Cold weather is never kind to hands, and after the past year of ladling hand sanitiser has our knuckles more dry and cracked than ever.
The skin on your hands often shows clear signs of ageing, as though it is delicate and exposed, it isn’t treated with the same routine of serums and oils we apply to our faces.
Many of the brands we’ve tested also make other skincare products too, and use similar ingredients for treating common issues such as loss of elasticity, fine lines and dark spots in their hand creams.
We’ve been testing formulas for your handbag, your bedside table and your bathroom sink to find those that offer the holy grail of maximum relief for dry, flaky skin and red knuckles, with minimum greasiness, tackiness or residue.
If you don’t like the feeling of a rich cream, try a lotion instead for something more lightweight, or apply at night to wake up with beautifully soft hands.
The best hand creams for 2021 are:
- Best overall – The Body Shop hemp hand protector: £12, Thebodyshop.com
- Best for natural ingredients – Skandinavisk hav hand cream: £20, Johnlewis.com
- Best fragrance – Sol de Janeiro Brazilian touch hand cream: £13.86, Amazon
- Best long-lasting hand cream– Aesop resurrection aromatique hand balm: £21, Aesop.com
- Best lightweight hand cream– Byredo suede hand lotion: £40, Byredo.com
- Best for anti-ageing– Margaret Dabbs intensive anti-ageing hand serum: £30, Margaretdabbs.co.uk
- Best for on-the-go– Laura Mercier ambre vanille hand cream: £16, Johnlewis.com
- Best for sensitive skin – Kiehl’s ultimate strength hand salve: £16, Kiehls.co.uk
The Body Shop hemp hand protector
- Scent: Earthy
- Size: 100ml
This is a very thick paste straight out of the tube but thins as it warms and absorbs very quickly. It contains hemp oil, which is highly moisturising and plumping, and rich in omegas; it has a subtly herby scent, too. The Body Shop’s hemp is grown in France and provides a natural habitat for wildlife. It is the most nourishing hand cream we’ve ever found and deals with papery, rough or cracked skin like nothing else. Those who work with their hands will particularly appreciate its protecting and soothing effects.
Skandinavisk hav hand cream
Best for: Natural ingredients
- Scent: Salt spray and sea kelp, hawthorn and beach rose
- Size: 75ml
This hand cream from the scandi-chic Danish brand, is made with 99 per cent natural ingredients, including 20 per cent certified organic. It’s quite thick but melts in well and just one application lasts us for a whole day. Our favourite part is the fresh, salty, sea-spray scent, which transports us to coastal walks in freer times.
Sol de Janeiro Brazilian touch hand cream
- Scent: Sweet, nutty
- Size: 50ml
We love slathering Sol de Janeiro’s Brazilian bum bum cream over our entire bodies, so we were always going to like the brand’s hand offering. It has the same addictive, sweet, nutty scent, bringing sunny holiday vibes to the dreariest of days. It’s also non-sticky and melts into hands right away, leaving them silky and soft.
Aesop resurrection aromatique hand balm
Best: Long-lasting hand cream
- Scent: Citrus, woody, herbaceous
- Size: 75ml
We couldn’t write about hand creams without mentioning this cult product. It has great spread, so a little bit goes a long way, and sinks in beautifully, melting away dryness without leaving residue behind. It combines mandarin, cedar and rosemary for a citrusy, woody, herbaceous scent. Our only quibble is the aluminium tube, which can split with wear.
Byredo suede hand lotion
Best: Lightweight hand cream
- Scent: Woody and soft floral notes
- Size: 450ml
This appears pricier than our other picks, but our 450ml bottle has lasted all year. It’s a lighter option in texture than some of the heavier duty creams we tested; perfect for regular use after washing your hands. It sinks in immediately so you can get on with your day, and the scent – elegant and slightly woody – lasts so long it’s almost like applying perfume.
Margaret Dabbs intensive anti-ageing hand serum
Best: For anti-ageing
- Scent: Geranium and mandarin
- Size: 30ml
Margaret Dabbs specialises in hands and feet, so this isn’t just a nice-smelling cream. Like skincare for your hands, this serum radically improves the texture of skin. Ours went from rough and dry to the softest they’ve been in years, and we also saw improvement in fine lines and age spots on the backs of our hands. Keep a pot by your bed and apply at night.
Laura Mercier ambre vanille hand cream
Best: For on-the-go
- Scent: Sweet
- Size: 50g
Buttery and hydrating but not greasy or tacky, this is a really beautifully formulated cream. Its creamy, warm, vanilla scent is gorgeous and lingers so long we’re often asked what perfume we’re wearing. We like to keep a tube in our handbag for a moment of luxury after all that alcohol-heavy sanitising.
Kiehl’s ultimate strength hand salve
Best: For sensitive skin
- Scent: Eucalyptus
- Size: 75ml
Avocado, eucalyptus and sesame seed oils come together in this rich, deeply hydrating cream. It’s unfussy, gentle and soothing, so works for sensitive skins and conditions such as eczema, and has a very light scent, for those who don’t want a strong, perfumed experience.
The verdict: Hand creams
For its borderline miraculous combination of incredible hydrating powers and no greasy residue, plus its very reasonable price, The Body’s Shop’s hemp hand protector is our favourite. If you want to tackle signs of ageing as well as environmental wear, Margaret Dabbs’ serum is unbelievably effective.
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.