The very best hand creams for dry, sensitive skin

Posted by for Beauty

Tender, dehydrated hands might seem inevitable right now, but Stylist has tested 10 hand creams that promise to replenish and smooth parched skin.     

Between all this hand-washing and harsh sanitiser, your hands are probably drier than ever right now. 

Add to that the lingering effects of winter, and it can leave fingers and palms rough and sore. “The wind and the cold, dry temperatures of winter strip the skin of its natural protective oils and moisture. It’s caused by vasoconstriction – the narrowing of blood vessels, which reduces blood supply to extremities like our hands,” says Dr Aamer Khan, the cofounder of Harley Street Skin.

Inevitably, we reach for the nearest hand cream. But how can you tell if your cream is anything more than pretty packaging? Whether it will leave a greasy residue making it impossible to use your phone or actually hydrate your skin on a deep level? 

The Stylist team has used their (ridiculously dry) hands to hunt out the most industrious hand creams that hold the power to rehydrate, nourish cuticles, improve and smooth skin texture. Scroll down for our tried-and-tested selection of the 10 formulas that really make a difference.

  • Best for: added SPF


    Ultrasun SPF 30 Anti-Pigmentation Hand Cream, £20

    Tested by: Shannon Peter, beauty director

    “Of course, when it comes to sun protection, hands shouldn’t be forgotten. The easiest thing to do is swipe a little of your body sun cream onto the backs of your hands, but if you’d rather a hand cream with SPF built-in, Ultrasun’s is definitely my favourite. It doesn’t have any of the uncomfortable chalkiness you often associate with suncream, nor will your phone slip out of your hands after applying it.”

  • Best For: hydration

    Aurelia Hand Cream

    Aurelia Aromatic Repair & Brighten Hand Cream, £28

    Tested by: Lucy Partington, beauty editor.

    “I’m not usually a hand cream kind of person because I find them too greasy, the scent too heavy and I rarely notice a difference, but this cream has triggered a rethink. The subtle citrusy, slightly woody fragrance isn’t overpowering in the slightest, it absorbs quickly (but that could just be a sign of how dry my hands are), makes my hands feel smoother and more hydrated and isn’t greasy or oily, meaning I can continue doing whatever I was up to before applying it”.

  • Best For: long-lasting moisture

    Lano Rose Hand Cream

    Lano Rose Hand Cream Intense, £8.99

    Tested by Jenny Tregoning, deputy production editor and food editor.

    “The word ‘intense’ on the packaging gives a clue as to what sort of hand cream this is: thick, ointment-like, rose-scented and with serious moisturising power. It’s the sort of cream you want to take five minutes with to really massage into your flaking cuticles and cracked knuckles. And it lasts. While it may feel a little tacky to start with, it does sink in eventually and even after washing my hands (normally the time I reapply my cream), I could still feel the benefits”.

  • Best For: quick absorption

    La Mer Hand Cream

    La Mer The Rejuvenating Hand Serum, £95

    Tested by Georgina Holt, executive director, Stylist Studios.

    “In a word: delicious. As with all things La Mer, The Rejuvenating Hand Serum feels super luxe and indulgent. The silky texture and subtle scent are great and the cream absorbs fast, leaving my hands nourished. A little also goes a long way. If I had one (minor) criticism, it would be that it’s quite a weighty bottle to slip into your handbag (which I like to do with a hand cream). However, it does look very pretty perched on my desk”.

  • Best For: no residue

    Elemis Hand Cream

    Elemis Pro-Radiance Hand & Nail Cream, £29

    Tested by: Hannah Moore, acting executive fashion director.

    “It has an instant velvet feeling, good absorption and I became quite addicted after the first couple of uses. Initially, I found the scent overwhelming but it settles into a lovely rose note and it’s smooth not sticky. I have to say, my hands do feel a lot softer and it has really improved the dry, rough texture that winter brings”.

  • Best For: skin brightening

    Eve Lom Hand Cream

    Eve Lom Time Retreat Hand Treatment, £35

    Tested by Alix Walker, acting editor.

    “Winter really does a job on my hands. They get so dry I can hear them crackle when they make contact with silky fabric. This cream is light – which I love – but really moisturising and seems to turn my grey hands pink again. I can’t say it makes them look any younger but its fragrance is subtle and within 20 seconds it sinks in completely so I can get back to speed typing without slipping around the keyboard”.

  • Best For: long-lasting value

    Aesop Hand Cream

    Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, £21

    Tested by Tom Gormer, photography and specials director.

    “I walk my dog daily and hate wearing gloves so my hands are exposed to the elements all the time. I’m not a huge hand cream fan and find applying it a massive faff, but you only need a tiny bit of this (one tube will last you all year). Put on too much though and your hands will be greasy. I loved the rosemary and citrus smell, it’s really fresh and holiday-like”.

  • Best For: cracked skin

    Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

    Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, £22

    Tested by Rob Timm, Art Editor.

    “This cream is pretty amazing. It helps deal with the dryness of my hands and slowly but surely is getting rid of some of the hard skin that I’m prone to, especially in the winter. I do find the packaging quite plain – as an art editor it’s my job to notice these things – and it has a rather medicinal smell, but I’m not adverse to this as it makes me feel like it’s really working”.

  • Best For: lightweight moisture

    Weleda Hand Cream

    Weleda Sea Buckthorn Hand Cream, £11.95

    Tested by Kiran Meeda, beauty assistant.

    “This fresh, 0range-scented formula contains natural sea buckthorn oil and sesame oil encased in a chic, portable tube. My hands tend to absorb moisture easily, so I love the lightweight texture. A small amount works well, but if you need extra moisture, you can layer on the cream without making your skin sticky. My hands feel a lot more supple than before”.

  • Best For: a subtle scent

    Clarins Hand Cream

    Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream, £23

    Tested by Meriam Ahari, Fitness Editor.

    “I like this cream’s medium consistency – not too lightweight and not too creamy. I’m adverse to strong fragrances, so tend to buy unscented lotions, but this has a delicate smell – not overpowering. It reminds me of Johnson’s Baby Lotion. It leaves my hands more hydrated than before and I like that I can carry on typing after using it, as it doesn’t leave a thick, greasy film behind.”

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