Hand Cream Superlatives

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Extremes are inadvisable in either direction. In moral behavior: Too little honesty breeds secrecy and too much is usually just culturally unacceptable. In hair styling: Imagine having just, like, two highlights? Reversely, it’s possible to have so many highlights that it’s like looking directly into the sun. In skin care: Most hand creams either do too little or too much. I want it just right, damnit!

In search of that sweet spot, I've recently incorporated nine new hand creams (normal!) into my daily routine. I tested them all and gleaned each one’s strengths (and other relevant data) to allow you to form opinions fit to your own sensibilities. Here they are, cataloged and arrayed by their strongest suits. Bon appétit.

Most intense: Buly 1803 Pommade Concrète balm

Form factor: metal tube from an apothecary in Napoleonic France (also, Bergdorfs)
Fragrance notes: shea butter, mosquito-repellent candle
Absorbs: eventually
The words pommade, concrète, and balm converge to evoke something Princess Fiona in ogre form would use to lubricate her bunions. This is precisely the visual you need to imagine me applying this before bed. It’s rich enough to last until your next hand wash—not a second sooner!

Most elegant: Byredo Suede Hand Cream

Form factor: girth-forward metal tube
Fragrance notes: amber, aldehydes, musk
Absorbs: in more than a few minutes
I first discovered this cream in WANT Les Essentiels’s apothecary area while browsing leather totes that, at 40% off, I still couldn’t afford. Its packaging is minimal, its appeal is strong, and it pairs well with latte art—it’s the Kinfolk of lotion.

Most inscrutable packaging: Chanel La Crème Main

Form factor: EVE from WALL-E
Absorbs: immediately
Fragrance notes: light florals, Pantene Pro-V
I often fantasize about a cooler, evil version of myself. He wears blue velvet driving moccs. He has charming crow's feet, porcelain veneers, and once, he met Amy Sedaris through their mutual friend, Todd Oldham, and she said he was "pretty." He definitely uses this moisturizer.

Most cost-effective: Mario Badescu Special Hand Cream with Vitamin E

Form factor: tub
Fragrance notes: cold cream, Sweet Pea by Bath and Body Works
Absorbs: in a few minutes
This cream is inexpensive enough ($8) to be recklessly liberal in application. Better yet, share it with a barbaric significant other whose palm calluses feel like asphalt against your freshly-shaven legs.

Most fragrant: Diptyque Eau Rose Hand Cream

Form factor: alluring plastic tube
Fragrance notes: rose (obviously), jasmine, lychee
Absorbs: quickly
You could, in theory, use this in place of a personal fragrance, to attract hummingbirds, and to cosplay as a bowl of potpourri.

Quickest absorption: Grown Alchemist Hand Cream

Form factor: metal tube
Fragrance notes: the air when you peel an orange, milk
Absorbs: instantly
This formula is nearly traceless. It supplies ample moisture that disappears the second you rub it in, leaving your phone screen devoid of oily fingerprints.

Most ambitious: Verso Hand Serum with Retinol 8

Form factor: plastic tube
Fragrance notes: laundry detergent
Absorbs: in a couple of minutes
What exactly is “Retinol 8”? As far as I could tell, it’s Verso’s proprietary (and patented!) Vitamin A complex that is eight times more effective than traditional retinol. Retinol packs a plentitude of anti-aging benefits, so just imagine that—times eight. I’ve never used a serum on anything other than my face, but I love the idea of having crepey Crypt Keeper arms leading into supple Michelin Man hands.

Splashiest: La Mer Hand Treatment

Form factor: plastic tube with substantial screw top lid
Fragrance notes: faint citrus, modest florals, a rich aunty
Absorbs: in a minute
Pulling out a tube of La Mer hand cream in front of peers, in this economy, and slathering it on yourself is equal parts self-care and power play. When was the last time you treated yourself to that kind of luxury?

Most pleasing scent: Suzanne Kaufman Hand Cream

Form factor: glass jar
Fragrance notes: honey, banana cream pie
Absorbs: in minutes
Nothing about its serviceable jar or label of no real significance would lead you to believe that it looks, feels, and smells exactly like pudding. Should anyone ask why your hands smell like circus peanuts, tell them you’re a foodie and get on with your day!

—Or Gotham

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Now how about about manicure to go with those soft hands? Right this way.

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