News & Politics

Nursing Your Hands

Is a $70 hand cream better than ones that cost $5? We asked Georgetown Hospital nurses to put creams to a test. One was a hands-down favorite.

A nurse’s hands take a beating—especially working in a hospital operating room. Before every surgery—up to ten times a day—these nurses spend five minutes scrubbing their hands with strong soap and abrasive sponges.

So who better to judge hand creams?

We asked half a dozen operating-room nurses at Georgetown University Hospital to test six hand creams over six days. On a scale of 1 to 5, they rated each on four factors: smell, whether the cream absorbed quickly or left hands greasy, if hands felt softer right away, and whether their hands still felt soft an hour later.

We put the creams in identical unmarked containers so our testers didn’t know what brands they were using.

Which hand creams came through our little operation with flying colors? Here’s their diagnosis:

First place: La Mer, the Hand Treatment, 3.4 ounces for $70 at Neiman Marcus.
The priciest product tested, La Mer got the highest ratings for having a pleasant scent, not leaving hands greasy, and making hands softest the longest. One tester said it made her hands “silky.”

Second place: Keihl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, 5 ounces for $18.50 at Keihl’s.
The nurses liked the effect and consistency of this cream, which didn’t go on greasy. “Other than the smell”—not offensive but just “okay”—“it works perfect,” commented one tester.

Third place: L’Occitane Creme Mains, 5.2 ounces for $25 at L’Occitane. This shea butter cream got high marks for immediately making hands soft but lower marks for staying power.

Fourth place: Elizabeth Arden Eight-Hour Cream, 2.3 ounces for $16 at Red Door salons.
Several testers complained that this one smelled “medicinal.” Maybe it’s a good thing, then, that they said it didn’t last an hour, let alone eight.

Fifth place: Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, 2 ounces for $4.99 at CVS.
While this thick cream made hands soft, most disliked the smell and greasiness, comparing it to Vaseline.

Sixth place: Burt’s Bees Beeswax & Banana Hand Cream, 2 ounces for $6.99 at Whole Foods.
Few liked the fruity banana scent, and most found it too greasy.

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Executive Editor

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986. She is the editor in charge of such consumer topics as travel, fitness, health, finance, and beauty, as well as the editor who handles such cover stories as Great Places to Work, Best of Washington, Day Trips, Hidden Gems, Top Doctors, and Great Small Towns. She lives in DC.