Our hands reveal our age much more readily than our complexions, because we’re not treating them to a daily dose of serums, oils and moisturisers with scrubs and masks thrown in for good measure. But you can even the gap with regular use of a good quality hand cream. 

Use it throughout the day – leave a tube by the sink so you always apply after washing up or hand washing, and keep one in your desk drawer or handbag. If you don’t like the feeling of a rich cream, go for a lotion – these tend to be lighter and more watery. And if you prefer not to use one during the day, apply a good, rich cream at bedtime and wear beauty gloves so your skin gets a huge boost of nourishment overnight.

We tried and tested over 45 lotions, creams and balms to find our favourites that not only hydrate thirsty winter skin, but can also reduce the appearance of fine lines, age spots and help combat eczema.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Clarins hand and nail treatment cream: £22 for 100ml, Clarins

Launched in 1979, this has been a best-selling product for more than 30 years and a tube is sold every 30 seconds worldwide. Put to the test, it delivered above and beyond our expectations. Clarin's offering is not only one of the richest and most nourishing creams we tried, it also absorbs almost instantly and leaves no greasy residue.

There are very few creams that can deliver on nourishment and absorption so effectively – this one can even keep mild eczema at bay. The moisturising base of sesame oil and shea butter is boosted by Japanese mulberry extract to work on minimising age spots, while myrrh extract is used to strengthen the nails.

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Neom Organics nourish breathe & energise hand balm: £15 for 50ml, John Lewis & Partners

It’s that energy-zapping time of year when you can feel like you’re walking through treacle. Cold, grey weather, short days, long dark nights and a tax bill just in. So use your hand cream as a therapeutic pick-me-up by choosing this uplifting, energising booster packed with nature’s finest invigorators –grapefruit, lemon and rosemary. There are three balms to choose from if you’re already fully loaded with energy; happiness boosting Breathe & Smile, relaxing Breathe & Calm, and a restful one for bedtime, Breathe & Sleep.

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Aromatherapy Associates renewing rose hand cream: £42 for 200ml, Net-a-porter

The scent from this cream is absolutely sensational and conjures up images of old fashioned rose gardens – a real treat to use. It feels light on applying and sinks straight in, so a good one for daytime use as it’s not so thick you can’t do anything afterwards. (Like not being able to open the front door to the postman because the hand cream being tested was so greasy... true story).

It leaves the skin with a deeply nourished feeling and an almost glowing, youthful look – a great anti-ager. The key ingredients include sea daffodil for reducing age spots and other blemishes, rose and geranium for boosting circulation and kukui nut oil loaded with omega six for great hydration and smoothing results.

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La Roche-Posay cicaplast mains barrier repairing cream: £4.87 for 50ml, Boots

The best value cream tested, this isn’t a luxurious beauty treat, but instead it’s a results-driven essential for anyone who has irritated, over-worked hands in need of some serious TLC. A cream that is so insanely effective you may as well be wearing gloves; it soothes and repairs the skin’s protective barrier. Non-oily, non-sticky, invisible and fast-absorbing (all relatively rare for a barrier cream), it stays put in water (better than the other creams we tested) and there was much less skin dryness after washing up and hand washing on the days we used it.

It also contains no parabens, no perfume, it’s non comedogenic, 100 per cent hypoallergenic and has been tested on sensitive skin. It also has an anti-histamine effect thanks to 4 per cent niacinamide, which reduces inflammation and prevents cracked skin. Irritated, red, sore skin will find this cream a huge relief.

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By Terry baume de rose hand cream: £32 for 75g, SpaceNK

If you’re all about the scent in your hand cream, then you won’t be able to resist this rose packed offering from By Terry, which includes rose butter, rose flower essential wax, rose hip oil and oil extracts of black rose and pastel rose. Not content with a rose olfactory overload? This is also a bit like a tinted moisturiser for your hands too. Soft-focus powders and skin-correcting optical prisms reflect light and tone down blemishes and irregularities in your skin tone. Ultra-thick and nourishing, it absorbs instantly and leaves a slightly powdery veil of perfection.

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Aveda hand relief moisturizing crème: £21 for 125ml, Aveda

Anyone with sensitive skin or allergies will know Aveda skincare is as gentle as it comes. This cream is free from all the nasties, including parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, formaldehyde, animal ingredients, paraffin, lanolin and synthetic fragrances. And instead it’s packed with natural seed oils and plant hydrators to drench the skin in nourishment: sunflower oil for conditioning, meadowfoam seed oil to deeply nourish, andiroba oil to seal in softness, calming liquorice and soothing coneflower and aloe. It has a wonderfully thick rich texture, but still manages to absorb quickly and smells fresh and clean.

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Aromacure eczema cream: £17.99 for 50g, aromacure.co.uk

If your skin is of a sensitive disposition, or you have broken, cracked or eczema-prone skin, this cream should be your absolute must-buy. Having struggled with eczema on and off for years and tried every medication, cream, steroid, alternative therapy and diet, this is the one product that relieves the unbearable itching and scratching that would wake me at night. Buy it now, it will change your life.

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Beauty Pie super retinol anti-ageing hand treatment: £40 for 75ml, Beauty Pie

If you need to pull out all the stops in the anti-ageing department, then choose a hand cream containing retinol. Universally acknowledged in the beauty world as one of the few ingredients that can make a real difference to the look of the skin, retinol basically exfoliates and refines uneven skin tones and helps in the production of collagen – the skin’s building blocks that keep it plump and firm.

But you do need to take retinol use slowly at first and also bear in mind that skin using retinol becomes more sensitive, so you must apply a sunscreen to protect it. And finally, retinol should be avoided if you suffer with rosacea, eczema or psoriasis as it can inflame the skin. As an anti-ageing hand cream, this one delivered real results, both immediately smoothing the skin, but also over the two weeks we tested it. And if you have a Beauty Pie subscription, it’s only £6.52.

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Kiss The Moon love night cream for hands: £28 for 90g, kissthemoon.com

Made in the UK, niche brand Kiss the Moon was born out of founder Jo Foster’s need to get her sleep back on track – poor sleep results in poor skin, as the most active cell renewal happens at night. Kiss the Moon beauty products give skin the nourishment it needs overnight to repair and regenerate. This anti-ageing night cream is actually more of a solid balm, that once warmed up in your hands, melts into the skin beautifully.

Relaxing rose and frankincense blend with moisturising rosehip and shea butter to deliver essential fatty acids which help cells hold water. As a result, skin feels less dry and the look of fine lines is reduced as you sleep. It’s also 100 per cent natural without any parabens, harsh chemicals, artificial perfumes or cruelty to animals.

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Green People manuka & lemon tea tree hand cream: £12.50 for 50ml, greenpeople.co.uk

We all need an uplifting skincare hit in the depths of winter and this 91 per cent organic hand cream is perfect for the job. Sweet orange and lemon tea tree give it a zesty kick, combined with nourishing shea butter and squalene from olives to balance moisture and elasticity. Tea tree and Manuka actually contain natural anti-microbial activity, which makes it a great cream for gardeners, childcare workers, health professionals and animal lovers. The lemon tee tree oil also supports healing of chapped skin, making it a good choice for skin prone to eczema and psoriasis.

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No7 protect & perfect intense daily hydration hand & nail cream: £11.50 for 75ml, Boots

Hands age as quickly as our faces yet they miss out on all those protective moisturisers, serums and oils we use year-round and often only really get sunscreen on them at the beach or by the pool on holiday. No7 claim this renews the skin for younger looking hands in just two weeks, and it really does deliver great results. With a 5-star rating for UVA rays (the ageing part of sunlight) and SPF15 to protect against UVB (the burning rays), this gives hands the protection against ageing that we afford our faces. It’s also super lightweight and absorbs quickly for instant and more long-term benefits.

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Aromaworks nurture hand lotion: £19.96 for 200ml, skinforia.com

Ultra-light and almost watery, this is great if you don’t like the thick, sometimes greasy consistency of heavier hand or barrier creams. It still manages to nourish the skin deeply and delivers skin soothing benefits thanks to roman chamomile. The uplifting citrus scent of Chinese may chang – which can help relieve lethargy, fatigue and mental fogginess – and sandalwood for mental clarity, makes this a good cream to keep in your desk drawer to re-energise you during the dreaded mid-afternoon slump.

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Ark Skincare body beautiful intensive hand & nail cream: £20 for 75ml, Look Fantastic

Nasties-free (including no mineral oil or fragrance), this popular British brand bases its hand cream on essential fatty acids and lipids to boost hydration and reinforce the skin’s natural moisture barrier. The red algae targets age spots and keratin amino acid ensures nails remain strong and healthy. Palmarosa, clary sage, rosemary, ylang ylang, jasmine and mimosa give this cream a stunning fresh floral scent.

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Chantecaille retinol hand cream with rose and vitamin C: £62 for 75ml, SpaceNK

If you invest in expensive skincare for your face, but your hands are letting the side down, this luxurious cream delivers results. At quite a hefty price tag for a hand cream, we had high expectations and Chantecaille didn’t let us down. The marine collagen-wrapped nanospheres of retinol are delivered to the deepest layers of the epidermis to reduce the effects of sun exposure, and renew and reinvigorate the skin from the inside. Simply put, some forms of retinol come in larger molecules that sit on the skin’s surface, this cream contains smaller ones which can work deeper in the skin.

Antioxidants from botanical oils and actives reduce the look of age spots, lighten hyperpigmentation and prevent future free radical damage. The SPF of 6-8 ensures the skin is protected from UVA and UVB rays and the retinol as it gets to work. After just a couple of weeks use, we found the tone and clarity of the skin was significantly improved and hands felt ultra-soft. Expensive, but worth every penny if you are self-conscious about your hands, or you want to see some real results.

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The verdict: Hand creams

For hands prone to chapping and eczema use La Roche Posay or Aromacure. Need good anti-ageing results? Try Beauty Pie or Chantecaille. But our IndyBest from Clarins is a cult classic; it’s been nourishing skin, strengthening nails and minimising age spots for the last 30 years, and we love it.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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