I’ve come to expect a lot from the $265 billion dollar beauty industry, but when it comes to hand cream I’ve been let down.
In the past, my search for soft hands has left me with nothing but greasy paw prints, slimy hand shakes, creepy after feels that sometime ball up, and tacky, overpowering scents. Not to mention, I’ve been sucker punched on more than one occasion into overpaying for the occasional cult product darling.
All without getting the deep quench my hands deserve.
Are my standards too high? I don’t think so. I believe the act of applying hand cream should be an exceptional experience. Taking a minute to moisturize your hands is a gesture of nurturing self care. You should feel fabulous whipping out your balm, looking at it, smelling it and squeezing out the drop of cream no matter where you are. It should quench and soothe on contact and then discreetly absorb – as if what just happened was only between the two of you.
I don’t want to settle and neither should you so I conducted a test drive on a variety of different hand creams – some you may know, and others I’d like to introduce you to.
To start, I stopped Googling, got off my butt and got some IRL recommendations from my favorite beauty sources; Sephora, Blue Mercury, Zitomers, Duane Reade, Whole Foods, and my favorite local holistic health store, Zen Medica (a plug for small, local businesses here).
23 products and a maxed out credit card later, I took my haul to my office. Over the past 4 weeks, if you had a meeting with me, I didn’t bring donuts, I brought hand crème and asked a lot of questions. Did you like the smell? Are you quenched? Did it absorb? Would you buy it for yourself or someone else? And could we all shake hands with each other without feeling like we’ve all just exchanged bodily fluids. Eeew.
But my personal acid test of hand cream greatness was that it had to survive actual living. In my case, this meant riding CitiBike to work without gloves, wrapping presents, disposing of my Christmas tree and airplane travel. There was also the subway test which meant I had to moisturize without leaving a noxious scent and be able to grab onto the pole without sliding to certain death.
Going into this I thought there would be one or two winners, but I learned that man does not live by moisture alone. Hand creams are bought by mood – sometimes you want something natural, other times you want a status brand, sometimes you want anti aging sun protection and other times you just want to throw something in the basket at CVS without over thinking it.
So I created 4 categories depending on the mood you’re in (some of them overlap), but don’t worry I reveal the ones I can’t live without at the end.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Let’s face it, even though no one wants to be the fool that overspends on hand cream (hello), there are times when you want to feel just a little bit
superior special. Like lipstick, hand cream has evolved into someone of a badge product, one that speaks volumes about you and your values. These make you feel elegant and are fantastic gifts. But are they worth it?
- Aesop Resurrection Hand Cream $27. My favorite of the fancies and just about everyone else who tried this, even the men. Smell is gender neutral, not too overpowering and gets to work fast on the moisture department. Doesn’t penetrate as quickly as I would like, but the overall experience is lovely.
- Jurlique Jasmine Hand Cream $25. Another brand I’m partial too largely because of their natural heritage and gorgeous floral scents. But, others who tried this felt the scent was overpowering and didn’t absorb fast enough.
- L’Occitane Shea Butter $12. Excellent gifts for just about anyone and one I’ve always loved receiving. The packaging and scents are lovely, the price is right, but the quench level is somewhat average.
- La Mer $85. I keep a jar of La Mer in my quiver of face cream weaponry so I know what this brand can do, but I expected more from my $85 worth of Miracle Broth. It just didn’t moisturize as well as I would have expected and left a dry finish. Plus, the tube is huge and awkward. La Mer, you can do better:(
These are the friends with benefits of the hand cream world, boasting either benefits for nails and cuticles, SPF or general anti-aging. While the products all deliver, they come with degrees of trade-offs, namely that they don’t quench quite as deeply as some of the others.
- M-61 Vitablast C Hand $19 This is the excellent product line from the founder of the Blue Mercury beauty boutique. Full disclosure: I’ve been using this for the past year and love it because it doesn’t just moisturize, there is Vitamin C to boost radiance and fade spots. It smells fine, quenches on contact and absorbs quickly. Props that it’s also paraben free.
- Julep Rock Star $20. Another personal favorite of mine because it feels like it’s revealing fresh new skin underneath, not just coating me with a layer of wax. However, others hate the scent (although it never bothered me).
- Revive Fermitif Hand Renewal Cream SPF 15 $85. An excellent, if not ridiculously expensive product line that caters to the Neiman Marcus crowd (I live off samples of their $600 serum but I think they’re on to me). I wouldn’t have splurged on the hand cream if it weren’t for the sales person at Blue Mercury who told this is what she applies from the testers all day long. I had my doubts at first; it doesn’t particularly quench on contact, leaves a dry, velvety finish and smells a bit medicinal. I was about to hate this until 90 minutes later when my hands felt surprisingly, deeply quenched. Digging a little deeper I learn this magic cream is supposed to firm, brighten, fade spots, make my skin more elastic! I like that it has a little bit of sunscreen, and I can see this being the creme I apply before I leave the house, but the price is what stopped this for being at the top of this list.
- Deborah Lippmann Rich Girl SPF 25 Hand Cream $28. I wanted to fall in love with this and it does moisturize well, but what held me back was the slight sunscreen scent and after feel. My mini focus group felt the same way, although the Internet loves it. On another note, Deborah Lippmann makes an exceptional cuticle and nail product called The Cure.
- Supergoop! Hand Cream with Sea Buckthorn SPF 40 $12. For the summer months this is a nice product, but it doesn’t provide the moisturizing heavy lifting I need from my hand cream. I respect the high SPF, but I would probably use this more if I lived in a different climate.
The All Naturals
Whole Foods is my new favorite beauty destination. Their sales people know their stuff and some of their products are exceptional. There’s a much bigger conversation about the naturals, in particular about what’s misleading and what’s truly better for you without trading off effectiveness, but we’ll save that for another time.
- Deep Steep Hand Cream Rosemary Honeydew Spearmint $9.95. Wow, this stuff is the unicorn of all hand creams. It smells divine, like a spa (this, from both men and women), quenches on contact, soaks right in and the best part, it keeps your hands moist all day.
- Savannah Bee $9. This ties with Deep Steep for overall amazingness. Made with real honey, it has a very light, but almost invisible scent and a creamier, waxier consistency that provides a better barrier for colder days than Deep Steep. Side note, their Tupelo body wash is equally amazing.
- Lush Charity Pot (not pictured) $25.95. The sales person at Lush pointed me in this direction for a hand cream. The packaging isn’t particularly portable, and it at first application it feels like you’re rubbing mayonnaise on your hands, but it provides a nice deep quenching and a percentage goes to charity. A good choice for before bedtime or for the family sink. On a side note, Lush makes a wonderful Salted Coconut Hand Scrub that is a nice treat near any sink (although this particular product, surprisingly has parabens).
- Burts Bees Honey & Grapeseed Hand Cream about $10. A solid choice (also found at most drug stores) that smells nice and moisturizes well, but also leaves a greasy feel and not much long term quenching.
- Weleda Skin Food $19. While this gets a lot of love for deep moisture, which it delivers in spades, it’s very heavy and greasy.
- Weleda Age Revitalizing Evening Primrose $12.50. The lighter sister to Skin Food, this is a pleasant formula, but doesn’t deliver the moisture punch that Skin Food does.
- Nubian Coconut & Papaya Hand Cream – $11.95. Smells super fruity and quenches on contact, but left my hands bit too greasy for me to fall in love.
- Dr. Hauschka Hydrating Hand Cream about $25. Normally a fan of this line, but their hand cream felt kinda greasy and just sat on top of my hands without truly penetrating.
Drug Store Heroes
Yes, you can overthink this stuff and sometimes, the best products of all can be found at CVS or Duane Reade (think Aquaphor, Cetaphil). Here are some of the best:
- Gold Bond Healing Hand Cream – about $4. I wouldn’t have thought Gold Bond would top this list, and honestly, it would be hard for the clinical, medicinal experience to penetrate my lizard brain that likes all things sparkly, but this stuff WORKS. The smell is unremarkable, but this stuff quenches on contact. And it’s FOUR DOLLARS!
- Avene Cold Cream Hand Cream – about $15. This is such a top shelf quality line that my expectations of their Cold Cream Hand Cream were high. The smell was wonderful; comforting and oddly reminiscent of dairy. It was solid in the quench department, but had a matte, velvet finish that I didn’t like. My guinea pigs were split as well, but all agreed it didn’t compare to Gold Bond.
- Minus 417 $17. Brittany, the lovely Duane Reade sales person high recommended this and I have to say it’s pretty nice, loaded with Dead Sea minerals. It’s a tad greasy and on contact you think it will give tons of moisture, but it doesn’t last as long as I would have liked.
- Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Fast Absorbing Hand Cream – about $5. A legend among hand creams, this does moisturize but is so thick and greasy that you can’t function for an hour or so after you’ve applied. A better option for bedtime, but not during the day.
- Nivea Extended Moisture about $4. Nivea is one of those brands that always seem to be huge in Europe, but never quite get scale here, which to me is code for “it’s really good”. Maybe it is, but I wasn’t impressed by the hand cream. Very average moisture level and my hands were left greasy for quite some time.
- Nivea Cream about $1. I fell in love with the little blue tin. It instantly says chic sensibility. Great smell, but sadly this was a big no. The feel was dry and chalky, it didn’t penetrate and left a weird, dry after feel.
After all this, have I kissed enough frogs to find my Prince Charming of hand cream? I sure have – in fact, I realized there’s room for more than one in my life. Bar none, the two I’ll buy year after year will be Deep Steep Rosemary/Mint and Savannah Bee. When I want to dial up my style creds, I’ll carry my Aesop around and be sure to dole this out as gifts. And while the Revive kills my budget, it works really well and I like the anti-aging promise.
Well now that that’s finished, don’t hold out on me if there’s a hand cream I missed.
Stay soft ladies.