These 12 Drugstore Hand Creams Can Soften and Smooth Super Dry Skin

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Hand cream may be something that you reach for only during the winter, but it really should be a year-round staple. Yes, cold, dry weather can leave your hands chapped, but it’s frequent hand-washing that tends to be the biggest culprit of dry hands. “The constant wet-dry cycle of frequent hand washing can strip the skin of its natural moisture and disrupt the protective barrier,” says dermatologist Dr. Peterson Pierre. For that reason, it’s important to slather on good hand cream after every hand washing session, he says.

And here’s the good news: You don’t have to spend big bucks for a good one. “Drugstore hand creams work just as well as their pricier counterparts,” says Dr. Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “Instead of looking at the cost, look at the ingredients.” More specifically, you want to look for humectants—ingredients that draw water to the skin, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin—coupled with occlusives, such as petrolatum, to help seal that moisture in.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Peterson Pierre is a board-certified dermatologist in Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Dr. Shereene Idriss is a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. She specializes in cosmetic dermatology and is known for giving candid skincare advice on her #pillowtalkderm sessions on Instagram stories.
  • Rachael Polowyj, MSc, is a cosmetic scientist at the U.K. chemical company IMCD.
  • Renée Rouleau is a celebrity esthetician and founder of the Renée Rouleau skincare brand.
  • Frank Lipman, MD, is an integrative and functional medicine physician based in NYC.
  • Dr. Y. Claire Chang is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, New York.

Here are the best drugstore hand creams to help leave your hands feeling incredibly soft and smooth.

Best Overall: CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream

CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream for Dry, Cracked Hands

Amazon

What We Like
  • Approved by the National Eczema Organization

  • Absorbs quickly

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel greasy

This is a top choice for Dr. Pierre, who lauds it for the use of ceramides and hyaluronic acid—two of his favorite ingredients. The formula is incredibly moisturizing (though still absorbs quickly) yet gentle and fragrance-free, making it a good choice for all skin types. So much so that it even touts the National Eczema Organization Seal of Acceptance.

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid | Size: 3 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Dove Body Love Fragrance-Free Hand Cream

Dove Body Love Fragrance-Free Hand Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Affordable

  • Results lasts for 48 hours

What We Don’t Like
  • Some may prefer something thicker

This pick checks all of our hand cream boxes—and then some. It strikes that ideal balance of imparting plenty of moisture but still absorbing in the blink of an eye without leaving behind any unwanted greasy residue. And even though it’s fragrance-free, it still has a pleasantly fresh and clean scent to it. We also like that it’s cruelty-free and comes in a portable tube.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, dimethicone | Size: 3 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Eczema: Cetaphil PRO Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

Cetaphil PRO Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Approved by the National Eczema Organization

  • Pump bottle

What We Don't Like
  • Bottle isn't travel-friendly

Dr. Pierre also likes this pick, a dual-purpose formula that works well for both body and hands if you’re prone to eczema flares. Credit the addition of colloidal oatmeal, known to help soothe the skin, as well as ceramides to help keep the skin barrier strong and healthy. It’s fragrance- and paraben-free and has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Approval.

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, colloidal oatmeal | Size: 10 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Eczema, Runner-Up: Eucerin Eczema Relief Hand Cream

Eucerin Eczema Relief Hand Cream

Walmart

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Travel-friendly

  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like
  • May not be enough for intense eczema

Another option that relies on colloidal oatmeal and ceramides, this hand cream is ideal for those with eczema or atopic dermatitis. It absorbs quickly without feeling greasy, and the small tube is the ideal size to keep on hand (pun intended) so that you slather it on after washing your hands anytime, anywhere.

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, colloidal oatmeal | Size: 2.7 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Extra Dry Hands: O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream

O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Affordable

  • Great for cracked skin

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to scoop out

Dr. Idriss says she loves this cream: “It really sinks into your hands and leaves them feeling super soft.”  Credit a combo of humectant glycerin plus dimethicone, an occlusive ingredient that essentially creates a seal in the skin to prevent moisture from escaping.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, dimethicone | Size: 2.7 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Extra Dry Hands, Runner-Up: Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Hand Cream

Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Hand Cream

Nubian Heritage

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to scoop out

Another mega-thick, mega-moisturizing option, this cream relies on shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, and jojoba oil (among other plant-based oils and butters). Still, reviewers say that it’s not greasy, despite how rich it is and goes on smoothly. FYI, while the fragrance in this is derived from essential oils, it is a bit polarizing among reviewers.

Active Ingredients: Plant-based oils and butters | Size: 4 oz. | Scent: Coconut, fruity | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Frequent Hand Washers: Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Extremely rich and thick

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don’t Like
  • Can feel greasy

Dr. Idriss is also a fan of this oldie-but-a-goodie pick, especially if you’re washing your hands a ton. “It’s a very thick, ointment-like hand cream that is great to minimize transepidermal water loss,” she explains. “If you wash your hands a lot, I recommend using this hand cream at night and then putting on a pair of gloves to lock it all in.” Also nice: A little goes a long way, so one tube can last up to 200 uses, according to the brand.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin | Size: 2 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Scent: Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Hand Cream

Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Hand Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Absorbs quickly

  • Made with recyclable packaging

  • Amazing scent

What We Don't Like
  • Tube doesn't last long

If your skin is easily irritated or sensitive, opting for a fragrance-free hand cream is a good idea. But if it’s not and you want a hand cream that smells amazing, this is the way to go. The slightly floral scent is delightful and lingers pleasantly without being cloying. And the formula is top-notch, too, with hydrating glycerin and plant-based butters and oils.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, murumuru butter | Size: 1 oz. | Scent: Floral/rose | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Multi-Tasking: Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Body Cream

Weleda Skin Food

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Amazing scent

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for sensitive skin

  • Pricier than some other drugstore options

This formula has been around since 1926 yet continues to be a best-selling product with a large following. It’s meant to be a do-it-all moisturizer for the face and body, though Idriss says it's a good option for dry hands as well. She lauds the spa-like scent, however, notes that if you have or are prone to eczema, it may be best to skip this one. Even though it’s free of synthetic fragrance, it does contain some natural ingredients and essential oils that can be irritating.

Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, beeswax | Size: 1 oz. | Scent: Floral| Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multi-Tasking, Runner-Up: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5 Body and Hand Lotion

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5 Body and Hand Lotion

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • A little goes a long way

  • Dermatologist-tested

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricier than some other drugstore options

Looking for one product that really can do it all? This is the option for you. The reparative balm is formulated to not only address dry skin but also help with minor skin irritations—think cuts, burns, and even diaper rash (it can be used in babies older than one week). The point is, there’s nothing it can’t do, and working as an effective hand cream is at the top of that list. Shea butter, panthenol, and glycerin all work together to help draw moisture too and seal the skin.

Active Ingredients: Dimethicone, shea butter, panthenol | Size: 1.3 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free |  Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

It also works great as a lip balm.

Best Anti-Aging: Beauty Pie Super Retinol Anti-Aging Hand Cream

Beauty Pie Super Retinol Anti-Aging Hand Cream

Beauty Pie

What We Like
  • Anti-aging

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for sensitive skin or pregnant individuals

Hands can give away your age faster than your face, notes Dr. Idriss, which is why she likes this youth-boosting hand cream. It does moisturize, however, its main goal is to help to reduce signs of aging such as wrinkles and uneven skin tone, thanks to the use of encapsulated retinol. Just save this for nighttime use (since the sun can inactivate retinol), and steer clear of it if you have more sensitive skin.

Active Ingredients: Retinol | Size: 2.5 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free |  Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Ointment: Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Ulta

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Travel-friendly

  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn't moisturize on its own

  • Can feel greasy

If hand creams alone aren’t cutting it, consider layering an ointment, like this one, on top and popping on a pair of cotton gloves overnight. While the formula in and of itself doesn’t contain any hydrating ingredients, it is incredibly occlusive, meaning it will help seal in both your skin’s natural moisture and that from any hand cream you layer underneath it. Not to mention you can also use it to dab onto dry cuticles, chapped lips, and other minor skin issues.

Active Ingredients: Petrolatum | Size: 1.75 oz. | Scent: Fragrance-free |  Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

There’s no shortage of awesome hand creams to be found at the drugstore. The CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream and Dove Body Love Fragrance-Free Hand Cream are our two top choices. The first one is so gentle that it has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Approval, while the second absorbs super fast and has a clean, fresh scent to it (despite being fragrance-free). Speaking of, if you’re not sensitive to fragrance, the Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Hand Cream has a sophisticated floral scent that’s almost as good as your favorite perfume—and is still very hydrating and nourishing. And if you’re looking for a formula that can do more than act as just a hand cream, consider the all-purpose La Roche-Posay Cicaplast, a rich balm that soothes dryness and all other kinds of minor skin irritations.

To get the most out of your drugstore hand cream, Dr. Pierre shares this advice: “After you wash your hands, pat them dry so they’re still a little damp and seal in that moisture with your favorite hand cream.”

What to Look For in Hand Cream

Shea Butter

Not only does shea butter moisturize your hands, but it also acts as an occlusive that can help protect them. Assisting with other moisturizing ingredients' abilities to stay on your hands makes it even more valuable in hand cream. Dermatologist Dr. Y. Claire Chang explains, "Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins."

Lanolin

Not only does lanolin help protect your skin from dryness and chapping, but it also has been proven to restore skin moisture. Physician Frank Lipman, MD, says that "it's soothing for dry, chapped skin and also protects against cold, harsh weather conditions." However, it's important to note that some people may have a lanolin allergy, so test products containing this ingredient on a small area of your skin before going wild with it.

Vitamin E

It's been around for ages in skincare products, and that's because of how beneficial it is. Vitamin E smooths skin while sealing in moisture. It can soothe skin from irritation and pollution, provide conditioning, and effectively moisturize your skin. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau says that it "helps to keep your skin's protective barrier intact. [Keeping it intact] can help seal up little cracks created in the skin's barrier that can cause moisture to escape and leave the skin feeling tight and dry."

Humectants

This category includes ingredients that add moisture to your skin. They often work best in tandem with occlusives like shea butter to help keep them sealed there. Humectants include hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Cosmetic scientist Rachael Polowyj says glycerin is "used a lot in pharmaceutical creams, promoted by doctors to treat extreme dryness and repair skin elasticity."

FAQ
  • What ingredients should I avoid in hand cream?

    If your skin is chapped, flaking, or peeling, tread lightly when it comes to harsh ingredients. Steering clear of ingredients like fragrance and BHA when your skin is thirsty can help keep it from drying out further.

  • Is fragrance in hand cream bad?

    Synthetic chemical fragrances may be irritating to broken skin, and there is potential that they may cause or worsen migraines for certain people. If you enjoy hand creams with strong scents, you may prefer to choose one that has a natural fragrance added from ingredients, such as rosemary or citrus oil, rather than synthetic scents.

  • Which cream is best for dry hands?

    If your hands are chronically dry or if they're enduring the effects of harsh weather, your best bet is to use a hand cream that has both humectants for moisture and occlusives to keep it retained there. Creams that contain emollients like coconut oil, vitamin E, and shea butter may help improve your skin's dryness.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her hands are constantly dry, and she’s also prone to eczema flares, meaning she’s constantly slathering on hand cream. She’s currently loving both the Dove and Love Beauty and Planet products featured on this list.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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