A quality hand cream is a must — especially if you’re a frequent hand-washer or have naturally dry skin. It helps to keep skin moisturized, which not only leaves hands and cuticles soft and supple, but also reduces the likelihood of the skin on your hands cracking and splitting. Unlike normal lotions, which are meant for the entire body, hand creams are thicker and contain a higher concentration of oil. “Hand creams are thicker because hand skin is thicker,” says certified dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal. “It requires more oils and lipids to restore moisture.”
I didn’t really get into hand cream until 2020, when I’d started washing my hands with impressive frequency. It wasn’t too long before I realized my body lotion wasn’t going to cut it, especially on the go. Nearly three years — and lots of hand creams — later, I’ve become well-versed in what makes a good one. And for the things I haven’t tried, I’ve polled dermatologists, manicurists, and Strategist staffers who take their hand care routines very seriously about their favorites.
What we’re looking for
The skin on your hand is thicker, and thus calls for more intense moisturizers. Many of the creams on this list contain multiple key moisturizing ingredients (our top pick contains seven!), which we’ve noted — along with any additional skin-care benefits like vitamin C (a brightening antioxidant) or lactic acid (a gentle yet effective exfoliant).
Whether you want a hand cream that acts as an extension of your fragrance wardrobe or prefer something unscented, we’ve noted it below.
The creams on this list range in price — from a luxe fragrant option that’ll run you $100 to a cheap drugstore pick that won’t cost you more than $5. In case cost is a factor, we’ve noted how much you’re getting in each tube, as well as the cost per ounce.
Best hand cream overall
Active ingredients: Peptides | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 2.2 ounces (Approx. $9/ounce)
When thinking of a hand cream that works well for most people, I kept a few things in mind. First (and most importantly), how effectively it moisturizes. I also considered hand-feel (non-greasy or sticky) and if it has any extras, like vitamin C or peptides to enhance skin. This one from Necessaire ticks all the boxes, and converted me into a verifiable hand-cream person. It’s the standard by which I rank all others. I’m currently on my third tube and hoard them whenever I can. It’s virtually perfect: rich and moisturizing without being greasy, no strange residue after it dries down. My hands still feel like, well, my hands, just more supple and moisturized. A peek at the ingredients list reveals lots of good-for-skin ingredients like peptides, niacinamide, vitamin C, and vitamin E. The packaging is also worth mentioning. It takes cues from Aesop’s statusy aluminum tubes, which not only looks cool as you continue to crush it as it gets used up, but makes for a fairly sturdy construction. And at $20, it’s a bit more expensive than the $5 lotion you might find at a drugstore, but it’s a small luxury that’s completely worth it.
Best less-expensive hand cream
Active ingredients: Vitamin E, vitamin C | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 3 ounces (Approx. $1/ounce)
For a more affordable option, I recommend this hand cream from Gold Bond, which is only $4 and punches well above its weight. It has a lotion-y consistency that sinks in easily and has a few key ingredients like vitamin E and vitamin C. Both help to protect skin from environmental stressors, particularly UV rays. Even though it doesn’t contain SPF, I like that it offers a bit of protection, especially since it’s easy to forget to apply (let alone reapply) sunscreen to hands. It’s also a favorite of Dr. Lal, who likes that it doesn’t need to be used too often. “It lasts through hand washes,” he says.
Best luxury hand cream
Active ingredients: Glycerin, rose wax, jojoba, licorice root | Fragrance: Rose, iris | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $32/ounce)
This splurge-worthy hand cream from Chanel was the most recommended of every hand cream on this list — and has been written about before here at the Strategist and by our friends at the Cut. When we spoke to hand models about their favorite hand creams, they mentioned that the Chanel Hand Cream is an on-set manicurist favorite. “It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave any shine or residue, so it ‘photographs well,’” says hand model Ariel Paredes. Celebrity nail artist Trenna Seney (who has lots of on-set experience) is also a fan. She likes that it is lightweight but moisturizing and has a “soft, floral scent.” One of its main moisturizing ingredients is glycerin, a humectant that draws moisture from the atmosphere to hydrate and soften the skin.
Best hand cream for very dry hands
Active ingredients: Lanolin, shea butter, vitamin E, coconut oil | Fragrance: Coconut | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $9/ounce)
We’re longtime fans of lanolin here at the Strategist. The sheep-derived oil is a popular moisturizing ingredient, especially in diaper and nipple creams (many moms have recommended it to us in articles past). Of all the brands that make lanolin-infused products, Lano is probably the most ubiquitous. Its 101 Ointment is a staple for people with extremely dry skin, so it stands to reason that it makes a solid hand cream too. It uses triple the amount of lanolin along with vitamin E and shea butter for even more moisturizing properties. Despite the rich ingredients, it’s not the least bit greasy. “It has absolutely zero residue,” says beauty expert Dawn Davis, “and somehow lasts through handwashing.” Davis is partial to the coconut version (which also includes coconut oil), but if that doesn’t appeal, there are three other scents to choose from.
Best hand cream for extremely dry hands
Active ingredients: Glycerin, paraffin | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 2.7 ounces (Approx. $3/ounce)
This popular hand cream from O’Keeffe’s has been called a “miracle worker.” It’s one of the most popular hand creams on Amazon (it has over 6,500 five-star reviews and counting), with reviewers crediting the cream with making the hands baby-smooth. The magic is in the ultra-concentrated ingredients, which include glycerin and dimethicone, a popular and effective skin protectant. It creates a barrier on skin and draws moisture in and also stops moisture from leaving skin.
Best hand cream for aging hands
Active ingredients: Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, SPF 20 | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 2.7 ounces (Approx. $3/ounce)
Hands age as you get older, and while moisturizing well can help to minimize signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, if you’re particularly concerned, a hand cream with added skin-care benefits can help. This one from Gold Bond is a favorite of former Strategist writer Chloe Anello, who likes that it contains ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, which is good for dark spots and hyperpigmentation. “Both help repair the skin while protecting it from further sun damage,” she says. It’s also thick, so a little goes a long way.
Best hand cream with SPF
Active ingredients: Coconut oil, shea butter, aloe, zinc oxide, titanium oxide, SPF 15 | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $16/ounce)
Hands can experience the same levels of UV damage as the rest of the body, and since they have less fat tissue than the face, they can begin to look wrinkled sooner. A hand cream with SPF can help to protect your hands. Anello, who burns easily, likes this hand cream from Unsun, which apparently kicked off her obsession with SPF-filled hand creams — so much so that she’s on her third tube. It contains shea butter, aloe, and coconut oil to nourish and moisturize, along with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, physical blockers that protect from UV damage by bouncing the sun rays off the skin.
Best hand cream for dry, flaky skin
Active ingredients: Lactic acid (15%) | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 4.9 ounces (Approx. $3/ounce)
If you deal with dry, flaky skin, Dr. Lal recommends this cream from Amlactin, which contains lactic acid. “It gently exfoliates and hydrates at the same time,” says Lal. Lactic acid increases cell turnover and helps to make skin look smoother overall. Even though it can be used on the entire body, its thick consistency makes it particularly good for hands.
Best hand cream for eczema
Active ingredients: 2% Colloidal oatmeal | Fragrance: Fragrance-free | Price: 3 ounces (Approx. $1.6/ounce)
Our beauty columnist Rio discovered this hand cream during the height of COVID, when she was washing her hands upwards of ten times a day. It healed her dry eczema patches in just a few days thanks to ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, aloe, and vitamin E. “It has a thick, hydrating texture,” she says of the consistency, which works well to soothe dry patches and irritation.
Best-smelling hand cream
Active ingredients: 2% Colloidal oatmeal | Fragrance: Citrus-woody | Price: 3 ounces (Approx. $1.6/ounce)
For a nice-smelling hand cream, parts model Christina Ambers recommends this one from Aesop, which has a citrusy-woody scent that she describes as “nice and relaxing.” It doubles as a quick aromatherapy session on stressful days (all you have to do is take a deep breath!) and makes hands look good on-camera too. “It’s matte but also slightly dewy,” says Ambers.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.