Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best hand lotions

Whether you live in a dry climate, wash your hands frequently, or work with harsh chemicals, you probably struggle with dry hands from time to time. If your hands get too dry, the skin can chap and crack, which is painful as well as unsightly. Thankfully, the correct hand lotion can help keep your skin supple and smooth.

Most hand lotions combine emollients, humectants, and occlusives to boost moisture and help you retain it. Emollients soften the skin and form a protective layer over it. Humectants help pull moisture into the skin, and occlusives (typically oil-based) lock moisture in.

This combination of ingredients can work wonders for the hands, but which product should you choose? Consider which ingredients and features will work best for your hands, and think about whether you prefer a scented or unscented hand lotion.

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When applying hand lotion with SPF, concentrate the application on the backs of your hands, which receive the most sun exposure.

Key considerations


The ingredients in a hand lotion determine how hydrating, soothing, and protective it is. Some notable hard-working ingredients include the following:

Vitamin E: This antioxidant helps moisturize and repair the skin. It helps the skin heal while strengthening the protective barrier over it. Vitamin E also offers protection from the sun and other environmental pollutants.

Shea butter: This occlusive contains vitamins A and  E as well as essential fatty acids. It helps strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and seals in moisture to keep the skin hydrated for several hours. It also works as an anti-inflammatory, so it’s great for hands that are already severely chapped or cracked.

Petroleum jelly: This is another occlusive that helps form a protective barrier around the skin to lock in moisture. It can help heal minor cracks and cuts on severely dry hands, too.

Glycerine: This humectant pulls moisture from the air and also from deep within the skin to help heal the skin’s outer layers. It is suitable for severely dry hands that are cracked and chapped. If you suffer from dry hands due to frequent hand washing, it’s an ingredient to look for.

Cocoa butter: Rich in fatty acids, cocoa butter moisturizes and nourishes the skin. The fat forms a protective barrier over the skin, locking moisture in place and healing cracks and cuts.

Squalene: Fatty squalene occurs naturally in the skin, strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier. As an antioxidant, it also helps protect the skin from free radical damage. Much of the squalene in skin and cosmetic products comes from shark livers, though there are plant-based sources, like olive oil.

Beeswax: This humectant draws water to the skin and helps form a protective barrier over it.

Hyaluronic acid: This humectant attracts moisture to the skin. It can also help heal the wounds found on cracked, chapped hands.

Lanolin: This emollient hydrates, soothes, and softens extremely dry skin.


Hand lotion comes in several textures, and lotion texture correlates with how hydrating the lotion is. Most hand lotions have a medium texture that sinks quickly into the skin. There are some lightweight lotions with gel-like textures that work well if you only need light moisture.

For severely dry, chapped skin, you’re better off with a thick lotion. The thickness provides intense moisture and forms a barrier over the skin that keeps hands hydrated. Notably, thick lotion takes longer to absorb into the skin and may leave a greasy residue.



Squeeze tube: Most hand lotions come in squeeze tubes. This type of packaging protects the formula from exposure to light and air, which can break down active ingredients. It's easier to get all the product out of the tube because you can roll up the tube to push the lotion out.

Pump dispenser: Some thinner hand lotions come in containers with pump dispensers. This type of packaging protects the integrity of the ingredients, but it can be difficult to get every last bit of the lotion out.


Hand lotion products vary in quantity, from 1-ounce tubes to 16-ounce bottles. A larger container typically offers a better bang for your buck, but a smaller tube is more convenient for your handbag or drawer at work.


Many hand lotions feature a pleasant scent. You can find lotions with floral, fruity, earthy, clean, and woodsy scents. If you have sensitive skin or aren’t a fan of overpowering fragrance, look for something unscented. These formulas don’t contain chemical fragrances that can irritate the skin (and the nose).


If you spend a lot of time outdoors, look for a hand lotion with broad-spectrum SPF15 or higher to ensure you’re getting adequate protection. Reapply the lotion every couple of hours.

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Did you know?
Hand lotions with a higher percentage of oil are usually most effective because they form a protective barrier that keeps moisture in the skin.

Hand lotion prices


The most affordable hand lotions are basic formulas that contain hydrating ingredients. They typically don’t offer any SPF and may not work for extremely dry hands. Expect to pay between $0.35 and $2.25 per ounce for these lotions.


These lotions typically contain moisturizing ingredients and other ingredients that are good for the skin, such as SPF and anti-aging ingredients. They work well for treating severely dry hands. Expect to spend between $2.25 and $7 per ounce for these lotions.


High-end hand lotions feature high-quality moisturizing ingredients, SPF, and anti-aging ingredients. These formulas can work well for extremely dry, chapped hands. Expect to pay between $7 and $29 per ounce.


  • Travel-size tubes are handy. Keep one in your bag, pocket, or car so you can hydrate your hands whenever they feel dry.
  • You’re more likely to experience dry hands in cold weather. Focus on keeping a good supply of hand lotion for yourself during the winter months.
  • Wash your hands thoughtfully. Washing with warm water instead of hot can help prevent moisture loss so you don’t end up with dry, cracked skin.
  • Avoid the towel rub. When you’re drying your hands, don’t rub a towel over them. Instead, blot your skin to prevent painful micro-abrasions.
  • Give your hands an intensive hydrating treatment before sleep. Wear cotton gloves to bed to lock the moisture in and keep the residue off your sheets.
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Don’t neglect your nails and cuticles when you apply hand lotion. The moisture can help keep your nails healthy and strong.


Q. What are the benefits of using hand lotion regularly?

A. Moisturizing your hands regularly prevents dry skin, helping you dodge the experience of having chapped, cracked hands. Using hand lotion consistently can also fight the signs of premature aging by preventing dark spots and boosting skin elasticity.

Q. What’s the best way to apply hand lotion?

A. There is no wrong way to apply hand lotion. For most people, the best method is dispensing some lotion on the back of one hand and rubbing the other hand against it. The back of the hand is usually the driest area, so it requires the most moisture. You can then massage your hands together to distribute the remaining lotion over the rest of your skin. 

Q. How often should I apply hand lotion?

A. That depends on a variety of factors, such as how dry your hands are, what the weather is like, and how often you wash your hands. Apply lotion whenever your hands feel dry or tight and after each hand washing. Consider applying it before bed, too —  the moisture will have all night to penetrate your skin.

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