By Amy Packham
I’ve had an on/off relationship with hand cream over the years. At one point, I went months where I wouldn’t leave the house without it, religiously applying it every few hours. Other times, I haven’t opened a bottle for six months.
Considering the cold weather is upon us, I took on the task of testing out different hand creams to find out if there really is much difference between them – or if the fancy packaging is just that. I tested 11 different creams – some I loved, some I didn’t, some which were in between. I used each of them for several days – reapplying at similar intervals.
I very quickly learned I was putting far too much cream on my hands to begin with, making them wet, sticky, and uncomfortable. As soon as I started to reduce this amount to a pea-sized amount, I was able to see which creams really did absorb straight away and which ones left that greasy feeling a little longer. Other factors that were increasingly important as I slathered various products on my hands: how good did it smell and how soft did it make my hands.
1. Body Shop Shea Hand Cream
This hands-down makes it into the top five because it smells amazing – that wonderful creamy, shea butter scent. And the scent travels, too – a few minutes after I applied it, my colleague asked what the lush smell was. It was my hands. The scent lingered for ages – it was like I had perfume on and I could smell it every time I picked up my drink. The cream is slightly thinner and more watery than others, so I only needed a small blob to rub in – yet still gave me the silky skin feeling. It absorbed well and didn’t leave my hands feeling sticky. After 2-3 hours, the scent faded and this is usually when I would reapply. Out of all of the creams, this scent stayed on for longest.
Bodyshop, £5 for 30ml, £12 for 100ml.
2. A’kin Calming Hand Cream
I’d become so used to smelling the hand cream each time I tried one that when I opened the A’kin tube I was slightly disappointed by the smell (only to read the packet and realise it was fragrance-free). This isn’t a cream you want to rub on your hands and sniff in the scent, but it is one you need to leave your hands feeling smooth. So, so smooth. The cream has shea butter and echium oil in which soothes the skin and it worked wonders on an irritated dry patch I had on my thumb. The cream rubs onto the skin really well without leaving any wet or greasy remnants. Definitely one to get on your shopping list if you suffer from dry skin in the colder months.
Superdrug, £12 for 75ml
3. Aesop Mandarin and Rosemary Leaf Hand Balm
The Aesop hand balm had a lot to live up to because I’ve had friends and colleagues tell me it’s the best hand cream they’ve ever tried. Despite wanting to be critical, I have to agree. The yellow-tinted cream was slightly thicker than others (and *warning* came out the tube super quickly), but absorbed really well on my hands without leaving a hint of grease. I loved the citrus-y scent – it wasn’t too overpowering and reminded me of what spas smell like. My hands stayed moisturised throughout the day, although I did keep reapplying even when I didn’t need to because I loved the smell. I see what all the fuss is about now.
Space NK, £19 for 75ml.
4. Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve
The packaging isn’t fancy, the design is plain, and the scent is slightly medicinal (think Vicks VapoRub) – but this cream wins at making my hands the softest they’ve ever been. Even the cream itself felt soft as I was rubbing it in. It’s made for dry hands, so it was perfect as I trialled it during two cold days where my hands felt scaly. It was deeply nourishing, and made my skin go from looking dry and pale, to bright and glowing. I felt like it stayed on even after washing too so despite it being on the pricier side, it’s something I’d fork out for.
Kiehl’s, £15 for 75ml.
5. Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater & Pink Peppercorn Hydrating Hand Therapy
I’d re-buy this hand cream on the scent alone. Is that ridiculous? I don’t know. Crabtree and Evelyn get top marks on their great scent combinations. I trialled the rosewater and peppercorn, but also loved the lavender and espresso smell (although, if you’re not up for a strong scent, perhaps this isn’t for you). Not only is this cream attractively perfumed, it’s long lasting. I would say the wet texture lingered on my hands slightly longer than other creams, but a little goes a long way. After it had absorbed, my hands felt silky and made me to rub them together far too many times during the day.
Amazon, £6 for 25g.
The runners up:
Champneys hand softening cream SPF 15 – super soft but left my hands feeling slightly greasy.
Soap & Glory call of fruity hand food – a great budget alternative, but didn’t get that silky smooth feeling afterwards.
Yope ginger sandalwood natural hand cream – would liken it to Aesop in terms of texture, but wasn’t a fan of the scent.
Other creams we tested:
Rose & Co No.84 hand cream
Time Bomb hand-to-hand combat hand cream, coconut
Rituals Rose and Almond hand balm.