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The 7 best hand lotions for chapped skin

Outdoor sports, harsh weather, indoor heating, and frequent hand washing can all add up to one thing: dry, parched skin. When shopping for the best hand lotion for chapped skin, you'll want to look for a formula that offers immediate relief while also working to strengthen your skin's moisture barrier, so you get long-lasting protection.

The skin's moisture barrier refers to the outermost layer of skin, and it works to retain water and prevent dehydration, flaking, and irritation. A healthy skin barrier will help keep your hands calm and hydrated. To strengthen it, you'll want to look for lotions that moisturize your hands in a variety of ways:

  • Emollient: An emollient is a lipid that fills in the spaces in skin, so it's smoother and softer. Examples of ingredients that work as emollients include cocoa butter, fatty acids, and natural plant oils, like jojoba and sunflower oil.
  • Humectant: These have the rather awesome ability to attract and bind water to the skin. Some examples of humectants are hyaluronic acid, aloe, and glycerin.
  • Occlusive: An occlusive creates an extra barrier on the surface of the skin to lock in moisture. Some occlusive ingredients are squalene, lanolin, and beeswax.

Keep in mind that certain ingredients work in more than one way like shea butter which is both an occlusive and emollient. Strong occlusives like petroleum jelly can sometimes irritate acne-prone sensitive skin, but are a good idea for the thicker skin found on the hands, so my picks below include all three kinds of ingredients.

And of course — you'll want to keep your specific needs in mind. Skin sensitivity, level of dryness, SPF, and personal preference are all important factors when it comes to looking for the best hand lotion for dry hands.

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1. The best overall

This hand repair cream by Eucerin is a perennial favorite, and for good reason. Not only is it formulated with a blend of emollient ceramides with emollient and occlusive sunflower oil, it's also packed with alpha-hydroxy acids, which also work to chemically exfoliate the top layer of skin (it's gentler than it sounds) and doubles as a humectant.

This chemical exfoliation works to eliminate roughness and boost resistance to future chapping. It's fragrance-free and suitable for very dry skin. However, reviewers note that it's on the thicker side and that a little goes a long way.

According to fans: "I had rough, dry hands from constantly washing them at work. I keep it in my lunch box now and use it at breaks. It has replenished my hands very quickly and really soaks into the skin. Doesn’t leave a greasy residue like a lot of creams and body butters which I love.

2. The best for sensitive skin

If you're dealing with eczema, dermatitis, or any other type of skin sensitivity, this healing hand lotion from CeraVe is a great option. Approved by the National Eczema Association, it's non-irritating, fragrance-free, and easy on skin that's red, itchy, or inflamed. Formulated with a blend of emollient ceramides, occlusive dimethicone, and humectant hyaluronic acid, it's fast-absorbing, water-resistant, and locks in hydration for up to 24 hours.

According to fans: "I have eczema, so I'm pretty picky about what I put on my skin. CeraVe products have won me over so far! [...] I love that it absorbs quickly, so there's no greasy feeling — just leaves my hands feeling soft and moisturized. I even feel like it lasts pretty well through handwashing!"

3. A heavy-duty lotion for severely cracked hands

A cult favorite with consistently high ratings, O'Keeffe's is the best lotion for extra dry hands. It's made with a base of water and humectant glycerin, but also makes great use of allantoin — a powerful emollient and occlusive that promotes skin healing. Only a pea-sized amount is needed, and reviewers say it can be a bit sticky, but this is definitely your best bet if you're dealing with cracked and painful skin.

According to fans: "This stuff works miracles on extremely dry cracked hands that come from repeated washing on my job as a registered nurse. I had thumbs that were cracked open at the cuticles and no other products or interventions were of any use. Once I got this hand cream it only took a few days to see a major difference and improvement overall."

4. The best lightweight formula

If your hands are in need of quenching, but you hate the feel of thick, sticky creams, this lightweight gel lotion from Neutrogena is for you. The least creamy option on this list, it is packed with humectants including glycerin and hyaluronic acid to attract water to the skin. It may not relieve severe chapping, but reviewers say it's a product that genuinely improves skin texture with repeated use for most.

According to fans: "This is by far the best hand cream that I have ever tried. [...] You just need a small amount and it is absorbed into the skin really quickly but leaves your hands feeling wonderful."

5. The best hand lotion with SPF

If you're spending a lot of time outdoors, you'll want to shop for the best hand cream with SPF. For this category, Supergoop! is your best bet. The SPF 40 formula is made with emollient sea buckthorn oil, which protects against sun damage and promotes skin elasticity, and occlusive caprylic/capric triglyceride.

Vitamin E and humectant meadowfoam seed oil provide great hydration, and the sunscreen is cruelty-free. While it's free of synthetic fragrances, keep in mind that those natural essential oils do give it a light scent and might irritate extra-sensitive skin.

According to fans: "My hands are softer and any fine lines I have from sun damage and dehydration are rapidly decreasing. It is a tiny bit greasy after application but it doesn't take long to soak in. Highly, highly recommended!"

6. A 96% natural option

If you're looking for a hand lotion packed with natural ingredients, this aloe and green tea cream from J.R. Watkins is great choice. Aloe is one of nature's best humectants, and antioxidant-rich green tea works to soothe irritation and keep skin protected from the elements.

Shea butter and cocoa butter round out the formula, so you're getting emollient and occlusive benefits, too. It's 96% natural, Leaping Bunny-certified for being cruelty-free, and free of dyes and parabens.

According to fans: "All my life I have absolutely hated having any type of lotion on my hands: I just did not like how it felt. UNTIL NOW: I love how this lotion feels on my hands -- it soaks in quickly and relieves the dryness immediately."

7. An intensive overnight treatment

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this overnight hand treatment is the fact that it's infused with melatonin and flower extracts that help you sleep (yes, please). Of course, it's also deeply moisturizing since it incorporates ingredients from all three types of moisturizers: emollients, humectants, and occlusives. The cruelty-free formula is definitely on the thicker side, which is why it makes for such a great overnight treatment.

According to fans: "I have terribly dry skin on my hands. This product has made a stunning difference. I use it at bedtime and when I wake it’s as though my hands are 20-years younger. With repeated use my hands stay softer longer throughout the day."