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It’s probably a safe bet to say your hands are feeling drier than normal these days. All that hand washing you’ve been doing can do a serious number on your hands’ delicate skin, not to mention the impacts of dry, cool weather.
“The most common thing that can dry out your hands is frequent hand washing,” says dermatologist Dr. Peterson Pierre. “The constant wet-dry cycle of frequent hand washing can really strip the skin of its natural moisture and disrupt the protective barrier."
That’s why Pierre says it’s important to follow up every handwashing session with a generous application of hand cream. The good news is, you can find a high-quality hand cream right at the drugstore, meaning you don’t have to shell out much money to keep your hands soft and smooth. “You want a product that focuses on replenishing moisture with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, shea butter, coconut oil, and glycerin,” says Dr. Pierre. “Equally important are ingredients that help repair the moisture barrier, such as ceramides, squalane, and essential fatty acids.” Combining humectants and occlusives—meaning ingredients that moisturize and ingredients that help that moisture be retained on your skin for hours—will provide you with maximum benefits.
Here, we’ve rounded up the best drugstore hand creams for softer, smoother hands.
Best Overall: CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream
Dr. Pierre is a fan of this drugstore hand cream because it’s formulated with two of his favorite ingredients: ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It gets high marks all around for its ability to help your skin retain moisture. It even has a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association. Users rave about the non-greasy texture, how quickly it sinks into skin, and how soft and moisturized their hands feel all day long.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Cetaphil PRO Eczema Soothing Moisturizer
Dr. Pierre calls this drugstore hand cream/body lotion a “solid choice.” Its formulated with colloidal oatmeal, a known skin-soother, as well as ceramides, to ease itchy, irritated skin. With a fragrance- and paraben-free formula, this hand cream is suitable for very dry skin, eczema, and atopic dermatitis. Users who wash their hands frequently say it does a great job of keeping their hands moisturized.
Best Budget: Love Beauty and Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Hand Cream
This budget drugstore hand cream might not come with a hefty price tag, but it certainly will look cute on your nightstand. And the high-quality formula means it deserves its spot there. Inside the pink, rose-adorned tube you’ll find a rich moisturizer featuring murumuru butter. Reviewers love the heavenly, rose scent, and the fact that this hand cream sinks right into skin without any greasy residue.
Best for Dry Hands: O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream
Dry hands need special care. Enter this drugstore hand cream made for extremely dry, cracked hands. It has a super-concentrated formula full of emollients that form a protective layer on the skin to help lock in moisture. Many users with dry hands say this is their go-to, especially in the middle of winter when skin tends to be drier as well as after hand-washing.
Runner-Up, Best for Dry Hands: Nubian Heritage African Black Soap Hand Cream
Pump up the moisture on dry hands with this drugstore hand cream. It’s chock full of hydrating ingredients such as cocoa seed butter, mango seed butter, and jojoba seed oil. Users note the thick, intensely moisturizing formula that goes on smoothly without being greasy.
Best for Dry Cuticles: Yes To Coconut Moisturizing Hand & Cuticle Cream
One of the most frustrating side effects of dry hands? Dry cuticles. This drugstore hand cream is formulated to tackle exactly that issue. It’s loaded with coconut oil and shea butter meant to help smooth ragged cuticles and may help heal dry, cracked skin. Users highlight the rich yet non-greasy texture in addition to the sweet yet not overbearing coconut scent.
Best Anti-Aging: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hand Gel Cream
When it comes to anti-aging skincare, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to your hands. After all, the delicate skin there is often one of the first areas to show signs of aging. This drugstore hand cream keeps hands looking young, thanks to hyaluronic acid. This super-star ingredient is an anti-aging mainstay due to its ability to help skin retain moisture and make it look plumper.
Best for Eczema: Gold Bond Eczema Relief Hand Cream
Those with eczema know how amazing it feels to find relief. This drugstore hand cream helps provide just that. It has an ultra-soothing formula that targets five common eczema symptoms: itchiness, dryness, peeling, roughness, and redness. Users rave about how soft this makes their hands feel and how good a job it does of easing eczema-related itch.
Best Fragrance-Free: Zandra Simplicity Hand+Body Lotion - Unscented
Inside this chic pump bottle lies an unscented drugstore hand cream that does an excellent job at moisturizing hands. It’s made with nourishing jojoba oil and absorbs quickly into the skin. And because it’s fragrance-free, it’s suitable for use by sensitive skin types.
Runner-Up, Best Fragrance-Free: Dove Dermaseries Fragrance-Free Hand Cream
This fragrance-free drugstore hand cream is ideal for extremely dry, itchy skin. Beyond being fragrance-free, it’s also hypoallergenic, non-greasy, and very lightweight. Users say this hand cream sinks into the skin quickly, nourishes their cuticles, and keeps their hands moisturized for hours.
Best Fast-Absorbing: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Hand Cream
Don’t you hate when you apply hand cream and it leaves you all sticky? You won’t have to deal with that when you use this drugstore hand cream. It has a fast-absorbing, lightweight formula that’s perfect for normal to dry skin. Vitamin E helps promote softer, smoother hands.
Best for Hands and Body: Alaffia Coconut Reishi Hand and Body Cream
Get to multitasking with this drugstore hand cream that doubles as a body lotion. It’s formulated with a slew of moisturizing ingredients, like yarrow extract, coconut oil, and reishi mushroom extract, meant to soften and smooth hands and other rough areas. Users note that a little goes a long way and that it sinks in quickly.
Best Natural: Urban Hydration Rosehip Hand Cream
If you’re looking for a natural solution to heal dry hands, then look no further than this drugstore hand cream. The natural formula contains coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, and glycerin meant to soothe irritated skin and bring back much-needed moisture. Beyond the formula, users like the subtle and pleasant scent.
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
Not only does shea butter moisturize your hands, it also acts as an occlusive that can help protect them. By assisting with other moisturizing ingredients' abilities to stay on your hands, that makes it even more valuable in a hand cream. Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in Manhattan, New York explains that "Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins."
Not only does lanolin help protect your skin from dryness and chapping, it also has been proven to restore skin's moisture. Integrative and functional medicine 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.
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."
This category include 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, MSc, of U.K. chemical company IMCD says glycerin is "used a lot in pharmaceutical creams, promoted by doctors to treat extreme dryness and repair skin elasticity."
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 suffering 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.