We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
If you have extremely, ridiculously dry hands, you are not alone. Lots of things can leave your skin parched, cracked, or even bleeding, including frequent handwashing, hand sanitizer use, cold or windy weather, or certain skin conditions.
Reading: Best lotion for extremely dry hands
Most things in your life aren’t within your control, but this one is — so get a hand cream that’s actually effective.
“As the temperatures get colder and there’s less humidity in the air, combined with brisk winds as well as indoor heating, which is usually quite dry, all of those things make us lose more moisture from our skin into the air,” said Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. “Hands are exposed to the elements more than some other body areas, and then the more that we’re washing them and using hand sanitizer, that can dry out the skin as well.”
As with any purchase, you want to be thoughtful and do your research before assuming that all hand creams are the same or that the priciest options are best. Some popular lotions and moisturizers actually contain ingredients that could make your hands feel worse.
Also Read: Why do I get stretch marks so easily
“Dermatologists are always going to tell you to avoid fragrance and essential oils,” said Dr. Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist with boutique offices in Napa and San Francisco. “All that stuff is more potential for irritation and allergy.”
Dr. King agrees that fragrances and essential oils are a hard no, explaining that while essential oils can be used as a “natural” fragrance, they can be sensitizing and a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis, especially in skin that’s already raw or cracked. So as much as you may love a sweet-smelling hand cream, it’s best to sacrifice scent if you’re looking for maximum hydration.
Unfortunately for all of you diligent hydrators, Campbell also debunked the myth that drinking water will moisturize your skin from the inside out. (Don’t let that stop you from drinking water. You should still hydrate.) However, there are other ways to supplement a great hand cream when it comes to boosting and protecting your skin’s moisture levels.
To maintain your overall skin and hand health, it can help to sleep with a humidifier in your room and apply hand lotions with a barrier such as dimethicone right after you wash your hands, every time, Campbell said. “If things take off and you’re itchy and there’s a rash and skin is cracked open, sometimes you need a high-potency topical steroid for your hands, so seeing your dermatologist for a prescription is a good idea.”
King suggests looking for the ideal trifecta of components in any moisturizing product: humectants, emollients, and occlusives.
Also Read: Hair growth shampoo for men
Humectants are mostly low-molecular-weight substances that bind water into the stratum corneum (that outer layer of the skin). “Those are great,” King said, “but you always need to use those in combination with the other components to retain the water content, because otherwise they actually can dry the skin out more.”
Emollients, which are saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons that help the function of the skin barrier, lead to an overall improvement in skin texture and appearance. Occlusives, which are oils and waxes that form an inert layer on the skin, can block water loss from the skin.
Some examples of emollients that you can look for on an ingredient list include cholesterol, squalane, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and ceramides, while occlusives will look more like petrolatum, beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin, and zinc oxide.
The best hand creams should have that perfect marriage of these three ingredients to lock in moisture and create that protective barrier to avoid as much damage as possible from all of the cold wind, dry heat, and disinfecting.
To help save you time breaking down ingredient lists and money wasted on trendy but subpar lotions, these are some expert-approved products to help make the next few months slightly more bearable.
Also Read: Cute braids for black girls