These scrubs and creams will keep your hands soft and moisturized.

By Julia Heffelfinger
March 27, 2020
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Whether you’re an avid home cook or washing your hands a lot more these days, you might be dealing with dry, cracked hands. As a person who cooks (and therefore does dishes) for a living, I have chronically dry hands. Trust me, I’ve tried it all-- Everything from the $50 lotion from the aspirational wellness shop to the $10 cream from the drug store. After finally speaking to a dermatologist, I learned that the most hydrating solution is a cream or salve with a formula that has 50% or more oil. The idea behind an oil-based moisturizer is that the oil creates a barrier that traps moisture close to your skin and enhances hydration. Lotions by definition are less than 50% oil-based (and this can vary drastically based on the maker), making them evaporate just as quickly as they absorb and can often leave your skin dry or drier than it was before.

Credit: Burt's Bees / Aveda / Ulta Beauty / Revolve / Anthropologie

As you’re cooking your way through this social-distancing period, keep this in mind and try out one of these tested-and-approved creams, salves and oils (and a few gentle scrubs for good measure). The stress caused by current global events might be turning our hair grey, but with these products your hands will feel like all is well.

1. Grown Alchemist Intensive Hand Cream 

Credit: Anthropologie

If you haven’t tried Grown Alchemist’s products, this velvety hand cream is an excellent introduction. Founded by a pair of Australian brothers, their company is all about natural, non-toxic skincare (and their products smell amazing, too). This cream replenishes and strengthens your skin and is delicately scented with rose, patchouli leaf and sandalwood oils. 2.2 ounces, $27 from anthropologie.com

2. Weleda Skin Food Ultra-Rich Hand Cream

Credit: Ulta Beauty

I always keep a tube of this aptly named ultra-rich cream next to my kitchen sink. It goes on a tad greasy, but it can save even the driest of hands and has a neutral and not-too-overpowering citrus smell. A little goes a long way with this cream, so rub a little into the tops of your hands, knuckles, cuticles and even dry elbows and watch it gradually melt into your skin. 2.5 ounces, $19 from ulta.com

3. Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream

Credit: Dermstore

This pick might not be as sexy as the rest, but is one of the first things a dermatologist will recommend. The soothing, lightweight and odorless cream is an excellent hypo-allergenic choice for those with sensitive skin. It’s non-greasy, can be used all over your body and will absorb quickly. It’s also an exceptional value for the size. 16 ounces, $17 from dermstore.com

4. Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Scrub

Credit: Revolve

If you’re a wellness-obsessive like me, you might be familiar with dry brushing. The theory behind this exfoliating technique is to gently scrub off the dead skin cells, dirt, oil and pollution on the outer layer of your skin, promoting healthy skin-cell turnover. The older you get, the slower your skin-cell turnover is, so occasionally you need a scrub or brush to help the process along. Once you’ve scrubbed off this outer layer of dirt, you can also more effectively hydrate your skin. This body scrub from Australian skincare company, Aesop, is a personal favorite. The coarse-grain gel gently exfoliates your skin with a blend of pumice and bamboo stem and will leave you smelling like fresh flowers and citrus. While this is intended to be used all over your body, I like to focus on the tops of my hands and then finish with an unscented cream so as not to compete with the aroma of the scrub. 6 ounces, $37 from revolve.com

5. Burt’s Bees Almond & Milk Hand Cream 

Credit: Burt's Bees

This little jar packs a lot of moisturizing power. The combination of sweet almond oil and nourishing beeswax makes your hands incredibly supple and gives this thick cream a sweet honeyed scent. 2 ounces, $10 from burtsbees.com or target.com

6. Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

Credit: Kiehl's

This miraculously grease-free salve goes on thick, then absorbs into your skin and keeps it incredibly hydrated. It has a faintly medicinal, eucalyptus smell, but it’s mild and pleasant. 5 ounces, $23 from kiehls.com

7. Aztec Secret Healing Clay 

Credit: Target

People are obsessing over this healing clay powder. While it’s typically mixed with water or apple cider vinegar and used as a detoxifying mask on your face, it also works wonders on your hands. Bentonite clay removes dirt and impurities from your skin. Mix it with warm water (and add a few drops of tea tree oil, if you want!) and let your hands soak in the mixture for 10 minutes. Rinse your hands and finish with a hand cream of your choice. Pro-tip: The clay can clog your drain when you pour it out, so try using the leftover mixture to water your plants. Calcium bentonite is really good for plant soil. 15.5 ounces, $8 from target.com

8. Terra Beauty Bar Multitasking Oil

Credit: Ulta Beauty

Wonder why your hands are always so soft after a manicure? That’s because nail salons usually mix a few drops of cuticle oil with lotion before rubbing it into your hands. This multitasking oil does just that. Add a few drops to beef up your daily lotion or hand cream, or use it on its own, rubbing it into your hands and body after a shower. I also like to add a few drops to unscented creams, bath water or clay soaks (see above) for a delicate floral scent. 4 ounces, $24 from ulta.com

9. Aveda Stress Fix Body Creme

Credit: Aveda

In addition to some extra hydration, we all could use a stress fix right now. I love this thick cream from Aveda. Not only does it have the most incredible fresh lavender scent, but the moisturizer has a super luxurious texture and feels like you’re rubbing creme fraiche into your skin. This is an excellent pre-bedtime cream. 6.5 ounces, $50 from aveda.com

10. Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream

Credit: Target

This is another no-frills pick that works wonders every time. Unlike some other creams, this one is specifically formulated for hands. It is loaded with ceramides and amino acids, which help strengthen your skin, boost moisture and prevent dryness. It’s also unscented, if you prefer a more neutral, hard-working hand cream. 2.7 ounces, $5 from target.com