What to look for in a hand cream, according to a dermatopathologist who knows


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The search for a good hand cream is like the search for a lover (can’t even type that without smirking). It’s not always so easy to find one good enough to keep around. Hand creams are either too thick, or don’t absorb well enough. They can be too greasy and just feel like slime on your fingers (yuck). I guess in my case, finding the perfect hand cream is even harder than finding a boyfriend…because I’ve found the latter but not the former. What’s a gal to do? Call a skin expert, of course.

“All hand creams seem great when you first put them on,” notes Gretchen Frieling, MD, a board-certified dermatopathologist (the combo of dermatology and pathology in one, which looks at conditions on a cellular level). “After one wash, or an hour or two, hands seem to revert back to their dry or scaly state, or some make your hands so greasy that buttoning your shirt in the morning or typing is an exercise in futility.” #Truth.

Finding a feel-good, effective hand cream is all about knowing what key ingredients to look for. “When looking for a hand cream, look for glycolic acid to help prevent the loss of elasticity,” says Dr. Frieling. Also beneficial, according to her: vitamin C, vitamin B, peptides, shea butter, lanolin, and hyaluronic acid. “No single hand cream will have all of these ingredients, but try to find one that has at least three of these,” she says, noting that these all work to help prevent moisture loss and protect the skin so it can heal.

As for what to avoid?  Fragrances and any added color. “Fragrances and color on the ingredient list can be irritating if you have sensitive skin,” says Dr. Frieling. And to make sure you’re not going to get a greasy residue, she recommends steering clear of synthetic thickening agents like trigylcerides or palmitates. Now—let’s get to the good hand creams to actually buy, shall we?

Photo: CeraVe

CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream, $13

Dermatologists are always raving about the brand’s moisturizing cream, but Dr. Frieling adds that the brand’s hand cream is also really effective. “I love this because it moisturizes my hands with hyaluronic acid, calms the skin with niacinamide, and replenishes the skin’s natural barrier with three different ceramides,” she says. It’s also fragrance-free and absorbs quickly, so it goes on without a trace.

Photo: Goldfaden MD

Goldfaden MD Hands to Heart Hand Treatment, $38

This one does it all—it’s got niacinamide, the almighty vitamin B form that’s great for your skin’s barrier, retinol, peptides, hyaluronic acid, as well as CoQ10 and squalane. In other words: Your hands will be pleased.

Lano Rose Hand Cream Intense, $15

This rich hand cream with a slight rose scent moisturizes skin with luxe lanolin and a blend of rose oil that leaves your hands happy and with a light-as-air kiss of the flower garden (something everyone needs in the darkest days of winter).

Photo: L’Occitane

L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream, $29

Dr. Frieling also loves this hand cream since it’s really creamy, and contains 20 percent organic shea butter, which is rich in fatty acids, plus honey for soothing and softening the skin. According to the brand’s website, one of these babies sells every three seconds, so there must be some really moisturized hands out there.

As for your face, try one of these dry skin moisturizers for serious hydration. And here’s why you should consider adding a serum facial oil to your regimen for even more of a glow. 

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