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Whether it’s due to cold weather, frequent washing, or contact with chemical products, your hands can get dry and rough in a hurry. The right hand cream can moisturize your skin to keep it healthy and supple, as well as repair damage and exfoliate rough patches.
But not all hand creams are created equal. Some do a better job at hydrating your hands and locking in moisture, so your skin stays soft and protected. With an overwhelming number of hand creams on the market, how do you find the best salve for your skin?
At BestReviews, we’re here to make shopping easy for you. We do thorough research, test products in our labs, grill the experts, and consult existing customers in order to pass on the info to you. And we always buy our own products, rather than accepting anything free from manufacturers, so you can trust that our reviews are honest and unbiased.
If you’re ready to buy a hand cream, check out the matrix above for our top recommendations. For more on how to find the best hand cream for you, including what ingredients to look for and our dry skin tips and tricks, keep reading.
Cold, dry weather is the number one cause of dry, rough hands. The lack of humidity in the air strips your skin of moisture, leaving your hands dehydrated.
If you live in an area with hard water, your hands can become dry and rough. Repeated washing with water that has a high concentration of minerals can remove your skin’s natural moisture.
A diet that doesn’t contain enough omega-3 fatty acids can leave you with dry, rough hands as well. If you suffer from chronically dry hands, it’s important to eat plenty of omega-3-rich foods like almonds, avocados, and salmon.
Stash a travel-size tube of hand cream in your bag or glove compartment, so you can apply a little whenever your hands start to feel dry throughout the day.
Humectants: Humectants attract moisture to the skin and lock it in to keep your hands moisturized. Glycerin, aloe vera, honey, hyaluronic acid, glycol, urea, and silicones are high-quality humectants.
Ceramides: Ceramides are lipid molecules naturally found in the top layer of skin that help keep moisture in. A hand cream with ceramides can replace any natural ceramides lost to environmental factors, so skin stays moisturized and protected.
Essential Fatty Oils: Essential fatty oils are highly moisturizing and ideal for treating chronic dry skin. Look for oils such as argan oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.
Antioxidants: Antioxidants like vitamins C and E can reduce inflammation, sun damage, scars, and wrinkles. They can also firm the skin on your hands.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids: Alpha hydroxy acids are extremely effective exfoliants. They slough off dead skin cells to reduce wrinkles and dark spots, as well as smooth and soften skin.
For severely dry hands, a hand cream with ceramides is key. Use it at night when your skin does the majority of its healing.
Lotion: Lotions are the most lightweight hand cream formula. Lotions provide light hydration that can keep your hands in good shape if you’re not prone to especially dry skin. Lotions work well in warmer weather.
Cream: Creams have a heavier consistency and provide a great deal of moisturization. They work especially well if your hands get dry in colder weather.
If you don’t like the feel of heavy hand cream, opt for a water-based lotion formula. Water-based hand creams are lightweight but still deliver good hydration.
If the skin on your hands tends to get flaky, an exfoliating hand cream is a good option. Look for formulas that contain alpha hydroxy acids, which help the skin shed dead cells for a softer, smoother feel.
Your hands are at as great a risk for sun damage as your face, which is why it’s a good idea to choose a daytime hand cream with UVA/UVB protection. Look for a hand cream that has an SPF of at least 30.
When you’re using a hand cream with SPF, focus it on the top of your hands. That’s the area that sees the most sun exposure.
Some hand creams can address more than one skin concern. You’ll get the most for your buck if you choose a hand cream that offers multiple benefits. For example, many exfoliating hand creams also contain brightening ingredients. You can also find formulas that hydrate and provide sun protection.
Some hand creams can also strengthen your nails to prevent peeling.
Most hand creams come in squeeze tubes that make it easy to dispense the right amount of product without wasting any. Other hand creams come with pumps, which don’t offer as much control over how much product comes out. Thicker hand creams and ointments often come in tubs. While you can easily scoop as much or as little as you like out of a tub, germs can get inside the jar when you dip your fingers in.
Use the end of a makeup brush to scoop hand cream out of a tub if you want to be scrupulously sanitary.
Many hand creams are scented. However, if you have sensitive skin, artificial fragrance can easily irritate your hands, particularly if they’re already dry, itchy, or cracked. For sensitive skin, fragrance-free formulas are the best bet.
Perfumed hand creams can irritate sensitive skin. Discontinue use if you notice any itching, stinging, or redness after using a hand cream.
Hand creams vary in price based on the size of the container and the quality of the ingredients, but you can typically expect to spend between $5 and $30.
Inexpensive: For a basic moisturizing hand cream, you’ll usually spend between $5 and $10.
Mid-Range: For a mid-range hand cream with moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients, you’ll usually spend between $11 and $20.
Some hand creams address multiple skin concerns. You can find formulas that hydrate and offer sun protection or brighten and exfoliate skin.
For severely dry, chapped hands, apply a heavy hand cream at night. Then sleep in a pair of old gloves, so the cream is fully absorbed overnight.
Before applying hand cream, wash your hands with a moisturizing soap. It’s okay if your skin is slightly damp when you rub in hand cream because it will seal in the extra moisture.
To avoid getting hand cream on your jewelry, remove any rings before you apply hand cream.
To avoid leaving hand cream residue all around your home, blot your hands with a towel after applying hand cream to remove any excess.
When you’re using a hand cream with SPF, focus it on the top of your hands. That’s the area that sees the most sun exposure and is at risk for age spots.
Q. How often should I use hand cream?
A. It depends on how dry your skin is, what the weather is like, and what else your hands endure, but it’s usually best to apply hand cream at least once a day. If you wash your hands frequently, you may want to apply hand cream after each washing to replenish any lost moisture.
Q. What should I look for in a daytime hand cream?
A. If you’ll be out in the sun, any hand cream that you use during the day should have SPF. Look for a formula with an SPF of at least 30.
Q. What type of hand cream works best for sensitive skin?
A. Sensitive skin is often irritated by fragrance, so choose a hand cream that is unscented. Hand creams that contain natural ingredients are often better for sensitive skin, too. In particular, aloe vera can be extremely soothing for sensitive skin.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.