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The Lotions That Save Our Hands After Days in The Kitchen

Testing equipment means a lot of dishwashing—and dry hands. These lotions have our backs—er, hands.

Published May 13, 2020.

Riddley Gemperlein Schirm

Over the past month or so, many of us have found ourselves washing our hands more than ever. While all the extra hand washing is important for health, food safety, and hygiene, it’s been not so great on our delicate hands. 

Members of the ATK Reviews team are no strangers to chapped, dry hands; after all, we regularly wash products 10, 20, even 100 times while evaluating the durability and ease of use of the products we review. Cracks, dryness, redness: our hands have felt it all. A good hand lotion is a necessity and a lot of us have favorites that save our skin. We keep bottles of them at our desk, in our bags, and at home.

We reached out to Dr. Emmy Graber, President of The Dermatology Institute of Boston, to find out what you should look for in hand cream. Dr. Graber said to choose a cream with nourishing, hydrating ingredients on the label such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and dimethicone. As for what to avoid? Fragrances. “Even if it smells delicious, it doesn’t mean that it is good for your skin,” Dr. Graber says. “Even if fragrances have not irritated your skin in the past, you can develop an allergy to fragrances.”

And if you’re feeling in need of some hand cream inspiration, here are some personal favorites from the ATK Reviews team:

Miye Bromberg, Associate Editor

We spend a lot of time evaluating the durability of the products we investigate since we want our readers to be getting equipment that will last a long time. The downside is that there are days when I feel like I've spent more time washing equipment than testing it—ask me about washing wooden cutting boards by hand 100 times. And I hate wearing gloves—I can't tell if I've gotten all the hidden crud off a piece of equipment unless I've run my fingers all over it. As a result, my hands really take a beating, going from dry to itchy to cracked very quickly.

If I remember in time, I'll start using Eucerin Advanced Repair Hand Cream in the days leading up to and during an intensive washing cycle. It moisturizes well and absorbs surprisingly quickly, leaving a thin layer of protection on my hands. When I forget and my hands start getting itchy, though, I go old-school and slather on a layer of Pond's Cold Cream. I can't remember a time when I haven't had a jar of this in the house; my grandmother used it to take off her makeup, and when I was a kid my mother would rub it on my chapped nose and lips when I had a cold. It's got both mineral oil and beeswax in it, and while I don't think the formula is as thick as it used to be, it is still greasy as all get out. It takes a good long time to sink in, but does a great job of softening and soothing.

Finally, for the worst cases—when my skin has already started to crack and bleed—I will very occasionally use a somewhat expensive cream called Cutemol. It's designed to treat eczema, and has a very thick, almost stiff consistency. While it also contains both mineral oil and wax, it definitely leans more heavily on the wax. If you put it on, you better not plan on doing anything with your hands for a long time afterwards, unless you want to leave oily fingerprints on everything you touch. But that waxy layer pretty much waterproofs your hands, at least for a little while, making them feel far better protected than anything else.

Lisa McManus, Executive Editor

My favorite DIY hand cream is very simple: I rub in a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil. I learned this trick when I was visiting olive groves in California in the winter. I do own all kinds of fancier creams for hands, but when I'm working steadily in the kitchen and my hands keep getting drier and more chapped, olive oil really does the trick, especially around the nails and cuticles.

So many lotions contain alcohol or other ingredients to help them dry quickly and remove the greasy feel of lotion on your hands. But I think that just makes skin even drier, and you wind up using more and more lotion. Plus, every time your hands get wet or you wash them, lotions seem to strip off and disappear down the drain or, worse, transfer to what you're touching.

By contrast, I've found that olive oil soaks in completely, and seems to create a light barrier on your skin that helps protect your hands from further chapping—and it doesn't contain floral (or other) scents, which can transfer to your food. Some olive oil producers, such as McEvoy Ranch, have even used olive oil in soaps, balms, and creams sold on the company website. But if you don't have those products around, you're likely to have actual olive oil right there on the pantry shelf.

Kate Shannon, Senior Editor

On a good day, Portland, Maine and all its incredible restaurants and breweries are a quick 90-minute drive from Boston. On a recent trip, I stayed at the Francis Hotel—a cozy little spot conveniently located directly across the street from Tandem Bakery. The trip, like all of my trips to Portland, was perfect. We visited all of our favorite spots and left blissfully full and happy. I also left with a newfound love for Malin + Goetz products. They were in our room at the Francis and in a bunch of restaurant restrooms.

When I'm at work, I keep a bottle of its Vitamin B5 Hand Treatment at my desk right next to my pens and water bottle. I reach for it at least as often. After all, I spend many workdays doing things that are absolutely brutal on my hands: Plunging them into ice water to retrieve skillets that I've thermal shocked, carefully cleaning dirty equipment to evaluate sponges, and simply keeping myself and my work station clean and sanitized. The M+G lotion is super soothing and it has a clean, neutral smell that's very pleasant but not overwhelming. That it reminds me of Portland is a nice bonus.

Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor

When I was in high school, my dad brought this cream from Jurlique home for me as a little present. (I know, I was lucky). I still use this cream today especially when I'm washing my hands a lot, like I have been this past month. This cream continues to leave my hands feeling hydrated, but not greasy. And a little cream goes a long way, which is good because it's a little pricey now that I buy it for myself. My dad's always been a good shopper, but he really nailed it with this pick.

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, Associate Editor

I have mild eczema on my hands, and it tends to flare up especially when I’m stressed and anxious, when I’m washing my hands more, and when I’m chopping a lot of potatoes, onions, and acidic things like tomatoes. I have a few creams I love that keep my hands feeling good, and help when they don’t feel their best.

I almost always have a tube of this Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Moisturizing Hand Cream with me. It works wonders on dry hands and calms down redness. Another favorite of mine is this Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which I not only use on my hands, but my elbows, arms, knees, and feet, especially in the colder months when things are extra dry. It’s thick, which makes it feel satisfying to slather on. My final favorite hand cream is Upinngill Beebalm, which is produced at Upinngill Farm in Gill, Mass. It’s made from just sunflower oil, beeswax, and water and smells faintly like honey. It’s thick and a little goes a long way, meaning a small, 2-ounce jar lasts me a couple of months. I like to keep it on my bedside table and rub it into my cuticles and knuckles, but it’s a great cure-all kinda cream (I’ve even used it as chapstick and to moisturize my dog’s paws).

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