Problem Pages

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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