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The Best Hand Cream for Home Cooks

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If ever there was a time to stock up on hand creams, it’s now. But which hand cream is the best hand cream? Well, that depends who you ask.

Your hands are arguably your most valuable tool, both in the kitchen and in life. But between exposure to the frigid air, relentless hand washing to avoid whatever nasty bug is floating around, and scrubbing all those dishes from your winter cooking projects, they also tend to take some serious damage—especially this time of year.

The best hand cream for you will depend on your answers to the following questions: Are you a fiend for scents, or does the thought of fragrance make you break out in hives? Do you prefer a lightweight lotion that will sink in immediately, or a luscious balm to coat your paws before bed each night? Do you want a tube to stash in your bag, or a bottle with a pump to keep on your nightstand?

A few things hold true no matter your individual preferences: To effectively treat dry hands, you’ll want to look for hand lotions and creams that contain some combination of humectants, occlusives, and emollients. Ingredients classified as one of these three things work in different ways to hydrate or maintain hydration in your skin.

Think of humectants as magnets that draw water from the air into your skin to rehydrate it, while occlusives create a protective layer to seal all that moisture in. Emollients, on the other hand, work by repairing the skin’s barrier and filling in any open gaps or cracks between cells. A given hand cream’s balance of these three types of ingredients may affect its texture and effectiveness for your particular skin type, but rest assured that all three are helpful for combatting chapped winter skin and that post-dishwashing dryness.

Here are our favorites, whether you’re looking for something that smells like it came from a fancy perfume shop, or are just looking to drench your tired hands in something ultra-hydrating.

For the fragrance fiends

This hand pomade comes from New York-based fragrance company Le Labo, so it’s no surprise that it smells good—like, really good. I love the hinoki-scented version, which is equal parts woodsy, herbaceous, and citrusy and makes me feel for a brief moment like I’m lounging at some luxe spa instead of lazing on my couch. Very much a pomade rather than a lotion, it has a thick, creamy texture that sinks right into the hands without leaving any greasy residue thanks to ingredients like shea butter and glycerin, which acts as a humectant.

Le Labo Hand Pomade, Hinoki

This is the hand cream I’ve taken to carrying around day to day for a few reasons: At one ounce, it’s the perfect sized tube to stick in my (constantly overcrowded) purse or work tote. It has a lovely bergamot scent that’s noticeably less potent than that of the Le Labo pomade, which is nice for when you don’t feel like perfuming your surrounding three-foot radius or are being conscientious of any scent-averse deskmates. But most importantly, it’s packed with hydrating ingredients like vitamin B5 and shea butter that leave my hands feeling soft, supple, and never greasy.

Malin+Goetz Vitamin B5 Hand Treatment

And for the scent-sensitive

If you scrolled right past the above section as soon as you read the word “fragrance,” don’t worry—food editor and self-proclaimed hand cream fiend Shilpa Uskokovic has you covered. “You know what a good hand cream feels like? Nothing,” she says. “It should also smell of nothing, because what’s worse than the scent of lab-made lavender and hinoki infiltrating your roast chicken?” Her current obsession is Nécessaire’s The Hand Cream: “It sinks into my skin within seconds, like whipped butter on fresh toast, and I can pick up a knife right after applying it with no fear of it slipping out of my fingers.” The packaging touts some five different ceramides, five peptides, niacinamide, and marula butter as key ingredients, but no worries if those words mean nothing to you—just know that this is a lightweight, non-greasy, fragrance-free cream that will leave your hands feeling, as Shilpa puts it, “soft as silken tofu.”

Nécessaire The Hand Cream

“I have loved Kiehl’s since I first clasped a sample-size face cream tossed from a Pride March float in my early days in New York City,” says senior SEO editor Joe Sevier. “Before I could afford the brand of my own accord, friends would know to find me post-parade, checking the gutters for uncaught or discarded (unopened!) bottles.” To this day, Sevier is loyal to the brand’s line of skincare and body care. He particularly loves their Facial Fuel Lip Balm and Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, “the latter of which has the most supple texture and a hint of eucalyptus (though it’s technically unscented),” says Sevier. “It leaves my hands and cuticles feeling absolutely rich.”

Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve

Associate social media manager Olivia Quintana has pretty sensitive skin, so she steers clear of any hand creams with too much fragrance. “The Trader Joe’s version isn’t overly perfumed so it hasn’t bothered my skin at all,” she says. “It’s very affordable but it’s still quite thick and feels luxurious (folks online have even started naming it as a dupe for higher end creams). Most importantly though, it dries down quickly and doesn’t leave my hands feeling greasy, which is a big pet peeve of mine.” If you’re sensitive to fragrance but can deal with a touch of scent, this is a great hand care option at a great price point.

Trader Joe’s Ultra Moisturizing Hand Cream

For the aesthetically inclined

Having this product in my tiny apartment bathroom makes me feel like I’m in a fancy hotel with room service on the way—or at the very least like I somewhat have my life together. Aesop’s minimalist packaging and amber-hued bottles are the epitome of quiet luxury, and they’ve gained a loyal fanbase as such—some have even taken to buying refillable bottles in a similar style to achieve the aesthetic without the need to splurge on the actual products (guilty as charged). What can’t be replicated, though, are the wonderfully creamy texture and uniquely warm, citrusy, woodsy scent of Aesop’s Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm. It has a looser, more lotion-like texture than some of the other balms on this list, and feels like pure luxury when rubbed into dry cuticles and palms.

Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm

“I’ve never really been a hand lotion person, but this winter the combination of seemingly endless dishes and my commitment to taking long walks in the park even when it’s cold and windy has wrecked my hands,” says commerce editor Carina Finn. The Velvet Hand Lotion from luxe fragrance brand Diptyque has become Finn’s go-to for the way in which it combines style and substance: It “comes in a giant glass pump bottle that’s chic enough to leave out on my desk, which means I’m way more likely to actually use it. It absorbs quickly, and leaves my hands feeling noticeably softer. I’m also obsessed with the subtle sweet almond and cedar scent.”

Diptyque Velvet Hand Lotion

For those desperate (post-dishwashing marathon) times

“As someone with chronically dry skin, most lotions seem to instantly evaporate the second I rub them in,” says senior cooking editor Kelsey Youngman. “I can see the little cracks forming between my knuckles seconds after I slather them. So when I say I’ve tried nearly every hand cream imaginable, I’m not kidding.” Then she picked up a tube of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands: “It’s glycerin-based and includes strong occlusives, so I figured it would both moisturize and protect my skin, but wow. It feels nourishing, sinking in the way nice, light lotions do, but also forms a lasting seal over my hands without being greasy or slippery, like a heavy duty balm. It’s not going to win any beautiful packaging awards, but it’s so incredibly effective, I can’t seem to care.”

O’Keeffe’s Working Hands

Aquaphor is a tried-and-true classic for a reason. Food director Chris Morocco loves it because “it has very minimal smell, actually works, and it is cheap enough that you can keep multiple tubes going at once so you always have one on hand.” Its main active ingredient is petrolatum, which works as an occlusive and creates a protective, moisture-sealing barrier over the skin. Another reason to love Aquaphor? It’s incredibly versatile—use it to lock in hydration not just on your hands, but on your body and lips too.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

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