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Hands are the most used, touched, felt, feeling and decorated body parts and yet we lavish the least love on them. We wash them in hot water, we scrub things with them, we garden, we hold, and while we slather sunscreen on our faces, we expose those hands straight to the sun. The time has come to grant them long overdue attention and to that end we have conducted an unscientific but very thorough survey of what is out there now. Are the old faithfuls still up to the task? Who are the newbies and how do they hold up? What are the cult products we hear about from other corners of the globe?
In test-driving the salves and lotions we chose by feel, scent and efficacy. And a final note before the big reveal, our favorites fell into two categories: hand creams for quick, on-the-go application and nighttime really soak-it-in lavishness. Based on these criteria, we came up with our top picks and the suggestion that you keep one by the bed, one in the car, one by the kitchen sink and one in your purse!
The Overnight Wonders:
This is THE cult Japanese everything cream for lips, elbows, hands, you name it. It goes on slick, almost silken and glove-like, with a potent camphor scent - think Noxzema from the 80s - and it takes a solid 20 minutes to sink in. This legend is a glycerin-based mix of vitamins B2 and E, founded in 1957 by a Japanese pharmacist as a smoother alternative to the petroleum products available for extreme dry skin at the time. This is definitely nighttime special. We would even apply it to eyes and lips and noses with colds when you're tucking in. It goes on strong and thick with that un-mistakable scent, but given time it smoothes out every dry, rough or chapped spot like magic, and the smell disappears completely.
This is an English brand that's only recently cropped up in the US in spas and the like and their hand lotion really lives up to its name. The fragrance is a light white flower blend that recedes quickly while the cream itself does the trick with Milk Protein, Avellana seed oil, Camellia and other seed oils for deep moisturizing without any stickiness or oiliness. We liked it best as a nighttime whole hand and nails drench before bed to wake up to very soft hands!
The packaging! The gorgeous coconut scent! This one is rich, rich, rich. It applies like a classic butter cream and covers the hands in triple lanolin and coconut oil with no artificial nothing. This one goes in the keep-by-the-bedside column, as it's not a squeeze on and go product. We would recommend applying a dime to nickel size at night and just luxuriate in the scent as you drift off, and awaken to very soft hands!
On-the-fly Must Haves:
The name would imply something too thick for a quick turnaround but this one is lighter than we anticipated and absorbs very quickly. The scent is the winner here too. A woodsy Hinoki that finishes out to a wonderful clean scent, not too musky or too bracing. The shea butter, sweet almond oil and peony root are perfectly balanced for genuine softness without the heaviness of a traditional pomade.
This beauty sinks in almost instantaneously and thereby earns its keep as a purse and car cream. Slather it on and you can grip the steering wheel right away with no sticking or sliding. The scent is a mix of woody, citrus and herb - complex, but not overpowering once it's on. A mix of oils - sweet almond, coconut, macadamia, mandarin orange peel, cedar wood bark, lavender and sunflower, to name a few - is blended with shea butter for a medium-light texture. This one has been a go-to for us for years now.
This is the granddaughter of the moisturizer whisper-network cream when we were coming of age. Psst. I know it looks like your grandmother’s cream, but it works! The hallowed OG 8-hour cream, (a sort of petroleum jelly, but better and with a secret recipe) was for everything, lips, cheeks, eyes and hands. All the models use it is what they'd say. The cream then was too goopy for me, even though I wanted to love it. This version, formulated specifically for hands is actually amazing. It still smells like the old 8-hour cream, vaguely clinical in a clean way, with a top note of citronella. Butelyn glycol and dimethicone combine as humectants that attract water to the skin and Allantoin soothes and protects. This feels rich going on but absorbs quickly.
This one is courtesy of our Canadian neighbors and is their go-to for the cold and dry months. Here the key ingredients, chamomile, silicone and glycerin work well for moisturizing and soothing, as well as quick absorption. The cream dries smoothly and rapidly leaves hands very soft and almost silken, an effect of the silicone. The scent is fresh and almost medicinal in a very comforting, old school way and disappears within minutes.
This is an essential for the summer - we have now learned to obsess over SPF for face and body, but we really skip the hands. This cream is a perfect fix - it delivers a good strong SPF 40, but isn't too creamy or oily like traditional sunscreens for the body. The smell is subtle and clean with no trace of a chemical or chalky sunscreen scent or feel and it absorbs within a few moments. Argan Oil and Omegas provide rich moisture alongside the broad-spectrum sunscreen protection. We plan on having the pump size of this by the sink this summer and just applying and re-applying as needed.
To be honest, this one attracted us with its brilliant old-school German packaging - who can resist those hands? It quickly, however, earned its keep and moves with us from bag to bag this summer. Packed with Aloe Vera, Jojoba Oil, Urea, glycerin, bisabolol and panthenol this cream works on every level to soothe and moisturize - the urea even acts to plump up the skin - and goes a step further with antimicrobial properties which serve to protect from any infection. It has a light, barely-there scent, like a distant field of lily-of-the-valley. It soaks up instantly and leaves a perfect, soft finish.