While this past year indoors may have found you learning to knit or maybe even picking up a new language, the biggest (and most important) skill you likely mastered in 2020 was how to properly wash your hands. But with all the scrubbing and 20-second 'Happy Birthday' songs — the CDC recommends to hum the song twice from start to finish while washing — your dry palms are probably in dire need of repair. If your trusty hand cream alone isn't cutting it, consider complementing it with a hand serum.
"Hand serums can brighten, soften, strengthen, and hydrate skin, as well as penetrate it better, making them ideal to pair with a hand cream," Natalie Aguilar, a celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse, tells TZR. And Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, an aesthetic and surgical dermatologist in Beverly Hills, says hand serums often contain either concentrated active ingredients (for instance, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, or retinol) or soothing ones (like cactus flower, andiroba oil, and beeswax) to address specific skin concerns, such as aging, protection, and hydration.
One thing to note: Just like the "thin to thick" order for facial skin care, a thinner hand serum should be applied before a thicker cream as a means to allow it to penetrate more quickly and easily and "deliver potent ingredients more effectively," Dr. Wesley says. For instance, she notes that some serums contain hyaluronic acid, which is a substance that our skin naturally has that attracts water, helps with hydration, and supports collagen production. "Applying this type of serum prior to applying a hand cream can further support the skin’s natural moisture barrier," she says. And if you apply one with antioxidants, like vitamin C, Dr. Wesley says these ingredients can aid in repairing free radicals created from the sun and environmental damage.
At this point you may be wondering, why not just apply a face serum to your hands? Dr. Wesley ensures you can do this (and she does it herself), however, there are a few things that set the two products apart. While, yes, the texture and finishes are similar to that of a facial serum, hand serums are created with key ingredients specially designed to treat common hand concerns. For instance, Aguilar says some formulas are meant to soften palms and cuticles. "Exfoliants can also be added that slough-off callouses," she notes. "You won’t find these things in facial serums as they can drastically irritate the facial skin." And Dr. Wesley says that applying a hand serum at least once a day is great, but if you can do it twice a day, that's even better.
Ahead, find nine hand serums to incorporate into your winter (and year-round) routine. You'll probably be wondering how on earth you got through this year without them.
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Aguilar personally likes Aveda's hand relief Night Renewal Serum. "We wash our hands so much during the day, but never while we sleep, so it makes sense to apply a rejuvenating and hydrating hand serum while we sleep," she says. "It absorbs quickly and pairs nicely with a hand cream. I also love that’s it’s vegan and cruelty-free."