I love a fancy hand cream as much as the next Le Labo acolyte, but those fancy hand creams do literally nothing to treat my perennially dry, chapped hands — and if you’ve found your way to this article, I’m guessing you’re in this quagmire with me. To get ourselves out of it, I spoke with
Dr. Erin Gilbert, Vichy Consultant and board-certified dermatologist, about what constitutes the best hand creams for cracked hands. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Gilbert suggests nixing those luxury, small-batch lotions for a heavy-duty drugstore hand cream, as larger companies “have invested a lot in research and development, and they work.” And they’re formulated with the ingredients that are most effective at healing and protecting hands with cracks and blisters, like petrolatum, ceramides, glycerin, shea butter, oils, paraffins, dimethicone, and water — all of which work to restore and protect your skin’s moisture barrier.
For cracked skin in particular, Dr. Gilbert suggests opting for thick formulas that are free of drying agents like alcohols, harsh detergents, and cleansing agents, as well as acids (which are typically used as exfoliants, or for smoothing callouses), since they can sting open cracks. Another hack: Look for a hand cream that’s been approved by the National Eczema Association, which ensures that the formula is both effective and safe enough for more severe forms of dryness.
For best results, you should be applying your hand cream of choice every time you wash your hands, and before bed. Dr. Gilbert also recommends slipping on a pair of
white cotton gloves before bed. This has a few benefits: It supercharges your hand cream’s moisturizing and healing properties; it protects your sheets from greasy residue; and it puts you in touch with your inner elegant grandmother.
Save your skin (and your cash) with the 11 best hand creams for cracked hands featured ahead — all of which cost $16 or less on Amazon.
The Overall Best Hand Cream For Cracked Hands: Expert’s Pick
Dr. Gilbert favors this
Vichy Ultra-Nourishing Hand Cream for treating severely dry and/or cracked hands. “It’s made with shea butter, allantoin, and Vichy 15 Mineral-Rich Volcanic Water to strengthen the skin barrier, leaving it soft and nourished with moisture,” she says. It also features three more of Dr. Gilbert’s recommended ingredients — glycerin, petrolatum, and dimethicone — which work together to attract and seal in moisture. Amazon reviewers love it just as much as Dr. Gilbert does: One reported that it’s thick enough “to cover every nook and cranny”; and although it doesn’t dry down completely, pretty much everyone says it doesn’t feel greasy or sticky. This contains some added fragrance, so skip it if you’re sensitive to scents. Rave review: “This tube may look a little petite, but this hand-cream is super concentrated! Start with just a pea-sized amount and then add more if you need more. You can rub this between your hands to make this more emollient and then move to the backs of your hands. This really is soothing, nourishing, and thoroughly helps any areas that seem chapped or irritated. Very nice.” 02
The Overall Best Hand Cream For Cracked Hands: Editor’s Pick
For my own dry hands, this
La Roche-Posay cream is the hands-down winner. I would even go so far as to say it’s the only OTC hand cream that’s worked to nourish and heal my severely dry, occasionally chapped hands, both immediately and over time. (I’ve tried prescription-strength hand creams, for some context about just how severe we’re talking.) It does leave a bit of an oily sheen behind, though not so much that I can’t type/scroll/open jars right after I apply it. And it’s super safe for people with sensitive skin to use — including on your face, if you’re so inclined — since it’s allergy-tested, fragrance-free, and accepted by the National Eczema Association. This happens to be another of Dr. Gilbert’s recommendations, if you don’t just want to take my word for it. Rave review: “This is the only product that works for my ridiculously dry skin - have tried everything! Feels silky soft - takes a little while to settle in and does have a slightly oily finish but I don't mind because it works wonders for my skin. Definitely worth the money if you get painfully dry and cracked skin.” 03
The Top-Rated Hand Cream On Amazon
O’Keeffe’s hand cream was originally created by a pharmacist for her father, who was a rancher and a diabetic, so all the ingredients in here — including glycerin, paraffin, and allantoin — are specifically formulated to soften, heal, and seal the most cracked, blistered hands. And over 24,000 Amazon users have given this a perfect five-star rating, which would launch it directly into Amazon’s hypothetical Product Hall of Fame. People with more extreme forms of dryness or skin conditions confirm that this a “miracle worker," too. One person with a skin condition that causes severe blisters and cracking reported that this is the only hand cream that alleviates their symptoms, and another wrote that it worked even better than the prescription hand creams they’ve tried. Diehards will be pleased to know it's sold in multipacks of up to 12. Rave review: “Ever since I began using this the cracking has stopped almost completely. Occasionally I forget to put it on for a short time and the problem returns, but as soon as I start to use the O'Keeffe's cream again, consistently, they disappear. There can be a slight greasy feeling for a short while after applying, but that is a small price to pay for the relief it has provided. I just hope they never stop making it. It works where nothing else did.”
Ointments are thicker and contain less water than creams, Dr. Gilbert says, so they’re inherently well-suited for cracked hands; and some, like
this one from Aquaphor, are specifically labeled as such. This works by creating a protective barrier over vulnerable skin, which shuts out oxygen and other irritants so cracks can heal faster. It’s also one of the rare Amazon products that’s landed a five-star average rating — out of over 50,000 total ratings, no less. Reviewers with extreme and sensitive forms of dryness rave about this too, including people recovering from surgery and those experiencing dry skin as a side effect of chemotherapy. Of course, Aquaphor has tons of other uses, too — you can use it to heal chapped lips and fresh tattoos, for example. Rave review: “During the winter months, my hands take a beating from working/working out in the outdoors. For years, I have been dealing with the drying and inevitable cracking that comes along with this. I have tried dozens of creams/lotions that were unsuccessful. A co-worker suggested that I try Aquaphor and I figured that I had nothing to lose. After one use, I experienced immediate relief. I use it once daily before bed and my dry, cracked hands are a thing of the past.” 05
The Best Scented Hand Cream
Heavy-duty hand creams are often lacking in the smell category: unscented, they’re clinical; scented, they’re cloying. Which makes this
Palmer’s Coconut Oil Formula Hand Cream, and its fresh coconut scent, a welcome addition to the fold. And Palmer’s is not messing around on the coconut front: It appears here in oil, water, and extract form, along with other skin-softeners like cocoa seed butter, dimethicone, vitamin E, and tons of plant-based oils. Some added fragrance boosts the scent, which reviewers note isn't overly sweet. More importantly, it gets excellent reviews from people with super dry skin. A nurse who works in a hospital (and, thus, is a frequent hand-washer) gives this the seal of approval, as does a cook who says this alleviates the painful, deep cracks in their fingertips. Rave review: “This is, by far, my favorite hand cream to keep in my purse. It has a mild, pleasant smell, and it works better on my rough hands than anything else I've tried. It's tough to find in stores, so I was so happy to find it on Amazon, and for a great price!” 06
The Best Hand Cream For Eczema
All of the hand creams on this list are safe to use on eczema. But if you’re
specifically targeting an eczema breakout on your hands, this Gold Bond Eczema Relief Hand Cream is your best bet. It’s formulated with nearly all of Dr. Gilbert’s recommended ingredients for healing cracked skin — water, glycerin, dimethicone, and petrolatum included — along with 2% colloidal oatmeal, the active ingredient that works to alleviate severe dryness, scaliness, itchiness, and redness associated with eczema. This bears the stamp of approval from the National Eczema Association, as you would imagine; and it’s steroid-free, so you can apply it often and liberally. Rave review: “I have tried so many relief creams for eczema. I'd been dealing with a bad stretch of eczema for months, and this cream is the first one that began helping immediately. I'm ordering extras, in all sizes, to keep in my purse, home, and car.” 07
The Best Cream For Hands & Body
I’m willing to bet $9 that the skin on the rest of your body is
also dry — and that happens to be the price of this big, 16.9-ounce bottle of Eucerin lotion. Even though it’s called a lotion, which Dr. Gilbert warned against since they're diluted with water, this is the most concentrated formula that Eucerin offers. I can confirm this drugstore classic feels more like a pleasantly thick, rich cream than a runny lotion. This contains lactic acid, an AHA that sweeps away dead cells on your skin’s surface, so it’s an especially good choice if your skin tends to get flaky — and although it contains a chemical exfoliant (which Dr. Gilbert also recommends against), I can also confirm that this never feels stingy on my chapped hands. In fact, it feels instantly soothing. It blends in nicely, too, considering how rich it is, though it feels a little tacky for a few minutes. I’d recommend slathering this on at night, since putting on clothes immediately after application is a mildly unpleasant experience. Rave review: “I work in an ICU at the hospital and by the end of my shift my hands are dry, cracking, and peeling from all the hand washing and hand sanitizer use. This stuff works wonders in repairing my skin!” 08
The Best Cream For Face & Hands
Another personal favorite, this
First Aid Beauty cream is intended for use on your face and body. But as the whipped, almost solid texture is quite thick (and this travel-sized bottle is too small for all-over application), I prefer to smooth it over my hands, instead. It absorbs quickly and leaves behind a silky, dry-to-the-touch finish, so your fingers won’t feel annoyingly greasy when you get back to your phone or keyboard. More importantly, it works incredibly well to soften up rough, dry skin and soothe irritation, thanks to an eczema-safe formula including colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, ceramides, and protective antioxidants. Pro tip: Since it dries so quickly, this is also my go-to hand cream for prepping my hands, cuticles, and nails for an at-home manicure. Rave review: “I’ve had patches of eczema on my collarbone and neck on and off for a year, and tried everything I could think of. I also recently started to get spots of eczema on my hands with the increase in wearing latex gloves. This cream annihilated both issues in less than a week. It’s super moisturizing, combats redness, itchiness and dryness. I even use it as a facial moisturizer at night to help with my rosacea.” 09
The Best Certified Organic Hand Cream
Not only is this all-purpose balm from The Honest Company made from naturally derived ingredients, but it’s certified organic by the USDA — one of the toughest organic certifications a beauty product can earn. Included amongst those organic ingredients are beeswax, sunflower seed oil, shea butter, and calendula, which together create a rich, thick balm loaded with fatty acids and vitamins that seal and heal deep cracks. As the name says, this is an all-purpose salve that you can use for all manner of skin woes beyond chapped hands, from soothing bug bites to calming rashes and nourishing flaky lips — and as it’s technically made for babies (but boasts a major cult following among adults), it’s gentle for the most sensitive skin.
Rave review: “From the gentle aroma (subtly planty) to the feel, this balm, filled with organic ingredients deeply moisturizes and creates a seal (beeswax) perfect for the hands and feet or any dry cracked area, especially good at night for a deep soak.” 10
A Highly Rated Hand Cream With A Lighter-Weight Feel
CeraVe is another foolproof brand, but this highly rated
therapeutic hand cream in particular is their best choice for treating cracked skin. In here, a blend of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone work together to attract moisture, lock it in, and protect and restore your skin's protective barrier for both instant and long-term relief. Lots of reviewers with psoriasis and eczema swear by this (which also gets the seal of approval from the National Eczema Association). Others like that it has a lighter, more fluid consistency than other intensive hand creams, which can get a little stodgy and hard to blend. Rave review: “I have eczema, so I'm pretty picky about what I put on my skin. [...] When I saw this I decided to try it for my dry, often cracked, itchy, over-washed (there's a baby in the house) hands. It works great! I love that it absorbs quickly, so there's no greasy feeling--just leaves my hands feeling soft and moisturized. I even feel like it lasts pretty well through handwashing!” 11
A Restorative Hand Cream From A Cult-Favorite French Brand
Bioderma is a staple in French pharmacies and a cult-favorite brand all over the world, but their products never sacrifice effectiveness in the name of elegance. This
hand cream is no exception. Hailing from the brand’s Atoderm line, which is designed for very dry and sensitive skin, this contains a patented natural complex that restores and reinforces the skin barrier for better moisture retention over the long-term. When you slather it on, the cream creates a film (what the brand calls a “glove effect”) that instantly protects, heals, and softens cracked, chapped skin, but it feels surprisingly lightweight and non-greasy. Brittle nails and cuticles will reap similar strengthening effects, as a bonus. Try this small, 1-ounce bottle for just $7, or pick up a two-pack (available on the same page) and stash one in your purse. Rave review: “My hands crack and bleed and its a never ending cycle. I thought getting this would be a waste of money but this heals my hands in a night. Smear this on (its not greasy at all) and put on gloves and when I wake up my hands look healthy again.” Expert: Dr. Erin Gilbert, Vichy Consultant and board-certified dermatologist Don't miss a thing
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