What Hand Cream Do Dermatologists Recommend?

Proper hand care is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Hands are exposed to many irritants on a daily basis, including harsh soaps, chemicals, extreme temperatures, and dry air. These factors strip away natural oils and moisture from the skin, causing conditions like dryness, irritation, cracking, and even eczema. Using a moisturizing hand cream regularly is one of the best ways to prevent and treat dry, damaged hands according to dermatologists.

Applying hand cream multiple times throughout the day provides a protective barrier for the skin and replenishes moisture to keep hands soft and supple. Hand creams containing ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, shea butter, and oils are most effective at treating and preventing very dry skin. People who suffer from eczema and extremely dry, cracked hands will benefit the most from diligent moisturizing.

Daily hand cream use improves skin texture and suppleness, while reducing scaling, flaking, irritation, redness, and itching. This article provides dermatologists’ top recommendations for hand cream ingredients, formulations, application tips, and usage for optimal hand care and relief for conditions like eczema.

Hand Cream Ingredients to Look For

Dermatologists recommend looking for hand creams that contain the following key ingredients:

Occlusives like petroleum jelly help seal in moisture and prevent water loss from the skin’s surface (Source). Occlusives create a protective barrier on the skin.

Emollients like shea butter help smooth and soften the skin, while also restoring lipids and moisture. Emollients fill in cracks and repair the skin’s natural moisture barrier (Source).

shea butter is an emollient that helps hydrate and smooth rough, dry hands

Humectants like glycerin attract water and draw moisture into the skin’s upper layers. Humectants help hydrate and plump the skin to improve texture and smoothness (Source).

Hand Cream Ingredients to Avoid

Certain ingredients commonly found in hand creams can irritate sensitive skin or even be harmful when absorbed into the body. Dermatologists recommend avoiding the following ingredients when selecting a hand cream:

Fragrances – Artificial fragrances and perfumes can trigger allergic reactions or contact dermatitis in some people. They provide no skin benefits and merely mask the smell of other ingredients. Avoid hand creams listing “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label (Barrier Remedy).

Dyes – Color additives like FD&C dyes (e.g. yellow #5) have no purpose other than changing the aesthetic appearance of a hand cream. However, they can cause irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals (Murchison-Hume).

Alcohols – Ingredients like ethyl alcohol, denatured alcohol, SD alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol can dry out and damage the skin barrier. They strip away natural oils, causing irritation for many people (100% Pure).

Hand Cream Formulations

Dermatologists recommend choosing a hand cream based on your skin’s level of dryness. For mild dryness, a lightweight lotion may be sufficient to provide moisture. Creams have a thicker consistency and tend to be more moisturizing for very dry skin. For severely dry hands that are cracked or peeling, an ointment provides the most intense hydration. Some top options in each category include:

Lightweight lotions:

Thicker creams:

Ointments for severely dry skin:

How Often to Apply Hand Cream

Dermatologists recommend applying hand cream a few times throughout the day to keep skin hydrated, especially after washing your hands. Frequent handwashing can strip away natural oils, so it’s important to moisturize after to prevent dryness.

The American Academy of Dermatology advises applying a hand cream or ointment after each time you wash your hands to replenish moisture. They note that repeated handwashing and use of sanitizers during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased hand dryness and irritation for many people.

Applying hand cream multiple times a day provides continuous hydration and helps counteract the drying effects of frequent handwashing. It’s also beneficial to apply hand cream after exposure to water, before bedtime, and any other time hands feel dry or rough.

Consistently using hand cream 2-3 times daily and after each hand wash can make a noticeable difference in improving dry, cracked hands over time. Dermatologists emphasize proper moisturizing as key to maintaining healthy, supple skin on the hands.

Tips for Applying Hand Cream

Dermatologists recommend applying hand cream to damp skin after washing to help seal in moisture. Gently massage the cream into the skin, including the nails and cuticles, until it is fully absorbed. For deeper absorption, you may want to put on cotton gloves for 20-30 minutes after applying the cream. As Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a dermatologist based in North Carolina, explains, “Applying moisturizer onto damp skin and sealing it in with an occlusive layer helps prevent trans-epidermal water loss and keeps hands hydrated.”

For severely dry hands, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests soaking your hands in warm water or milk before applying the cream. The hydration can help your skin better absorb the moisturizing ingredients. After applying, slip on cotton gloves and wear them overnight while you sleep. When possible during the day, apply the hand cream and gloves for 15-30 minutes of protected moisture therapy.

Massaging the cream thoroughly into each part of your hands gives the ingredients direct contact with your skin for better absorption. Don’t forget your nails and cuticles, which also need hydration. Taking a few minutes to fully massage in hand cream helps maximize its effectiveness.

Recommended Hand Creams

Dermatologists recommend looking for the following hand creams that contain ingredients beneficial for the skin:

CeraVe Healing Ointment

CeraVe Healing Ointment contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and petroleum to help repair, moisturize, and protect damaged skin. The ointment creates a protective barrier on the hands while also attracting hydration to the skin. Dermatologists recommend CeraVe for extremely dry, cracked hands.

Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream

Eucerin Eczema Relief Cream contains colloidal oatmeal, which helps soothe and relieve itchy, irritated skin. It is fragrance-free and steroid-free. Dermatologists often recommend Eucerin for those with eczema or very dry skin conditions.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment provides a semi-occlusive barrier that protects skin while allowing it to breathe. The main ingredients are petroleum, mineral oil, ceresin, and lanolin alcohol. It provides long-lasting moisture that dermatologists recommend for chronically dry hands.

Hand Cream Use for Specific Conditions

Hand creams can provide targeted relief for common hand skin issues like eczema, extremely dry skin, and cracked hands. Here are some tips for using hand cream for specific conditions:

Eczema: Look for thick, emollient creams that contain colloidal oatmeal, which helps soothe itchy, irritated skin. Cerave, Eucerin, and Aveeno make dermatologist-recommended lotions for eczema, according to NBC News.

Extremely Dry Skin: Opt for creams with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to draw moisture into the skin. Shea butter is also ultra-hydrating. Apply hand cream multiple times a day.

Cracked Hands: Seek out creams with dimethicone, which forms a protective barrier over skin cracks and cuts. Also look for petrolatum, which moisturizes while sealing in hydration. Gloves can help the cream penetrate overnight.

In general, choose fragrance-free creams whenever possible, as fragrances can further irritate inflamed skin. Mild, gentle formulas are best for sensitive skin conditions. If symptoms persist, see a dermatologist for prescription treatment options.

When to See a Dermatologist

There are certain signs and symptoms that indicate it’s time to make an appointment with a dermatologist for your hand issues. Persistent redness, swelling, oozing, and cracking are some of the key signs that warrant seeing a skin doctor.

If you have extremely dry, scaly, painful hands that aren’t getting relief from regular moisturizer use throughout the day, you likely have hand eczema and need professional treatment. A dermatologist can prescribe stronger topical medications like corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. For severe cases of hand eczema, your dermatologist may recommend ultraviolet light therapy or systemic medications.

See your dermatologist right away if you notice any signs of infection like pus, increased warmth in the skin, red streaks, swollen lymph nodes, or fever. These require prompt treatment with antibiotic creams or oral antibiotics. Catching infections early can help prevent complications.

You should also make a dermatology appointment if you have skin changes that don’t go away within a couple weeks, like persistent rashes, growths, sores, or scaling. These may indicate an underlying skin condition that needs diagnosis and management.

Don’t wait with worrying hand symptoms – early intervention from a dermatologist leads to better outcomes. They have the expertise to accurately diagnose and provide effective treatments for eczema, infections, pre-cancerous lesions, and other skin diseases affecting the hands.


Taking good care of your hands is extremely important. Your hands do a lot of work and are often exposed to various chemicals, soaps, sanitizers, and other elements that can quickly dry them out and damage skin. Using a moisturizing hand cream recommended by dermatologists and skin experts can help keep your hands looking young, healthy and hydrated.

Look for hand creams with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, dimethicone, shea butter and other ingredients that nourish skin and strengthen the skin barrier. Avoid products with alcohol, fragrances and other irritants. Apply hand cream throughout the day, especially after washing hands, to lock in moisture. See a dermatologist if you have severe dryness, cracking, eczema or other chronic skin conditions on your hands.

By using a dermatologist recommended hand cream and establishing a routine hand care regimen, you can defend your hands against damage and signs of aging. Healthy, soft hands are within your reach with the proper moisturizing products and habits.

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