Overexposed to the cold, the wind, hard water, cleaning products. Overworked, scratched, grazed, from building, cooking… Our hands get bashed about every day. And if we forget to look after them, they call us out on it: irritated, itchy, the slightest thing is enough to damage them. In short, our hands dry out, becoming rough and uncomfortable. What do they want? A cream all for themselves!
Is it really necessary to have a cream specifically for your hands?
A face cream, a body cream, another that you use around your eyes… Do we really need a separate cream just for our hands? Your favourite body lotion will do the job, right? Wrong! One single product won’t work on all areas of your body – your hands require special attention because of the specific constitution and needs of their skin.
Naturally sensitive, and rarely hydrated, our hands have very few sebaceous glands and so are not as protected by the hydrolipidic film as the rest of our body. Always exposed and used, our hands are the single area of our skin that we mistreat and dry out the most every day. And, like all of the body’s extremities, as soon as it gets cold outside, blood flow to the hands cuts off – we concentrate on the protection of our vital organs. Less protected than our hairy heads or our shoe-encased feet, our hands are on the front line. The result: skin that is less nourished, becoming more and more vulnerable.
As a result, criteria number 1: a good hand cream needs to respond to these specific needs. Generally, this means a very rich cream that’s capable of repairing, protecting, nourishing and strengthening your hands.
But your cream’s texture itself is also an important factor. There’s a delicate balance here… Feeling like your hands have been plunged into a block of butter will encourage you to leave your tube of hand cream, untouched, at the back of the cupboard. But if it only provides the slightest layer of protection, you can wave goodbye to it with the slightest use.
Your cream, therefore, needs to be thick enough to stay put and protect your skin, while being dry to the touch, without feeling greasy or sticky, so it doesn’t stop you from doing things or leave marks all over your screen.
Soft, your cream should be able to quickly absorb into your skin and completely nourish it – you don’t want to have to wait too long after application to use your hands!
A last little (but important) category: it’s important to find a hand cream that you can carry around with you, ready to use throughout the day.
Examine the formula up close
Convinced, you’re now in search of THE cream for your hands. Take your time to really get to know the ingredients, it’s even more important here than with other products – you’re going to be applying this cream often, especially in Winter, to fragile, and therefore more permeable, skin and to an area that’s going to be in contact with… Everything! Particularly food and utensils. Very frequent usage and a fairly high chance that you’ll ingest this product, this means you should take special care when selecting the hand cream for you. More so if you’re pregnant or you’re looking after a baby. Scrap endocrine disruptors, allergens and any suspicious substance.
Popular hand creams are often far from being great for the environment and for your body. A product that’s packed with irritants and harsh preservatives can be really counterproductive if your skin gets used to them. Some of these popular creams know how to seduce us: super moisturising, water and contact resistant, it’s like pulling a second skin onto your hands. Isn’t this the dream? More like a mirage, perhaps. We can put their moisturising qualities down to vaseline (or petrol jelly, petroleum jelly – yum) or paraffin: completely synthetic and extremely polluting mineral oils, extracted from the bottom of oil wells and non-biodegradable. They don’t even have a real positive effect to balance out the weight of their environmental negativity – these substances give absolutely nothing to your hands. By applying a protective layer over your hands, they limit water loss, yes. But in a completely temporary way. Stop applying your cream and you’ll be back to square one at best. Whilst looking more hydrated, your skin continues to be malnourished and this ‘protective’ layer even prevents any naturally occurring substances from nourishing your hands. Let’s take paraffin and petroleum out of the picture then. You can protect yourself by opting for natural and organic products. But which ingredients should you look for?
Which natural ingredients should you use on your hands?
Your hands require hydration, but their skin also needs to be nourished and strengthened. This is the single most important factor to ensure your hands retain their moisture. Otherwise, it’s like trying to fill up a broken water bottle. The ideal ingrédients? Rich nutrients, essential fatty acids and vitamins. It’s also important for the product to be antioxidants – being highly exposed to UV, your skin not only becomes weaker but is also the first victim of brown marks and premature ageing.
What’s best for all of that? Our favourites! Plant-based oils and butters, particularly those which are rich in squalene. Naturally present in our sebum, it is moisturising, hydrating, penetrates the skin easily and isn’t greasy to the touch. Everything that we need for our hands! Sweet almond, argon and especially olive oils, restorative and full of antioxidants, rebuild the hydrolipidic layer and retain moisture. Amongst the other oils that are dry to the touch, that of the macadamia nut absorbs really easily, softens and nourishes the hands. Kalahari melon is strengthening and very moisturising. In the same way, baobab oil, rich in vitamins A-E-F, or coconut oil protect your hands from dehydration and quench their thirst. Not forgetting the golden treasure of dry and damaged skin, our Winter friend – shea butter, with its unsaponifiables and vitamins which soften, nourish, strengthen and ease irritation.
Honourable mention, too, should go to glycerine, providing it comes from a natural source, obtained by saponifying a plant-based oil. Moisturising, protective, conditioning, it prolongs the hydrating power of your cream by keeping the oil inside the skin. Glycerine also has antiseptic properties, which is useful for our hands that are in constant contact with bacteria. But be careful: the glycerin written in the ingredients of your cream doesn’t specify its origin and, even if it is natural, there’s a high chance it is produced from nasty palm oil. Check the guidelines, the websites, ask questions… At oOlution, our plant-based glycerine is exclusively obtained from rapeseed oil.
Combine some softening ingredients – yarrow, poppy and horehound extracts -, some hydrating components – althea or seabuckthorn – and anti-UV ingredients such as olive, mulberry or other extracts rich in carotenoids (carrot, cress, physalis) and you’ll get… our Happy Hands cream! A silky formula developed to satisfy all of your hands’ needs.
What routine should I adopt for my hands?
We think of them more in the Winter months, but your hands are just as exposed in the Summer months. All year round, you should be hydrating your hands at least once a day. Massage them with a pea-shaped drop of cream until it is absorbed and leaves your hands feeling luscious and soft. When’s the best time? Whenever you’re going to be using your hands the least, like in the evening before you go to sleep.
Ski holiday, a big spring clean or the bleak mid-Winter? When you’re hands are the most exposed, feel free to increase your application of hand cream. How often is enough? Apply your hand cream as often as you feel is necessary – the ingredients of Happy Hands won’t make your hands dependent. Your hands are really fragile and damaged? Apply the cream liberally, like a hand mask, and leave it to soak in overnight under a pair of gloves. Silky smooth hands in the morning.
Finally, adopt some positive habits. Wear rubber gloves when you’re cleaning, gardening gloves when you’re gardening and cosy gloves when it’s cold outside. If you strip your hands bare during the day, not even the best of hand creams can do much in favour of repairing them. Hand hygiene is extremely important, naturally – when you’re leaving the toilets, before cooking, cleaning up your baby. Even if you’re not a clean-freak, your hands get washed pretty often. So there are a few points to bear in mind. Forget alcohol-based hand sanitizers, practical but really dehydrating, full of triclosan and other endocrine disruptors, known for developing a resistance to antibiotics. There’s no solution as effective as water and soap, ensuring you avoid sulphuric products. SLS and SLES are great for a factory floor but are far too aggressive for your delicate skin. The best thing? A cold-pressed soap, made of plant oils and butters. You can even add a drop of plant-based oil to the palm of your hand to strengthen its effects. Finally, of course, always dry your hands thoroughly. Your hands are precious, they deserve your care and attention, and even more so in Winter – look after them!
This post is also available in french.