Colin Solves Your Problems 27 – Heavy Duty Hand Cream Recommendation


A tough question from Andy.

“I need a really good recommendation for a hand cream colin, i have tried so many yet always end up disappointed with it being gloopy, tacky and sticky on skin, with me being a hairdresser hands hurt and are sore at night, the only hand cream that i like is ardens 8hr hand. Yet its so expensive i need an alternative. Plz help?”

Well hairdressers hands get a lot of punishment from water and the detergents in the products they use for hours on end day after day.  They certainly need protection from a heavy duty hand cream.

I don’t know the product you mention, but the ingredient list gives a good indication of the kind of formulation it is and why you find it helpful.

Petrolatum (56.8%), Lanolin, Mineral Oil, Tocopherol, BHT, Salicylic Acid, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil (Castor), Vegetable Oil, Zea Mays Oil (Corn), Fragrance, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool, Propylparaben, Iron Oxides

First off, no water.  This isn’t technically a cream at all but an ointment.  The difference is that a cream is an emulsion of oil and water while an ointment is straight unadulterated oil.  The first ingredient is petrolatum, and the helpfully provide a percentage.  Petrolatum is another name for mineral oil, so what you have here is something that basically consists of over half vaseline.

You then have lanolin, which is to my mind the most efficient ingredient for building up the skin’s barrier function.  It does a good job for the sheep who secrete it onto their wool to keep it waterproof.

The mineral oil is probably a light grade used to achieve a manageable consistency.  Both petrolatum and lanolin are rather hard to cope with as they come.

Tocopherol is another name for vitamin E.   This is a useful antioxidant for your skin, but I suspect the motive for the inclusion here is to protect the formulation itself from oxidation.  BHT is a synthetic antioxidant that does the same job.  I am not sure what the salicylic acid is doing – but I imagine that there isn’t a huge amount in there.

You then have some vegetable oils, which probably improve the skin feel a bit, but frankly won’t add much to the skin protection given the amount of oil we have already looked at.  The rest of the ingredients are the fragrance, and some components of the fragrance that have to be listed individually.  Right at the end is a preservative, the propyl paraben, and some iron oxide pigments included to make it look nice.

This ought to be a really great barrier product and just the thing for the need you have for  protecting your hands in tough circumstances.  But as you say, it is a very expensive solution.

So cheap alternatives.  The cheapest would be vaseline.  This certainly protects well, but is going to be an unappealing option.  It takes a very long time soak in and in the mean time your hands are going to be slippery, which will make doing your job tricky.  Lanolin isn’t much more expensive and gives a longer lasting protective effect.  But it is an absolute cow to apply, and you will need to apply a lot of work getting it in.  This might not be something you can do during a shift without disrupting your work flow.

One option might be to do your own blend.   I’d suggest 6 parts vaseline, 3 parts baby oil (that is the mineral oil) and 1 part lanolin as a starting point.  You can then vary the levels to suit your own needs.  The easiest way to blend them would be to get a suitable glass jar, weigh them out and then melt them together for a couple of minutes in a microwave. This will get extremely hot so take care.

If you want a formulated product, Attrixo is worth considering.  It has a bit of a cult following amongst the very dry skinned and is certainly a lot cheaper than your Elizabeth Arden option.  Whether it can stand up to the detergents as well is a good question.

I hope this is of some help, and hopefully other readers will have some ideas.

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20 thoughts on “Colin Solves Your Problems 27 – Heavy Duty Hand Cream Recommendation”

  1. Thanks colin for the answer, i just cant get my head around how ardens hand cream sinks in and leaves my hands with a nice finish considering the nature of the ingredients, i just dont think i would get the same feel making it myself. I will however try astral cream.

  2. Try Simple Derma Hand Cream – clinical trial proved 24 hour moisturisation and lasting effect after stopping. High petrolatum too. (Formulated by………….. ;))

  3. Lanolin Is the best but has the downside of feeling a bit sticky – not ideal for hairdressing. Have you tried Neutrogena Norwegian Formula? Saved my life when my twin boys were babies. I was constantly handwasihing and got a hideous case of dermatitis. The Norwegian Formula worked a treat.

  4. attrixo! i used to love that when i lived in the UK. my scottish friend laughed at me when i asked her to bring me some when we met up in thailand. now i know i was onto something

  5. Attrixo, my grandmother swears by it. That and the old nivea in the blue tub. It only costs a few pounds and her skin is absolutely beautiful. Her hands are like silk.

  6. I think salicylic acid used only to prevent a acne but its first time i was seeing that it was also used for hand cream also.

  7. Thanks everyone for the suggestions, i picked up he boots pharmaceutical derma care light daily moisturising lotion, its fluidy, and relatively absorbent but with a nice formula, still doesn’t beat arden. And the simple derma hand cream is discontinued and i cant find it, atrixo is nex on the list to purchase and try, seems im never gna find my holy grail

  8. I am actually using Vaseline, it is actually helpful, keeps my skin moisturized and smooth at all times. Although, sometimes I got irritated because of the slippery effect of it, so I usually use it during night time to have a comfortable sleep. I hope that you’ll be able to love it also the way I do.

  9. I’ve noticed that Lanolips make a lanolin based hand cream – it’s not cheap but does cost less than the 8hr cream. I haven’t tried it so can’t comment on how well it works though.

  10. I think it is worth to look for heavy moisturizers among baby and breastfeeding mothers’ products. German Rossmann’s Babydream brand is really good and really cheap, but it might not be available in many places.
    Also is important to know that dry skin is not only about depletion in lipids and occlusion, but impaired desquamation and corneodesmolysis as well. So water soluble ingredients like glycerol or hydroxy acids could be quite helpful to restore the barrier functions of the skin.
    As for lipids, certain physiologic ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol or lecithin might be good as well.
    I’ve seen plenty of articles claiming that combination of fatty acids, sterols and lecithin (or ceramides) with humectants is the most effective.

    Aside from that above, I strongly reccomend concentrated Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, it’s salvation for my hand during cold winters.

  11. The only hand cream I’ve used over the past 10 years or so that’s helped my hands to heal (they get very dry, skin cracks and peels and I have no idea why, nor does my dermatologist, as I’m a photographer and don’t really do anything that should cause it) is from Aveeno. I’ve tried dozens of them and most only work for a very short while. Aveeno hand cream seems to be fairly water-resistant too which is a plus!

  12. Since lanolin has been brought up, I won’t be giving away my beauty secrets. I actually use a 2-step process. After washing my hands, I apply a humectant-type cream, let it sit for a while, then apply lanolin. Strangely, this makes lanolin less sticky than applying lanolin by itself.

    For me, lanolin provides the barrier against water etc. Perhaps the best analogy in this case would be the humectant cream is your beautiful dress and lanolin is the transparent raincoat over that beautiful dress. Hydrous lanolin is not as sticky as anhydrous but both will still stain clothes if u get any on them.

    P.S. I have the Elizabeth Arden 8 hr cream, and it does work but at a price. I personally prefer cheaper options which I can slather on freely, without thinking of price.

  13. Something I’ve started using because of Crossfit is Monkey Hands by a company called Urban Vitals .. I think. It’s marketed to those athletes specifically, but since using it I’m ADDICTED. Had to buy it online, but hands down the best find I’ve made lately.

  14. Have had very dry skin on hands and feet for several years and many products including prescription ones. A chiropodist recommended using avocado oil with a few drops of tea tree oil as a solution to the problem.

    Pour a little oil into the palm of your hand and add 2 drops of tea tree oil. Rub into hands or feet. It seems greasy at first but if your skin is really dry it is soon absorbed.

    This remedy works for me and is very inexpensive.

  15. Colin, could you please help me out and suggest some ingredients…my husband asked me to make him a hand cream that he could use both at work (he spends in average 10h per day in airplanes with that horrible air conditioning) and at home (we live in a very hot and humid climate).
    I’d love to make him something more on the natural side, with COSMOS approved ingredients preferably.
    I suppose that I will have to use some very good film former (what kind of film former will really hold the moisture in when he will be at work?) and lot’s of humectants.
    What else should I include, since I imagine lot’s of oils are a no-no with humid and hot climate.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hello Paulina, it sounds like you’ve pretty much got the idea already. I’d certainly consider including lanolin and shea butter.

  16. Marie from Humblebee and Me has some incredible hand cream formulations. You should give her blog a read. You can make them yourself, are definitely of professional quality and are not greasy. There are too many to name but I’ve made many of them and they are top notch for home formulators.

  17. Pingback: How Long Should You Give a Skin Cream To Work?

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