What to look for in a hand cream

shea butter moisturiser that’s covered in jasmine flowers and roses

Finding the perfect hand cream can be tricky. Some leave a nasty residue that won’t absorb into the skin no matter how long you leave them on for. Others have the opposite effect and absorb so quickly but without nourishing the skin effectively. Both of these things can be frustrating. Like Goldilocks, you need to find the one that is just right for you.

What makes a good hand cream?

When shopping for hand creams, there are some specific ingredients and labels to look out for that mean you can find the perfect cream that absorbs well and moisturises dry hands for longer than just an hour or two. While not every hand cream will contain all the ingredients we’ve mentioned below, you should aim to get one that has at least two of these ingredients.

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 is very effective at repairing damaged skin as well as creating optimum hydration levels. Out of the eight B vitamins, it’s the one that’s best for your hair, skin and nails, helping to keep them all in good condition and healthy. Sometimes, pro-vitamin B5 is used, also known as panthenol or pantothenic acid, as it is extremely good at trapping moisture in your skin and improving its appearance.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E has tons of natural benefits and can do so much for your skin. Primarily, it’s a natural moisturiser, which is why it is commonly found in moisturising creams and nail care products. But it can also do so much more than this. It’s a natural antioxidant, potentially reducing the long-term effects of exposure to various chemicals and pollutants on your skin. Vitamin E can also improve the skin’s UV defence and even reduce UV damage. While it shouldn’t be used as your only form of skin protection against the sun, it can often be found in suncreams.

Shea butter

shea butter moisturiser in a wooden bowl

Shea butter is an incredible substance because of its versatility. Not only can it be used as a fat for cooking (as an oil replacement), but it can be found in cosmetic and medical products too. It can help to relieve the symptoms of acne, burns, dandruff, eczema and, of course, dry skin.

Shea butter is a type of fat that comes from the seeds of the shea tree. Within the seeds are oily kernels that can be ground up and boiled in water. When the oil melts, it sits on top of the water and cools to become a solid. It is naturally enriched with vitamins A and E (and we already know how moisturising the latter is) and is known as an emollient.


Glycerin is another natural ingredient similar to that of shea butter. However, unlike shea butter, it’s clear, colourless and odourless. You may be wondering, then, why it is used in moisturisers. Glycerin, also known as glycerol, is exceptionally good at locking in moisture.

Research completed in 2008 proved that glycerin hydrates the outer layer of the skin, provides additional protection against skin irritants that could dry it out further and improves the skin barrier function . Any moisture that it draws into the skin becomes trapped, meaning your hand cream should continue to moisturise your hands for a long time if it contains this substance.

Natural oils

The more natural ingredients there are in your hand cream, the better. As well as shea butter, there are lots of similar oils that are really good for our skin, including argan oil and evening primrose oil.

Argan oil comes from the argan tree and, just like shea butter, contains vitamin E and antioxidants. Generally, it has a non-greasy texture, so hand creams that contain this oil will generally absorb well and leave no residue.

Unlike argan oil, evening primrose oil contains plenty of fatty acids, like omega-6 and omega-9 acids. These work to reduce moisture loss so, when they’re incorporated into a moisturising hand cream, it traps that moisture in.

Natural scents

Products that contain lots of chemical perfumes to make the hand cream smell nice can irritate your skin further, causing it to become dryer. When shopping for a hand cream, check the ingredients for more natural scents, such as flower extracts and fruit extracts, that are kinder to your skin.