There’s something quite romantic about ceramics. It might be the long tradition (the oldest known form of pottery was found in a cave 20,000 years ago), the beauty of creating something with materials from the earth, or it might just be that one scene in Ghost. It’s also pretty darn...pretty. Whatever it is that makes it so appealing, there is one more thing to admire—the expert care taken on the tool most valuable to a ceramicist: their hands.
A ceramicist’s hands can tell them what their eyes cannot—the plasticity of the clay, the bearings of air bubbles, and the areas that require a little more attention. For this reason, a lot of clay artists need their skin to be moisturized but not soft, sturdy but not tough. If your life doesn’t involve a 2,000-degree kiln in the corner of your open office or wet hands for a full workday, it may very well involve an overactive radiator and a big pile of dishes in the sink. Which is to say that anyone can benefit from a good hand cream recommendation, and you’re in luck because eight ceramicists paused from making their beautiful artwork (which are on full display below) to share their absolute favorite ones.
The Classic Cream
“As a ceramics artist I’m constantly washing my hands and then coating them in wet clay, or building up a dry clay crumble all over my skin. Lotion on hand all the time is essential. I’m riddled with eczema and am too sensitive to most lotions, but I love Cetaphil, and will buy two or three big tubs of it at a time. I leave some at work and some at home, and I have some mixed with lavender oil in a little jar in my purse. It’s pretty much all I use on my body and hands.” —Danielle Clare Pomorski
Photo courtesy of @dcpceramics.
The Oil That's Actually A Cream
“If I don't moisturize regularly, my knuckles start getting really tough like elephant's skin, and then they start to peel off. In deep winter, I use Korean hand masks. Goe Oil is my favorite cream and I always have that on me. It smells amazing, like herbs, and is thick but sinks in. It also lasts for a few hours, which is rare for a cream. For home or night, I have been using this "Raw Magick" that a friend gave me as a gift. It's a fluffy mix of shea butter and coconut oil. I love that it's so pure.” —Michelle McLaughlin
Photo courtesy of @calyerceramics.
The Natural Wonder
“I use Shikai Yuzu Hand and Body Lotion for my hands. I love the yuzu scent—it’s light and citrusy, and the lotion absorbs really quickly and doesn't leave my hands feeling greasy, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. I would rather have chapped hands than greasy hands... It also has really good quality, natural ingredients like apricot and avocado oil, at an affordable price.” —Zoe Dufour
Photo courtesy of @saypience.
The Drugstore Favorites
“Hand care is so important for those of us working with clay and plaster. I always have the intention to wear gloves, but it's not really practical—I find them more frustrating and distracting than helpful. Right now, my favorite lotions are Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion and Eucerin Unscented Advanced Repair Hand Cream. The Aveeno is great as an everyday lotion—it's lightweight and dries quickly and is very moisturizing. The Eucerin is great after working with my hands for a while—I find it to be more healing when my hands really need extra care.” —Jennifer D’Arbenzio
Photo courtesy of @jen_darbenzio.
The One That Also Heals
“Working in the kilns and in a hot environment really dries out your skin. So [I drink] lots of water, and before I go to the studio I always apply my face serum, hydrating cream and sunscreen. For my hands I use Moon Valley Organics Herbal Heal. Their combination of organic beeswax, rosehip oil, comfrey, and calendula, which are natural antibacterial ingredients, help for healing wounds and increase cell production in the skin. For me, it's like putting oil on my tools, and giving them some extra love. They're the only ones I have and I need them to last for as long as possible.” —Fernanda Uribe-Horta
Photo courtesy of @fernanda___uribe.
The ITG Fan Favorite
“If my skin starts cracking or my hands toughen up, it is harder to feel what is going on with the clay as I am throwing or building. I need to feel the material, and so for that alone I take care of them. I swear by Weleda Skin Food. I have tried multiple things, but this is the best one in my opinion. It's all natural, it smells very good, and it has always worked. They haven't changed the formula and now they are doing all this work on how to reuse their packaging. So that is good too.” —Michael Gundlach
Photo courtesy of @mdgceramics.
The One That's Meant For Feet
“I love the balm O'keeffe’s Working Hands. I use this after I am finished cleaning my tools and the studio. I also use a heel balm cream called Flexitol when I find my hands so dry that they crack. I use it at night and wear cotton gloves so it absorbs. It contains urea and somehow it makes the dry cracks go away. I was also advised by [a colleague] to put Vaseline on my hands and run them under cold water before working on the potter's wheel. It acts as a barrier protectant for the hands.” —Jessy Go
Photo courtesy of @femmesole.
The One That Smells The Best
“My favorite hand cream to use isn't a hand cream at all! It's the Malin+Goetz Meadowfoam Oil Balm, which is a multi balm. It's oil-based, so it's a bit richer than most hand creams. As soon as I leave the ceramics studio I’ll swoop out a dime size amount and let the product dissolve in my hands as I leisurely rub it in. In my experience, that's the best time to use the balm—when your hands are dry enough after washing, but not parched. The scent is orgasmic. It's not just a hand balm, you can use it on your lips, on your face as a subtle highlighter, on your hair, absolutely everywhere!” —Christine Nguyen
Photo courtesy of @chrissstttiiine.
Main photo via ITG.