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The Best Hand Creams (and Hand-Care Hacks), According to Professional Hand Models

Jason Alexander as George Costanza in every hand model’s favorite episode of Seinfeld. Photo: Sony Pictures Television

Pay attention to advertising and you’ll realize that hand models are everywhere: holding that cell phone, gripping that leather steering wheel, showcasing that iced mocha. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into making those hands camera-ready — hand models are naturally very serious about their skin-care regimens.

“As a hand model, hand cream is part of your tool kit,” says hand model Philip Hersh. The qualities a hand model looks for in a hand cream are a little more specific than what the average consumer would think of. The hand models we spoke with seemed primarily concerned with three things: no shine, fast absorption, and overall feel. (“No shine” because their hands are being photographed under bright studio lights.) To compile this list we reached out to some of the best “parts” agencies in the country, who put us in touch with their top hand models. (From Parts Models in NYC: Christina Ambers, Ellen Sirot, RayMartell Moore, Jacinda Motton, Likai Lai, and Davide Illiano. From Closeup Models Agency in L.A.: Iris Hill and Philip Hersh. And from Star Touch Agency in L.A.: Ariel Paredes). Below are the best hand creams according to our nine hand-model experts, and we also included some hand-model hacks that you’ve probably never heard of before (think: emu oil, hand masks, and soursop seed serum).

Hand creams recommended by at least two hand models

When we first set out to write this article, we were expecting all of the hand models to be in on some super-obscure, insider-only hand cream, but the cream that came up the most was the humble drugstore staple, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter lotion. “The old standby has always been Palmer’s cocoa butter, I always go back to that,” says hand model Christina Ambers. Hand model RayMartell Moore likes Palmer’s a lot, too. “I just find myself really appreciating their products,” he says.

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula is another drugstore standout that a few models mentioned. Hand model Ariel Paredes told us this is her go-to when her hands are feeling really dry and need a richer moisturizer. “It’s not oily, but it’s very thick and concentrated,” she says. “It takes a good 15 minutes to absorb, so I only use it when I have time to let it soak in.” Paredes keeps a tube of the Neutrogena in her car as a way to make good use of time stuck in L.A. traffic, and she’ll often apply it as she’s driving to set for a job. “I rub it in, get it all around my cuticles, and then when I arrive my hands look baby soft.”

Ambers likes to be prepared for anything that might come up when she’s on set, so she usually shows up with a selection of her favorite hand creams. Aesop Resurrection hand balm is one of her favorites. “The smell is so nice and relaxing,” she says, so if it’s a particularly stressful shoot she can take a quick break, breathe it in, and it’s like aromatherapy. It looks great on camera, too — “It’s matte but also slightly dewy.” Hand model Likai Lai loves Aesop, too, but she actually prefers to use their body balm on her hands because she finds it “even more moisturizing.”

Paredes told us that this Chanel hand cream is a favorite of the on-set manicurists. (Commercial hand-model shoots will almost always have an on-set professional manicurist — there’s no need for “hair and makeup” when the focus is on the hands). It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any shine or residue, so it “photographs well.” It also has a nice subtle fragrance, which Ambers likes. “I feel comfortable using it on the subway — I think it’s rude to use anything with a strong smell when you’re on the train.”

Hand models Philip Hersh and Davide Illiano both mentioned this hand cream from Burt’s Bees. Hersh often does his own “market research” by asking manicurists and models what their favorite low-oil lotions are, and he says this one comes up a lot and it’s a great, affordable option.

Hand creams recommended by one hand model

The on-set manicurists are always trying out new products, so it’s a great way for the models to learn what’s out there. Paredes recently learned about this Jurlique hand cream while a manicurist got her camera-ready: “It’s thicker and absorbs quickly, which is good because you don’t want anything that’s going to be too greasy or shiny when you’re on set. You want to be moisturized but not shiny because it reflects off the camera.”

“The thing with hands is they’re the fastest aging body part because the skin is so thin. It’s really delicate, like the skin around our eyes,” says hand model Ellen Sirot. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and my hands are still ‘aged’ in their 20s.” Sirot credits her hand care regimen and the products she uses, especially this anti-aging hand cream from Perlier. “It takes everything we know about skin care and it really puts significant anti-aging ingredients into a hand cream: peptides, collagen, hyaluronic acid. It helps with cell turnover and returning ‘bounce’ to the skin.”

For Hersh, the most important thing to look for in a hand cream is a low oil content. “If you’re using a lotion that’s heavy in oils, your hands are going to shine — especially under the studio lights. You want something that absorbs well and makes the skin look nice and healthy and vibrant, but you want to stay away from too much oil because of the sheen.” Not all oils are bad — some oils are great for the skin — but the key is finding the right balance. Hersh says the Kiehl’s hand salve hits that sweet spot, and that’s why he’s been using it for years. “When I find something that works, I stick with it.”

Ambers likes this as a regular moisturizing hand cream, and as a bonus it has SPF 25 sun protection. It’s not as heavy-duty as the SPF 100 listed below, but it will work well for moderate sun exposure. It also “smells amazing,” according to Ambers.

This one is obviously more on the “luxury” end of the spectrum, but Ambers says it’s worth it. She loves the whole line, and uses their lotions and makeup too. “Whatever magic they put in those products, they must have put it in the hand cream.” It has a “cumulative effect” that she really appreciates: “It plumps up the skin, and the more I use it, the better my skin looks.”

Davide Illiano takes this Body Shop hand cream with him wherever he goes. “I use it when I have castings, or if I’m just feeling a little bit dry. I love it a lot.” He likes the “nice coconut smell,” but the more important part is the moisturizing coconut oil. “It also really helps with my cuticles,” says Illiano, “which is important because clients are looking up-close at that.”

Hand-model hacks

While all of the hand models — with the exception of one — recommend sticking with low-oil lotions and creams during the day, a bunch of them are actually big on using certain oils as overnight treatments. Some were almost hesitant to talk about it at first — hand modeling is a very competitive industry, and skin-care regimens are understandably closely guarded, especially when it’s something like this that goes against conventional wisdom.

Christina Ambers loves all the various hand creams she told us about, but if she had to choose only one product to use on her hands, it would be this all-natural face serum from Choiselle — it’s her secret weapon. “I have to compete with the younger and younger crowd everyday,” says Ambers. “I originally bought this for my face and I really liked what it was doing, so I tried it on my hands.” She noticed the effect right away. “It plumped up the skin on my hands. The color became more even, it almost looked like I was wearing a little bit of foundation.” She thinks some of the “magic” comes the soursop seed oil. “I’m Fillipino, and my mother always swore that soursop was a miracle ingredient. There must be something to it.” Ambers applies a few drops of the serum to her hands every night, and she also uses it in the morning before shoots.

While a lot of the hand models incorporate oils into their skin-care routines, RayMartell Moore is the only one we spoke with who has sworn off lotions entirely. He started using LaRose’s face oil on his hands a few months ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. (And yes, in case you’re wondering: that’s Moore’s hand holding the bottle in the photo). It certainly works as a makeup remover and face oil, says Moore, but it’s perfect for the hands as well. Moore’s loves that it’s made in small batches, and that it’s all-natural with high-quality ingredients like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, argan oil, and pomegranate oil. Moore doesn’t know what he would do without this product: “No matter where I am, this oil is with me.” And he thinks his hands have never looked better. “My hands and nails look noticeably healthier. It’s like food for the skin — as oil is.”

That’s right: emu oil. For hands. “I was looking for something to treat wrinkles and spots,” says hand model Iris Hill, who learned about the benefits of emu oil through doing some of her own research. Then, she tested it out. “I ‘guinea-pigged’ it by putting the oil on just one hand to see if it made a difference, and it really did. The lines were really less apparent, and my left hand looked more plump than my right hand.” It’s intense stuff, so Hill only uses it the night before a shoot. She only uses a drop or two on each hand, and then puts on nitrile gloves “so it can really sink in overnight,” and also to prevent making a mess. She uses Montana Emu Ranch oil because it’s all-natural and high quality.

“If I was going to give a tip to anyone who really wanted to change their hands, I’d say, ‘Incorporate natural aloe,’” says Davide Illiano. “The aloe you buy at the drug store is drying because it has alcohol on it,” but pure aloe is actually quite moisturizing. “It’s not neon green. It’s brown because it’s all-natural.” He puts this gel on his hands every night before bed. “It locks everything in and any dryness is gone the next day.” Illiano uses it a night because it leaves a thin film as it dries, but it easily washes off with some water in the morning. “It’s also great as a spot treatment for any cuts or irritation,” he adds. “It’s my secret weapon for everything.”

Likai Lai likes to spray this rosewater and glycerin mixture on her hands before she applies cream. She says it’s refreshing, and it helps “seal in the moisture under the cream.”

There’s a stereotype that hand models are a little paranoid and overprotective of their hands. (David Duchovny’s cameo in Zoolander as a hand model who walks around with his forearm encased in a pressurized tank comes to mind). It is true, however, that a lot of hand models wear gloves to protect their hands from the sun — at the very least, a sunburn can lose you a job, and then of course there’s discoloration and aging. Sun gloves are a bit extreme for the average person, but a more approachable option would be to make sure and apply sunblock to your hands. Philip Hersh and Ellen Sirot both recommend this Neutrogena sunscreen, and it’s great on the rest of your body, too.

In case you weren’t aware, hand masks are also a thing. Hill first learned about these Bodipure keratin gloves from celebrity manicurist Jolene Brodeur. “We did an eight-day Samsung job, and she’d have us use these before a manicure instead of soaking our hands in water,” explains Hill, who now buys these gloves in bulk and puts them on whenever she’s en route to a shoot. That way she just takes the gloves off when she arrives and her hands are nice and hydrated. “I think it would be a great thing to do at home, too,” she adds. “Slide it on and drink some wine, something quick and easy.”

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Hand-Care Secrets, According to Professional Hand Models