Welcome to Coming Clean, a monthly column where writer Lauren Viera finds the best products for the toughest-to-clean parts of the kitchen. Along the way, she just might convince you (and herself) to actually enjoy this whole cleaning thing.
Ever since I had a baby over four years ago, my hands have been a total wreck. They’re sensitive, itchy, and irritated to a point where I loathe doing dishes, simply because of the toll it takes on my delicate postpartum hands. My husband—our default dishwasher—rolled his eyes at this excuse, until I was eventually referred to a dermatologist that specializes in postpartum hand eczema. At last, my avoidance made sense: The cruel combination of constantly washing dishes, bottles, and hands—plus a drastic shift in hormones—makes hands go haywire.
Dishwashing gloves are the key to doing the dishes faster and better. And after testing a pile of pairs, we found that they can be a stylish accessory, too.
The derm prescribed about 492 ointments, lotions, and balms including one that comes in a tub so big, it doesn’t even fit in a medicine cabinet. Each is effective, yes, but not exactly something you’d stash next to your sink caddy. And so, the quest for a user-friendly, hypo-allergenic(ish) hand lotion—specifically for stashing next to the sink for post-dish use—began.
In my search for solutions benefiting home cooks and people perpetually stuck on dish-washing duty, I came across a lot of home remedies—including an end-of-day ritual of coating one’s hands with castor oil or Vaseline, then tucking them into cotton gloves before bed. Also popular: diaper cream, Bag Balm, and something called No Crack, available exclusively in Wisconsin. Here’s what worked, and what didn’t.
The Best Overall: Weleda Skin Food
What ultimately won in the post–dishwashing department were lotions that are highly concentrated, smell clean and natural, and look at home near the kitchen sink. My favorite was Weleda Skin Food, which has been around for nearly a century. With a winning formula of sunflower seed oil, beeswax and a bouquet of fragrant garden herbs including rosemary and chamomile, this rich, concentrated cream has a cult following among earthy beauty types—and is making the rounds among chefs. Epicurious Senior Food Editor Anna Stockwell is a huge fan, and always keeps it stocked at her station in the test kitchen.
Commerce Editorial Assistant Lauren Joseph also loves this cream's refreshing herbaceous smell and she says, "It's quite thick but it's not greasy and it melts into your skin easily—and unlike lightweight lotions, your skin feels like it has a dewy barrier for a while after use." These qualities make it perfect for post-dish-washing use.
It’s cheery green packaging offers a post-dishwashing pick-me-up (though Lauren has a great tip that if you can find it in the old-school metal packaging it looks extra French-pharmacy chic), and its reverse-cap tube stands smartly upright and fits perfectly next to your sink.
A Luxe Pick: Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm
I also fell hard for Aesop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, in part because its packaging made my sink area look hip. This stuff acts like a true hand lotion (the Skin Food is more of a thick balm), soaking into skin with little effort, and leaving a wonderfully citrusy, woodsy scent. The ever-shrinking tube, however, is designed for dopp kits and makeup bags—not kitchen sinks—so it’s best tucked into a sink caddy as it might topple over frequently, especially as it empties.
An Extra-Luxe Pick: Goe Oil
Goe Oil is incredible. Free of all the sketchy ingredients that often come standard in lotion, it’s derived from plant-based oils, butters, and more. It has a fairly strong floral scent, or one similar to sunscreen, which may be polarizing for people. It also takes a minute to soak into the skin, at first leaving an oily residue on the surface of hands. However, once it does sink in, it leaves hands feeling ultra-hydrated for hours and hours. At nearly $70 a tube, I'll admit it feels too luxurious for dishwashing duty—however, you only need the tiniest amount to hydrate your hands for an extended period of time, so if you feel like splurging and your hands feel especially ravaged after doing the dishes, this might be the cream for you.
Aquaphor served as my control. Given its dermatologist-recommended popularity, it’s a great catch-all for healing cuts and soothing cracks, which is why a lot of profesh dishwashers swear by it. It's greasy quality just doesn’t have much appeal as a hand lotion—and it isn't derived from very wholesome ingredients, if that matters to you. From there, I moved on to a few chef-recommended oils —highly concentrated stuff meant for rubbing into sore spots. A much more affordable option that's similar to Goe Oil is S.W. Basics Original Cream, made from just three ingredients: shea butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. However, “cream” is a misnomer: it too is quite oily.
If your hands are really sensitive to dish duty, try ShiKai Borage Hand Therapy Cream. It’s incredibly calming, probably due to the fact that borage oil is commonly used for anti-inflammatory properties. Chefs love this fragrance-free stuff, and it’s cheap, but it feels (and looks) a little too medicinal for the regular cook's kitchen sink, in my opinion. Similarly, the incredible smelling California Baby Calendula Cream is a wonderful product, but better for the bathroom. Known for its mild, skin-soothing properties, calendula does wonders for chafed hands...and mosquito-bitten ankles...and freshly-washed faces...and kiddo legs. I use it a lot, and keep it in the medicine cabinet.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious