skin week

The Best Hand Creams, According to Experts

Photo: Photo: Sony Pictures Television

Taking care of your hands feels particularly relevant at the moment. Current NHS guidelines urge washing hands with soap and water “often,” including whenever arriving back home after being outside. And as we’ve detailed elsewhere, experts have suggested washing hands after collecting packages or accepting deliveries in communal areas, too.

So we spoke to eight beauty experts, including beauty editors, skin-care specialists, and doctors and asked for their hand-cream recommendations. Read on for the best ultrahydrating options for dry or chapped hands, the best all-purpose cream (for lips, face, or feet) as well as anti-aging creams, creams containing almond oils, and lighter options to apply during the day.

Best overall hand cream

The best overall hand creams came from L’Occitane, whose products were recommended by three of our experts. The first was this hand cream featuring shea butter, which is, according to skin doctor Sophie Shotter, a natural moisturiser and a good product to look for in hand creams. “This hand cream is unfragranced, which is important, as fragrances can be an irritant. I just love the way this product feels.” Beauty blogger, consultant, and writer Emma Hoareau agrees: She keeps a small tube of it by her bedside. “It works so well, has a luxurious texture, and [even though it isn’t fragranced] it still smells great. I like to apply a thick layer before bed so it can soak in overnight.”

Elle McNamara, who runs Instagram account Bambi Does Beauty and writes a beauty column for Glamour, says, “Whenever a body-care product is infused with almond oils or milks, I’m listening.” Her favourite is L’Occitane’s Almond Delicious Hands. “Almond oils and milks are incredibly soothing by nature, and this hand cream features both. It works by not only strengthening our skin’s barrier but soothing dry, cracked knuckles, too.”

Best budget hand cream

This hand cream by the Body Shop offers additional nail and cuticle treatments, “but it’s also one of the best-value products I use,” says Laura Capon, deputy beauty editor at Cosmopolitan. “It smells lush, and if you team it with their almond nail and cuticle oil pen, you might just save your hands from extinction.” It features almond oil, “a manicurist’s secret,” and Capon applies it at night. “It’s perfect for presleep application — I keep it on my bedside table at all times.”

Best hand cream with shea butter

Bianca Estelle, medical aesthetician and skin specialist, says “my hands stay hydrated for hours” with shea butter. She recommends this moisturising cream from Burt’s Bees, which “smells good enough to eat” — it comes in several scents, including this orange blossom and pistachio one, but they all include baobab and pistachio oils to help hydrate skin. Estelle adds that “a small amount goes a long way” and suggests applying it at night, ideally after a shower, to give it time to absorb into your hands.

Best oil-free hand cream

“Fun fact: I actually despise the feel of hand cream on my skin,” admits Capon. “They can feel really heavy, so I really needed one that was lighter and less claggy.” She swears by Malin + Goetz’s vitamin B5 cream, an oil-free product that is made with shea butter and honey to help soothe irritated or red skin. “It leaves zero residue behind. It’s honestly one of the few I can tolerate, so I recommend it a lot,” Capon says.

Best hand creams for aging

Alexander Johnston is the General Manager and Head of PR at John Bell & Croyden, the luxury pharmacist with a royal warrant (meaning they supply goods to the royal family). He suggests this hand cream from Oskia London. “It has exfoliating properties that help soften the hands, and it both renews and brightens the skin,” he says. The cream contains vitamins, fermented minerals, and AHA fruit acid and is gentle enough to be used on the body, too, according to Johnston. “The Rose and Chamomile scent smells divine, and it’s long-lasting, as a little goes a long way. It’s an excellent all-rounder.”

For hands that are showing signs of aging, Estelle says to look for a cream containing SCA BioRepair Technology. “It’s a snail secretion with anti-aging benefits,” she says. She recommends this lotion from Endocare. “I see a lot of clients who are conscious of their hands aging more than their faces, and this is a brilliant option. It’s deeply hydrating whilst still being lightweight.” Estelle adds that it’s also great for dry or damaged hands.

Best hand, nail, and cuticle creams

ZENii is a skin-care brand developed by Dr Joanna Ward, one of the U.K.’s leading skin doctors. Shotter says this three-in-one cream provides “the ultimate hydration” due to containing shea butter, cocoa butter, and mango butter, which gives it a rich, tropical scent, too. “It also features vitamin E, so it’s super-nourishing,” she adds. It’s sulphate- and paraben-free, which she says is great for irritated and sensitive skins. [Editor’s note: This product is currently sold out.]

Hoareau likes Clarins products for a number of reasons, including the smell. “They’re very comforting and remind me of the products my mother used when I was growing up.” She recommends this emollient-rich cream (emollients cover the skin to help “trap” in moisture). “When you apply it, it feels like you’ve put on an invisible, silky-soft glove. It uses sesame oil to hydrate your skin, so it doesn’t feel heavy at all,” she says. “I love that this is a multitasking product that helps strengthen my nails, too.”

Johnston says this cream from Zelens saved his blistered hands after a bike ride from London to Paris last summer. “They were completely healed overnight,” he says. “It absorbs into the skin very quickly.” The cream’s triple-action effects include improving the skin’s firmness and elasticity, replacing lost moisture, and brightening the skin. “It keeps your cuticles soft and your hands soothed, so I make sure to take it with me everywhere,” he explains. “It’s great for chapped or dry hands, whether that’s from exercise or just simply excess handwashing.”

Best cruelty-free hand cream

Daniela Morosini, a beauty writer who pens the “Dear Daniela” column for Refinery29, says she is “obsessed” with the tropical, coconut-y scent of this hand cream. Lanolips is cruelty free, too — the company doesn’t test finished products on any animals at any point during production, nor do they allow third-party tests on their behalf. The active ingredient is lanolin, which is derived from sheep’s wool. “It helps waterproof the sheep. It has been used in beauty for centuries to hydrate and also acts as a bit of a barrier,” Morosini explains. “Some people claim that lanolin mimics the skin’s own oils. I think it smells amazing, and it really soothes my cuticles and nail beds. This is the one I use if I need deep conditioning on my hands in cold weather — or after lots and lots of washing.”

Best hand, lip, and foot cream


PR executive Heather Delaney says bag balm is an all-rounder that she’s been using since her childhood, which was spent on her parents farm. “Should you have dry lips, a little bit of this will make them feel like butter. And putting them on dried, cracked feet before bed will work wonders.” She says growing up, everyone’s mother had a pot of this in their bag. “Oddly enough, it was originally used on the chapped udders of cows for relief,” she says. “Due to the sheer amount of handwashing with harsh soaps these days, my hands have become dry and fragile. I put a little bag balm on every few days and my hands are right back to normal.”

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Hand Creams, According to Experts