Let’s make a shortlist of some things that dry your hands, or that age the hands’ skin faster than natural.
There’s hot water, long showers, cold temps, dry winds, intense labor, excessive sanitizing or washing, toxins and pollution in the air… there’s no need to go on; you get the picture. It seems like everything, left and right, is trying to compromise the softness and smoothness of your precious hands — especially at the height of winter, and especially during a pandemic.
This means more hangnails, more cracked knuckles, more scaly patches of skin, more agony overall unless you’re dedicated to the counterattack and defense. And there’s a single solution for both of those: A nutrient-dense hand cream (or balm), that resuscitates dry skin and prevents it from falling out of form again.
Below are seven of our absolute favorites, at any time of year — pandemic or otherwise.
Grown Alchemist Hand Cream
Best Overall Hand Cream
This citrus- and vanilla-tinged hand cream utilizes oils of rosehip, grapeseed, and orange peel as well as vitamin E to defend hands from signs of aging (the antioxidants reduce oxidative stress). Lactic acid breaks down rough patches and aloe vera soothes upon contact. It delivers on its promise to soften cuticles, too, and is free of any dense residue after it quickly soaks in.
Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm
Best Upgrade Hand Cream
Does any other hand cream (or balm, for that matter) belong atop this list? No. Aesop has enjoyed a long reign here, so much so that there’s a feverish cult of people (millions of them) who proudly display this stuff in their bathroom like it’s a Warhol or something. It smells incredible, first of all (citrusy crisp, herbaceous and woody), thanks to the trio of hero ingredients: mandarin rind, rosemary leaf and cedar. There’s gravity to each application, and you can feel that weight (in a good way) as it seeps into your driest knuckles, most cracked cuticles, and roughest patches. Gone are the hangnails, the uncomfortable cracks, and uneven texture. And gone is your Aesop hand balm if you don’t keep close watch over your house guests.
Lather Hand Therapy
Best Affordable Hand Cream
Lather’s cream targets extreme dryness, and is engineered for people who find that fragrant products aggravate their skin—though it’s perfect for everyone else, too. With a shea butter base, along with cocoa seed butter, olive fatty acids, plus oils of safflower, lavender oat, tea tree, and more, it focuses on the necessary nourishment of your skin, and not the unnecessary flourishings of scent and dye.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Hand Cream
Antioxidants abound in Dr. Barbara Sturm’s sturdy hand cream, in the form of purslane and vitamin E. They prevent everyday aging while hyaluronic acid supercharges moisture retention, daisy extract evens out skin tone, prickly pear and aloe vera soothe, and a ceramide complex envelops the skin to lock the good in, and the bad out.
Triumph & Disaster Restoration Balm
A rousing trip of patchouli, smoke, and wood lingers on T&D’s balm, which has a shea butter base and a host of nourishing oils and extracts, from sunflower and goji seeds to dragon’s blood resin and kawakawa (hey, we had to look it up, too — it’s a tree in New Zealand, which is from where Triumph & Disaster itself hails). It spreads on like butter, then soaks in fast like… melted butter. This 16-ounce bottle goes a long way, too, even if you’re washing and hydrating frequently each day.
Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream
Nothing sucks more than a hangnail. And nothing procures hangnails more than overwashing, excessive sanitizing, and cold, dry temps. Furthermore, most hand creams target one or both of these things, without focusing on the nails themselves—and those guys need nourishment and fortification, too! (And no biotin supplement will do damage control to the nail that’s already grown.) Clarins’ shea butter formula also uses extract of myrrh (yes, one of the gifts that Newborn Baby Jesus got, lucky you), to resurrect your dry mitts, prevent and restore hangnails and buff and strengthen and soften your fingernails themselves — all in one fell swoop.
Alo Glow System Super Fruit Body Lotion
The yoga-gear extraordinaires are becoming skincare yogis as well, and have launched a small but strong assortment of face and body nourishers. The best of the bunch is this all-over lotion, which smells subtly of fresh vanilla. It’s enriched with argan and coconut oil, as well as soothing aloe vera, and you know if all these active, well-centered yogis are hyped on it, then it’s bound to help you balance your skin’s moisture levels too, and to restore hydration and softness overnight, or throughout the day.