. The packaging is quite small (1.6 oz) but we see that as a benefit for nurses. It very easily fits into the pocket of scrubs, so it will always be on hand when you need it.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, shea butter, jojoba oil | Fragrance-Free: No | Size: 1.6 oz

Best with SPF: Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick

$9 at

$9 at

What We Love: Despite technically being a sunscreen, zinc oxide is naturally hydrating and the other ingredient list helps this product do double duty for sun protection and moisturization. Plus the stick format makes it transportable and perfect for on-the-go applications.

What We Don’t Love: Like many mineral sunscreens, it does leave a bit of white cast on your hands.

For Dr. King, it’s a must to protect your hands with SPF and she prefers to let her sunscreen do double duty. The zinc oxide found in many mineral sunscreens is naturally hydrating and Dr. King’s favorite, Blue Lizard Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50+, also delivers a host of other ingredients that will keep your hands supple. “The formula contains aloe vera, shea butter, triglycerides, sunflower seed oil, jojoba seed oil, cocoa seed butter and vitamin E, all of which help to further nourish the skin,” she says. The formula is also non-comedogenic and free of both parabens and fragrance, making it great for sensitive skin types. And to top it all off? It’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes, which means it also stands up well to hand washing.

Dr. King prefers to carry the stick version, which she loves for its “convenience and portability,” but the formula is also available in a lotion, if that is what you prefer. The only downside is that, as with many mineral sunscreens, the zinc oxide sits on top of your skin and leaves a little bit of white cast. But we just see that as a subtle, reassuring reminder of the fact that your hands are protected from both the sun and dryness.

Key Ingredients: Zinc oxide, aloe vera, shea butter | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 0.5 oz

Best for Age Spots on Hands: EltaMD So Silky Hand Creme

$29 at

$29 at

What We Love: This formula is unique for its inclusion of sclareolide, a plant-derived ingredient that helps to lighten dark spots.

What We Don’t Love: It’s fragrance-free but it still leaves our hands smelling vaguely medical.

For Dr. King, sclareolide is the ingredient that sets So Silky Hand Creme apart from the competition. “It’s a plant-derived ingredient that helps to lighten dark spots,” she explains. But the formula doesn’t just offer tone-evening benefits. It’s also packed with ingredients that help to nourish dry skin: Ceramides, hydrogenated palm glycerides, jojoba esters, and vitamin E. The consistency is soft and serum-like and leaves not a trace of stickiness after a minute or two of absorption. This cream is technically fragrance-free but we found that it still left our hands smelling vaguely medical. It’s not a scent that carries through a room to draw attention but it was noticeable when we drew our hands to our faces.

Key Ingredients: Sclareolide, ceramides, vitamin E | Fragrance-Free: Yes | Size: 3 oz

What to Keep in Mind

  • Cream vs. Balm: While shopping for your next hand care product, you’re more than likely to come up against two different product types—creams and balms. Tomato tomahto, right? Not at all. “Hand creams and hand balms may both moisturize and protect the skin, but they differ in texture and formulation,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. Creams are typically lighter weight, carry a whitish color and are absorbed much more quickly into the skin, she explains. Balms, on the other hand, are richer and more occlusive, a.k.a. slippery, and frequently are more translucent in appearance. While Dr. Murphy-Rose says both are great for all skin types, if you’re looking for the longest lasting moisture, balms are the better bet as their occlusive ingredients sit on top of the skin and provide an extra barrier of support.

  • Humectants: “Humectants are mostly low molecular weight substances that bind water into the stratum cornuem,” says Dr. King. In layman’s terms, they are naturally occurring water magnets that draw moisture to the skin, but, Dr. King reminds us, “they need to be used alongside other components in order to retain the water content.” Popular humectants like hyaluronic acid, aloe, glycerin and urea are great for all skin types, says Dr. Murphy-Rose. But make sure the formulation contains emollients and occlusives as well, reminds Dr. King. “If used alone in dry conditions, humectants can actually draw moisture out of the deeper layers of the skin and it can then be lost to the environment, leaving your skin even drier.” 

  • Balanced Ingredients: The best hand cream formulations will contain a balanced blend of humectant, occlusive, and emollient ingredients. Dr. King reminds us that while humectants work to attract moisture to the skin, they need to be used in combination with other ingredients to ensure that moisture stays locked in. “The most effective hand creams will contain a combination of occlusives and emollients to both moisturize and soften,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. Dr. King says to look for occlusives like petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide, and for emollients like cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids and alcohols and ceramides.

    For those with sensitive skin, Dr. Murphy-Rose suggests you stay on the lookout for formulas that include oat extracts which can help calm the skin. And avoid fragrances and essential oils, which are common irritants. To soothe and moisturize cracked skin, all three of our experts recommend looking for high levels of petrolatum, which will help create a protective barrier to encourage healing. 

  • Additional Benefits: Hand creams don’t have to be single purpose. If you know which ingredients to keep an eye out for, your hand cream can easily do double – or even triple! – duty. For those looking to combat signs of aging Dr. King recommends retinol, which will help boost collagen production. And if you’re looking to protect your skin from environmental damage, Dr. Murphy-Rose and Dr. King both say to make sure your products include antioxidants. Dr. Diane Madfes agrees as well and also suggests that Vitamin C can help with any discoloration and that SPF protection is crucial. “SPF is absolutely needed on the hands! It prevents aging, discoloration, sun spots, and, most importantly, skin cancer!”

  • Greasy Feel: For many, hand creams might be unappealing because they make your hands feel greasy. “Creams are emulsions of water and oil. Oil that takes longer to penetrate may leave a greasy feeling on the skin’s surface. So creams with a higher concentration of oils or heavier emollients may feel greasier,” explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. “To help predict whether a hand cream will be greasy without trying it, look on the packaging for terms like ‘lightweight,’ ‘fast-absorbing,’ and ‘non-greasy,’ she advises.

    But what about that slippery feeling? It’s generally a sensation that diminishes quickly after absorption in most good formulations, but it is, to a certain degree, inevitable on application. “The more occlusive ingredients present, will make the formula feel slipperier,” says Dr. King. So it’s important to pay attention to the ingredient list on the packaging. “Many hand creams have dimethicone/silicone, to allow easy application while forming a protective barrier,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.

Your Questions, Answered

How often should I apply hand cream?

“This may sound counterintuitive but water, especially hot water, can dry out the skin,” warns Dr. King. “I recommend applying a hand cream to help lock in moisture immediately after you’ve sanitized or washed your hand, but before your hands have dried.” And Dr. Madfes agrees: “The frequency of application depends on individual needs, but generally, applying hand cream after washing your hands and as needed throughout the day can help keep your skin moisturized,” she says. But Dr. Madfes is a bit more proscriptive in her advice saying, “it’s important to apply a hand cream at least twice a day to protect and maintain our skin barrier.”

What causes dry hands?

Unless you wear gloves constantly, your hands are under constant assault from the elements. “Many factors can contribute to dry hands, including genetics, cold weather, low humidity, frequent hand washing, exposure to harsh chemicals or detergents , and certain skin types like eczema,” explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Our hands are particularly vulnerable to drying out because they are often exposed to the elements,” says Dr. King. “Outdoor factors like winter weather—with its cold temperatures, brisk winds, and low humidity—can lead to drier skin. But even if you stay indoors, dry indoor heating can have a similar effect,” she says.

Do I need to wear SPF on my hands?

All three of our dermatologist experts agree, you should be wearing SPF on your hands! “Your hands are constantly exposed to UV rays,” warns Dr. King. “Absolutely. You need SPF on your hands!” echoes Dr. Madfes. “It prevents aging, discoloration, sun spots, but, most importantly, skin cancer!” And Dr. Murphy-Rose agrees as well: “Yes! It is very wise to protect your hands from the sun to ward off signs of skin aging and, importantly, reduce the risk of skin cancer.”

Why does my hand cream wash off?

Like any product, the effects of hand cream will wear down after your initial application. Rinsing your hands under water can speed that process up, but it’s also largely dependent on circumstances, says Dr. King. “It depends on the formulation,” she says, “but also how you are washing your hands – how strong the detergent is, how hot the water is, how much you scrub, how long you’re washing them.” It’s difficult to predict which formulations will stand up best to water, which is why she would recommend looking for claims of water-resistance on the packaging if you are concerned with having to reapply more frequently.

Why Shop With Us

Peter Tittiger is a contributing writer at InStyle as well as Byrdie. He has over ten years of experience researching and producing content programs for top luxury and lifestyle brands including TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Lexus, and Best Made Co. While writing this article he consulted board-certified dermatologists Dr. Hadley King, Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, and Dr. Diane Madfes. He also consulted the team here at InStyle who thoroughly tested and tried the featured hand creams themselves.

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