The best hand creams, according to dermatologists

Tanya Edwards, CNN Underscored
Thu March 26, 2020

The spread of coronavirus across the globe means that a lot of us are spending more time washing our hands, using stronger soaps and hand sanitizer, and adding more cleaning products into the mix.

What's that mean for our hands? Well, they may be extra dry and flaky as a result. And it's still technically winter, which doesn't help skin that is yearning for moisture and hydration either.

To figure out the best treatments, we went to the experts and spoke with dermatologists about very best hand creams to soothe and moisturize your hands. Whether you're already a hand cream addict, or this whole regular moisturizing thing is brand new territory, our experts have you covered.

Key ingredients to look for

Moisturizers for the hands, like moisturizers for other areas, ideally contain three components: humectants, emollients and occlusives, explains Dr. Hadley King, a New York City-based dermatologist. "Ceramides and filaggrin are the building block proteins for locking moisture in and keeping the outside environment out," says Dr. Caren Campbell, a San Francisco-based dermatologist.

EltaMD So Silky Hand Crème ($19; amazon.com)

EltaMD So Silky Hand Crème

King shared this favorite, saying, "The formula combines ceramides, emollients and vitamin E to nourish dry skin, and sclareolide, a plant-derived ingredient that helps to lighten dark spots."

_______________________________________________________________________________

Eau Thermale Avène Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream ($15; amazon.com)

Eau Thermale Avène Cold Cream Concentrated Hand Cream

King says she's a big fan because this cream is "fast-absorbing and paraben free." She also said, "Their studies showed that it lasts through five hand washings," which is the energy we need from a hand cream right now.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Cetaphil Pro Eczema Soothing Moisturizer ($11.92, originally $15.99; amazon.com)

Cetaphil Pro Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

"This is a great lotion for many patients, particularly those with normal to dry skin," says Campbell.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Creams over lotions

Another tip: You're usually better off with a cream than a lotion. "Creams are always best for those with extra dry skin over lotions, as they contain more of the moisturizing ingredients and less water," says Campbell. "Lotions contain more water than creams." And remember, she says, "White cotton gloves can also be worn at night to help keep lotions and creams on the hands and prevent them from rubbing off."

Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn ($14; bloomingdales.com)

Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn

This anti-aging cream is one of King's favorites. "It combines sea buckthorn fruit to lighten dark spots and argan and meadowfoam seed oils to hydrate and moisturize without feeling greasy," she says. "And the SPF 40 protects your exposed skin from UV damage."

_______________________________________________________________________________

Soap & Glory Hand Food ($6.99; target.com)

Soap & Glory Hand Food

This best-selling Target fave can soothe dry hands with shea butter and macadamia oil. While it's packaged in a tube, it feels like it was scooped from a tub of butter.

_______________________________________________________________________________

L'Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm ($36; sephora.com)

L'Occitane Shea Butter Intensive Hand Balm

This luxurious balm melts into hands and nails when it's massaged in and is packed with a shea butter formulation that promises to nurture and protect dry, damaged skin.

_______________________________________________________________________________

The secret ingredient for extremely dry skin

"A lot of people with dry skin don't realize they also have a problem shedding the dead top layer of skin," says Dr. Clarissa Yang, dermatologist-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center. "So a secret ingredient I always look for is an exfoliating agent like salicylic, glycolic or lactic acid."

AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion ($12.97, originally $15.99; amazon.com)

AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

This classic still packs a punch and is a dermatologist fave. "I recommend this for my patients who need gentle exfoliation and hydration," Campbell says.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Yogurt Body Lotion, Pack of 3 ($18.57; amazon.com)

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Yogurt Body Lotion

You'll say "ahh Aveeno" when you coat your hands — and probably the rest of your body — with the nutrient-rich yogurt blend, which is blended with lactic acid for exfoliation.

_______________________________________________________________________________

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream Daily Face and Body Moisturizer ($17.21; amazon.com)

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream Daily Face and Body Moisturizer

This daily cream "contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid and is perfect for patients with very dry skin," says Campbell.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Working hands

Whether at home or at a workplace, hands that are getting dirty doing chores or cooking — or just getting dirty — are going to need something extra, like "barrier ingredients like paraffin to keep moisture locked in," says Campbell. Yang likes to see particular occlusives, or moisturizing agents, in the ingredient list, too.

"Occlusives are much more oil-based, they help by trapping the water the humectants draw up and preventing it from evaporating," says Yang. "Lanolin, petrolatum and beeswax are common ones."

O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream Value Size ($11.96; amazon.com)

O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream Value Size

This has been a moisture barrier builder for working hands for years. Campbell recommends it because "it contains barrier ingredients like paraffin to keep moisture locked in."

_______________________________________________________________________________

Burt's Bees Almond & Milk Hand Cream ($8.69; target.com)

Burt's Bees Almond & Milk Hand Cream

Sweet almond oil and vitamin E work to restore moisture to dry hands, while beeswax locks in moisture.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Gold Bond Ultimate Intensive Healing Hand Cream ($3.89; amazon.com)

Gold Bond Ultimate Intensive Healing Hand Cream

This healing cream offers amazing bang for the buck, using petrolatum to help restore smooth, soft, healthy skin.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve ($23; sephora.com)

Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

This salve is designed for hard-working hands, and has wax-based properties that form a protective barrier on the skin, leaving the hands feeling soft.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.