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We tested 31 of the most popular hand creams on the market to find the very best.
Hand cream may sound like an ordinary, and perhaps even unnecessary, product to keep on hand. But we’re here to tell you that finding the best hand cream is kind of a big deal. Over the course of an average day, our hands go through a lot, from typing away at computers to frequent hand washing or rubbing a dollop of alcohol-based hand sanitizer into our palms, and after taking a look at our parched, tight skin, we knew we needed to find the best hand creams on the market.
We tested 31 of the most popular hand creams and lotions over a two week span. We evaluated the overall look and feel of our hands after each use, including the level of hydration the cream offered and how easily it absorbed into the skin. As busy folks in the working world, we also paid attention to how much time passed before more lotion was needed to soothe our hands. Only the hand creams that delivered across the board made our list.
Best Overall: L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream
What We Love: It absorbed into our skin quickly and retained moisture much longer than the average hand lotion. What We Don’t Love: There is a mild scent, which didn’t bother us, but may be a factor to consider for others.
What We Love: It absorbed into our skin quickly and retained moisture much longer than the average hand lotion.
What We Don’t Love: There is a mild scent, which didn’t bother us, but may be a factor to consider for others.
If a luxurious trip to the south of France is currently out of budget, hydrating your hands with the famous Provence-born brand, L’Occitane, is the next best thing. From how quickly it absorbed into our skin to the way it retained moisture throughout the day, as well as the supple appearance it gave our hands earned this hand cream the best overall spot on our list.
This product reduced the amount of times we typically reapplied lotion from ten times a day to four, making for an easy integration into our routines. Not only that, but it sunk into our skin in less than ten seconds, and left no sticky residue or white case. It was as if it absorbed and then disappeared, leaving only the skin feeling as it “should” in its best state — healthy and hydrated.
The blend of shea butter, coconut oil, and honey work hand in hand (pun intended) to hydrate skin, leaving a luxuriously soft texture behind. After a few uses, we could visibly see the dry patches between our fingers slowly start to heal and the white, flaky skin on top of our hands disappear.
It does come with a bit of a scent, which might be a deal-breaker for you. However, it’s mild enough to not cause any irritation.
Price at time of publish: $30
Key Ingredients: Shea butter, coconut oil, honey, marshmallow root extract | Scented: Yes | Size: 5.2 oz
Best Budget: Benton Shea Butter and Olive Hand Cream
What We Love: The lightweight consistency spreads like a dream and nourishes itchy dry patches with ease. What We Don’t Love: It can take up to two minutes to fully absorb.
What We Love: The lightweight consistency spreads like a dream and nourishes itchy dry patches with ease.
What We Don’t Love: It can take up to two minutes to fully absorb.
This hand lotion had the power of bringing life and health back into hands that looked as dry as the Sahara Desert. When we applied it, our dry skin hungrily devoured the velvety soft texture and gratefully accepted the moisture it provided.
We tested this product on hands that are frequently used for competitive weightlifting — and all the friction on the palms of hands and frequent use of the ultra-drying white chalk — that come with it. NYC-based nurse practitioner, Dr. Jodi LoGerfo, cautions that people who consistently work out with weights or heavy ropes should pay extra care to their hands. “With using weights or bars, you can get calluses and skin tears. Skin that is protected with moisturizers is less likely to get damaged while working out.”
This cream feels lightweight, yet the heavy doses of shea butter and olive oil nourish the skin powerfully. It spreads like a dream and takes about two minutes to fully absorb — while that is a little longer than the last two options, once in, it leaves no sticky residue.
Price at time of publish: $11
Key Ingredients: Shea butter, olive oil | Scented: Yes | Size: 1.76 oz
Best Splurge: Chanel La Crème Main
What We Love: It disappears into skin almost instantly and leaves no sticky residue — our hands felt luxuriously soft and supple. What We Don’t Love: At 1.7 oz, there’s not a lot of product in the bottle.
What We Love: It disappears into skin almost instantly and leaves no sticky residue — our hands felt luxuriously soft and supple.
What We Don’t Love: At 1.7 oz, there’s not a lot of product in the bottle.
While designer skincare can be ultra luxurious and effective, it doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s the best option. Yet this hand cream from Chanel impressed us, starting with the funky bottle it came in. Its rich consistency initially made us worried that it might be too creamy and leave a thick, slippery feeling, but it melted into our skin immediately, binding together our cracked skin instead. It left almost a powdery feel, allowing us to start tapping away on our keyboards without any product transferring over.
We were amazed at the before and after difference in our hands, especially when it came to how soft and smooth our palms felt. Our skin looked plump and healthy, which was made more evident with each use of the product. Even in the freezing cold, a single application of this cream weathered the dry air like it was nothing.
Aside from the results, there’s no denying that the playful shape of the bottle and Chanel logo adds a little excitement to an otherwise routine application. On top of being a great skincare product, it acts as a bit of a self-care treat as well.
While the 1.7 ounce bottle is quite small, a little truly goes a long way. One dime-sized amount can cover both hands sufficiently, and it kept our hands feeling hydrated for hours.
Price at time of publish: $55
Key Ingredients: Pallida flower extract, rose wax | Scented: Yes | Size: 1.7 oz
Best Scented: Grown Alchemist Hand Cream Vanilla Orange Peel
What We Love: The citrusy aroma is clean and fresh while the skin-nourishing ingredients make the cream feel delightful. What We Don’t Love: It may not be the best bet for extremely dry skin.
What We Love: The citrusy aroma is clean and fresh while the skin-nourishing ingredients make the cream feel delightful.
What We Don’t Love: It may not be the best bet for extremely dry skin.
A treat to the hands can just as much be a treat to the nose when you opt for a scented hand cream. Pumped with rich antioxidants and botanical extracts, this hand cream from Grown Alchemist gently relieves dry skin while offering a delightful aroma. Its inclusion of vitamin E keeps the skin looking rejuvenated while omegas and antioxidants encourage the natural production of oil in the skin. The wonderful, fresh orange peel fragrance smells as though it was just picked off a tree. It's combined with rose petal oil and camellia flower, making for a total zen-like experience that feels clean and natural.
The milky formula still feels as light as a feather, making it ideal for moderate climates and daily maintenance. It’s not a heavy-duty hand cream, and might not be the best solution for cracked skin. However, if prolonged skin health and a little citrusy treat is what you’re searching for, this product is ideal.
Price at time of publish: $26
Key Ingredients: Grapeseed oil, rosehip oil, orange peel oil, vitamin E | Scented: Yes | Size: 2.19 oz
Best for Winter: Fenty Skin Hydra’Reset Intensive Recovery Glycerin Hand Mask
What We Love: The hydrating hand mask deeply conditions the skin for a longer-lasting effect. What We Don’t Love: The bottle’s packaging is not great; we needed to cut it open to get every last drop of product.
What We Love: The hydrating hand mask deeply conditions the skin for a longer-lasting effect.
What We Don’t Love: The bottle’s packaging is not great; we needed to cut it open to get every last drop of product.
For some intensive repair, the Fenty Skin Hand Mask (not to be confused with hand cream) sinks deeply into the skin for longer-lasting hydration, making it a great choice for the dry winter season. With the help of panthenol, glycerin and murumuru and mango butters, this rich formula deeply conditions the skin. It feels so decadent that we recommend applying it right before bed for maximum penetration.
We tested this hand mask on our production assistant — a role that requires a lot of moving things around on set — and it rescued her beleaguered, dry hands with ease, which had been hard to find, despite trying dozens of other options over the years. She noticed that with each use, her hands became softer and gradually, the white ashy look subsided. This hand mask is excellent for those who are prone to dryness, especially around the knuckles, thumb or top of the hand, to pump a little life back into skin.
The bottle, however, is less than amazing. It does not dispense all of the product out and will require you to cut it open in order to get a good chunk of the cream out in the end.
Price at time of publish: $25
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, panthenol, murumuru and mango butters | Scented: Yes | Size: 2.5 oz
Best Non-Greasy: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Touch Hand Cream
What We Love: A little bit of this dense cream goes a long way and just one application offers enough moisture to last all day. What We Don’t Love: The vanilla and coconut fragrance is a hate-it-or-love-it kind of scent.
What We Love: A little bit of this dense cream goes a long way and just one application offers enough moisture to last all day.
What We Don’t Love: The vanilla and coconut fragrance is a hate-it-or-love-it kind of scent.
There’s nothing more annoying than slathering a rich lotion all over your hands just to smear it all over your keyboard, screen or phone. With the Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Touch Hand Cream, we found that the non-greasy texture disappears into the dermis so fast, it was easy to forget we even put it on. The light formula glided over our skin like butter and wasted no time diving deep into the surface to work its magic. Without ever leaving so much as a shine, the formula looks and feels nearly invisible — the only change was a boost of hydration directly to our hands.
One application also did the trick; we didn’t need to constantly reapply to chase hydration, despite washing our hands and typing throughout the day. The results still felt visible after several hours.
The brand leans on the powers of cupuaçu butter (which is rich in essential nourishing fatty acids) and selenium, which is a Brazilian nut that supports your skin's natural ability to protect itself, to instantly soften the skin. It does come with a mild vanilla and coconut fragrance, which can be polarizing.
Price at time of publish: $16
Key Ingredients: Cupuaçu butter, selenium nut, squalane | Scented: Yes | Size: 1.7 oz
Best for Cracked Hands: Vichy Ultra Nourishing Hand Cream
What We Love: Our formerly cracked and red hands were visibly healed and softened after consistent application. What We Don’t Love: The consistency is quite thick and can take up to ten minutes to fully absorb.
What We Love: Our formerly cracked and red hands were visibly healed and softened after consistent application.
What We Don’t Love: The consistency is quite thick and can take up to ten minutes to fully absorb.
Cracked hands don’t just hurt — they also look uncared. In order to tackle this broken skin, we paid closer attention to how this cream performed over time, not just after a single use. After two weeks of daily application, the little rips on our skins were visibly healed, reversing some of the damage done by cold weather. Our once angry-looking hands were finally calmed, and some of the stinging caused by the cracks were also soothed.
Especially when used overnight, we noticed a softer, less irritated surface in the morning, with some of the redness caused by the cracks beginning to fade. That’s likely due to the cocktail of allantoin, which helps reduce redness and improve the appearance of skin lesions, while shea butter and volcanic water alleviate dryness. When combined, they create a thick cream for hands that are in dire need of extra hydration. Since the formula is so dense, it does take about ten minutes to fully sink in, but it offers immediate relief for irritated, angry hands.
Price at time of publish: $6
Key Ingredients: Glycerin, allantoin, shea butter, volcanic water, petrolatum | Scented: Yes | Size: 1.69 oz
Best for Dry Skin: EltaMD So Silky Hand Creme
What We Love: This gentle, fragrance-free cream is fantastic for those with sensitive skin or noses. What We Don’t Love: The promise of a more even-looking skin tone went unfulfilled.
What We Love: This gentle, fragrance-free cream is fantastic for those with sensitive skin or noses.
What We Don’t Love: The promise of a more even-looking skin tone went unfulfilled.
If heavyweight, oily hand creams aren’t your thing, no problem! This option from the dermatologist-favorite brand, EltaMD, is the Goldilocks of hand cream — it’s not too thick and it’s not too watery, it’s just right. In just a few moments (one to two minutes, to be exact), this hand cream quenched our thirsty skin and rescued it from dehydration, making it perfect for chronically parched hands. It delivered all the soothing effects of a thick cream, but with a soft, serum-like consistency without a hint of stickiness. It also includes a blend of skincare-quality ingredients, including antioxidants, ceramides, jojoba wax, and vitamin E, to target and relieve dehydrated skin instead.
We found that we only needed to reapply once or twice a day to maintain soft skin. We also love that it’s fragrance-free and gentle enough to use on sensitive skin as well. However, the product claims to reduce the appearance of discoloration, but we didn’t see much of a difference.
Price at time of publish: $25
Key Ingredients: Vitamin E, ceramides, jojoba wax | Scented: No | Size: 3 oz
Best for Aging Hands: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Hand Therapy
What We Love: The anti-aging cream plumps crepey-looking skin and replaces it with a soft and moisturized finish. What We Don’t Love: The dispenser doesn’t always pump out a consistent amount of product.
What We Love: The anti-aging cream plumps crepey-looking skin and replaces it with a soft and moisturized finish.
What We Don’t Love: The dispenser doesn’t always pump out a consistent amount of product.
Here to plump crepey-looking skin and moisturize hands is the multi-tasking Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Hand Therapy. Hydration is a key component to slowing down the effects of aging, so daily use of hand cream like this one, designed by a brand known for its holistic approach to beauty and aiding a graceful journey through aging, to tackle discoloration, dark spots, and visible veins on the tops of hands, will work wonders. The silky cream made of shea butter, phospholipids, and glycine, visibly hydrated our skin, making the tops of our hands look puffier (in the best way possible), and evened out our skin tone over the testing period as well.
One of our editors, who is also a new mom and washes her hands frequently throughout the day, said that this cream left her skin feeling extremely smooth and soft (not unlike newborn baby skin).
While the pump can be a little flimsy (we were sometimes a little frustrated with how inconsistently it dispensed product), once the product is out, it feels mild on skin and absorbs quickly, leaving a matte finish.
Price at time of publish: $29
Key Ingredients: Shea butter, phospholipids, glycine | Scented: No | Size: 2 oz
Best for Eczema: Skinfix Eczema Hand Repair Cream
What We Love: Daily use of this hand cream not only healed our current flare-up, but also prevented future ones from appearing, despite our cold climate. What We Don’t Love: The cream is very thick and takes some time to fully absorb.
What We Love: Daily use of this hand cream not only healed our current flare-up, but also prevented future ones from appearing, despite our cold climate.
What We Don’t Love: The cream is very thick and takes some time to fully absorb.
This cream was specifically crafted to treat eczema, and we’re excited to report that it truly works. We haven’t experienced any flare-ups since we started to use this cream, which is especially noteworthy, as our editor’s palms were consistently red, itchy and inflamed at the start of the test. But after incorporating the cream into her daily routine, she says her hands have never looked better. Thanks to its inclusion of mollifying colloidal oatmeal, allantoin and sweet almond oil, the itchiness and irritation we felt from our dry skin disappeared within days.
Even better, our eczema-riddled hands didn’t sting or burn with this cream, as it often can with other medicated lotions. Instead, it provided immediate relief that lasted for hours, even after washing our hands.
There’s no overbearing scent either — just an incredible boost of healing moisture and much-needed relief, both physically and visually. However, to get the most out of this nutrient-dense cream, you have to let it settle into skin fully to avoid transferring any grease.
Price at time of publish: $20
Key Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, sweet almond oil | Scented: No | Size: 3 oz
Best Clean: Nécessaire The Hand Cream
What We Love: The formula is ultra-light, absorbing into skin within a matter of seconds. What We Don’t Love: It does not keep your hands feeling moisturized for as long as some of the other options on this list.
What We Love: The formula is ultra-light, absorbing into skin within a matter of seconds.
What We Don’t Love: It does not keep your hands feeling moisturized for as long as some of the other options on this list.
Are your hands really “clean” if you’re not using clean products? This hand cream passes Sephora’s clean and planet-positive standards, meaning that it operates in a sustainable manner and leaves out ingredients that are either harmful to the environment or the people. Dr. LoGerfo explains that this product is effective, thanks to its inclusion of peptides, “which are made up of amino acids, and act as part of the building blocks of skin, like collagen and elastin,” thereby restoring moisture to dry hands.
We loved how the thin, luxurious hand cream slid onto our skin like a velvet dream. Without being too watery, the ultra-lightweight lotion disappeared into skin within seconds, requiring no wait time before engaging in other activities. With a dense formula of vitamins C and E, the ointment works across skin types, even those with sensitive, reactive skin. It also removed any kind of roughness from our hands and left a well-nourished, softer and fuller palm in its place.
This option isn’t a heavy-duty cream for serious cases of dry skin, but rather, it’s an excellent everyday, preventative lotion, and you may find yourself needing to reapply a few times each day.
Price at time of publish: $20
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, marula oil, peptides | Scented: No | Size: 2.2 oz
Best Drugstore: Jergens Lavender Body Butter Body and Hand Lotion
What We Love: The value of this generously-sized bottle is unmatched, giving you tons of cream for a wallet-friendly price. What We Don’t Love: It’s too big to fit in your purse.
What We Love: The value of this generously-sized bottle is unmatched, giving you tons of cream for a wallet-friendly price.
What We Don’t Love: It’s too big to fit in your purse.
For designer quality but drugstore prices, the Jergens Lavender Body Butter Lotion delivers impressive results at a more attainable price point. This hand lotion is not only more affordable, but at seven ounces, offers more product as well. Perhaps the bottle is a little too big to bring around in a purse, but it’s ideal to keep on your bedside for routine application. It’s the perfect everyday product, as we found it to not be too overpowering, sticky, or heavy, and instead a simple nourishing product that can last a while.
While lavender and other essential oils work to soothe the skin, the scent simultaneously encourages the mind to relax as well. It didn’t cause any irritations on our skin, which was a big bonus. We loved how the consistency of the lotion is not too thin, not too thick, but rather a comfortable in-between instead. It absorbs quickly (~ ten seconds) and relieves any tight feelings almost instantly. Visually, our hands definitely looked softer than before. The effects easily last overnight (at least eight hours) and only need to be reapplied once or twice a day.
Price at time of publish: $8
Key ingredients: Glycerin, shea butter, lavender oil, petrolatum | Scented: Yes | Size: 7 oz
What to Keep in Mind
When shopping for the best hand creams, it’s important to pay close attention to the various ingredients in each product. You’ll notice that many of the mentioned products contain shea butter, which is useful as it's a natural ingredient rich in fatty acids and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, explains Dr. LoGerfo. “Shea butter has the ability to eliminate superficial irritation and redness. Vitamin F, which is found in shea butter, can also improve the skin barrier to moisturize, and heal the dermis.” This nutty ingredient can be found in the L'OCCITANE Shea Butter Hand Cream, Benton Shea Butter and Olive Hand Cream, and Jergens Lavender Body Butter Body and Hand Lotion.
Ceramides are another key element to fortify the skin barrier. It does its best work in heavy-duty creams, like the EltaMD So Silky Hand Crème, says New York City-based board certified dermatologist Dr. Claire Wolinsky. She adds that other ingredients, including petrolatum "helps reduce water loss, while glycerin and hyaluronic acid are all great moisturizing ingredients." Petrolatum can be found in the Vichy Ultra-Nourishing Hand Cream and Jergens Lavender Body Butter Body and Hand Lotion, while glycerin is found in the Fenty Skin Hydra'Reset Intensive Recovery Glycerin Hand Mask.
Ultimately, the goal is for your hands to simply feel better and softer after applying a hand cream. However, different skin types will need different types of nourishment and ingredients via a range of creamy textures. Those looking for preventative care might prefer lightweight formulas that feel thin and glide over the skin like melted butter, like Benton Shea Butter and Olive Hand Cream or Nécessaire's Hand Cream. People with cracked or excessively dry skin should opt for a heavy-duty cream with a thicker consistency, like the Skinfix Hand Repair Cream.
Scented hand creams can act as a subtle and sweet midday treat to your nose, particularly if the aroma is known for therapeutic properties, like the lavender in the Jergens Lavender Body Butter Body and Hand Lotion.
However, many may want to opt for creams without any added fragrance, just for the sake of avoiding potential irritants. The Grown Alchemist Hand Cream Vanilla Orange Peel, for example, smells naturally fresh, courtesy of the orange peel extract, while the Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Touch Hand Cream leans on the cupuaçu butter to produce a mild vanilla-like aroma.
Generally speaking, Dr. Wolinsky advises those with sensitive skin or noses to reach for fragrance-free options entirely, like the Skinfix Hand Repair Cream.
Your Questions, Answered
Is hand cream different from body lotion?
Yes. Overall, hand creams contain a higher concentration of hydrating oils or other more potent ingredients with strong moisturizing properties than body lotions, which tend to be watery.
While body lotions work with the natural oils our bodies already create, hand lotions need to provide that moisture. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Kseniya Kobets who practices in Westchester County, New York, explains that while our bodies produce natural sebum to protect our skin from dehydration, “the palms of our hands and soles of our feet are the only places on our body that do not have sebaceous glands."
She says this can be especially tricky for hands, as they are constantly “interacting with irritants like soaps, detergents, and hand sanitizers, thus getting weathered even further," making hands more vulnerable to drying out than the rest of our bodies. As a result, hand creams are designed to provide extra hydration specifically for this area, which other parts of the body might find a bit too thick or rich.
How often should you apply hand cream?
“The frequency with which you should apply hand cream is determined by how good your skin barrier function is,” explains Dr. Kobets. If your hands look and feel dry, you have eczema, or are in a profession that is very hands-on (literally), then she recommends moisturizing at least two to three times a day.
Dr. Wolinsky chimes in that “every time you wash your hands, you should apply hand cream to restore the skin barrier, particularly since when the skin is damp, moisturizers will be absorbed better.”
Other lotions that work more like a mask (take the Fenty Skin Hydra'Reset Intensive Recovery Glycerin Hand Mask, for example) can be applied once before sleep and should keep your skin well hydrated for the day.
Why Shop With Us
Bianca Kratky is a commerce writer at InStyle with over two years of experience covering fashion and beauty products. In order to write this article, she participated in testing out various hand creams herself. As someone with dry hands and the need for constant reapplication, she knows what kind of textures and creams are the most effective in moisturizing your hands. She also consulted board certified dermatologists Dr. Claire Wolinsky, Dr. Kseniya Kobets, and nurse practitioner, Dr. Jodi LoGerfo, to provide a medical perspective on hand creams.
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