Most of us are washing our hands more often these days. It’s no wonder, then, that many people are suffering from dry hands—and the hand soaps that we’re using might be part of the problem.
“Water, and in some cases, the soap as well, are irritants to the skin,” says Dr. Roxana Daneshjou, a researcher and dermatology resident at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “You’re stripping away the oils on your skin that are the natural barrier, but you’re also exposing your skin to things that are irritants to it.”
Harsh cleansing agents, antibacterials, fragrances and dyes are all problem ingredients that can dry out your hands over time. Repeated exposure can even lead to small cracks in the skin that allow bacteria to enter, increasing your risk of infection.
Fortunately, you can still make handwashing a hydrating and sensorial experience with one of the products in this guide—which all happen to look great on your countertop as well. Scroll on for what to look for in a hand soap, and the best products I’ve found.
Editor’s Picks (At a Glance)
Best Clean Beauty
What to Look for in a Hand Soap
Not all hand soaps are created equal. To find a non-drying formula, look for the following:
- Liquid: Liquid soaps are less drying than bar soaps because they have added moisturizing ingredients and a lower, less alkaline pH level.
- Sulfate-free: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are harsh, lathering detergents that remove dirt and grease—and your skin’s natural oils along with them. Gentler alternatives include ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS), coco-glucoside and sodium coco-sulfate.
- Skin-softening ingredients: Humectants and emollients such as glycerin, aloe, coconut oil, shea butter and vitamin E will all help to replenish moisture and soften your skin.
- Non-antibacterial: Not only can antibacterial agents (such as triclosan) be drying and irritating, they’re also unnecessary. According to the FDA, there’s no proof that they are any more effective than regular soap. After all, the purpose of handwashing is not to kill bacteria but just to physically remove it from your hands.
- Low in fragrance: Although scent makes handwashing more enjoyable, it can be irritating (just like in facial skincare). Avoid soaps that list fragrance among the first few ingredients, and if you have reactive skin, stick with a fragrance-free formula.
- Dye-free: Artificial colourants are linked to skin sensitivity and inflammation.
The Best Hand Soaps of 2022
Best Scented: Grown Alchemist Hand Wash
- What it does: Grown Alchemist Hand Wash is a gentle hand wash that leaves skin thoroughly clean, softened and soothed.
- Key ingredients: Sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, sweet almond oil, coconut oil.
- Scent: Rosemary, cedarwood, clary sage, fennel, geranium, sweet orange.
- Editor’s notes: If you’re looking for a fragrant hand soap that’ll look great on display, this is one of the most popular options. It has the texture of a gel, smells incredible thanks to its essential oil blend, and comes in chic, gender-neutral packaging. Like everything else from the brand, it is made in Australia from organic, plant-based ingredients.
Best Fragrance-Free: Soapply for Credo Hand Wash
- What it does: Soapply for Credo Hand Wash is a liquid hand wash that creates a luxe lather to fully cleanse your skin.
- Key ingredients: Coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, glycerin, aloe.
- Scent: Fragrance-free.
- Editor’s notes: This oil-based soap is crafted from a 300-year-old recipe, updated to incorporate food-grade organic oils. With its rich lather and fragrance-free ingredients list, it is especially suitable for sensitive skin and people with allergies. Bonus: $1 from every purchase goes toward water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Ethiopia.
Best Clean Beauty: REN Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Energising Hand Wash
- What it does: REN Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Energising Hand Wash is a gentle, sulfate-free hand wash that cleanses, moisturizes and revives tired hands.
- Key ingredients: Glycerin, magnesium PCA, kelp extract.
- Scent: Rosemary, geranium, clary sage.
- Editor’s notes: Just like the brand’s bestselling body wash of the same name, this hand wash is comprised of only clean ingredients. Think: moisture-binding magnesium, skin-protecting kelp extract and ultra-mild cleansing agents. It has a fresh, herbal, spa-like scent (which is 100% natural).
Best Moisturizing: Keys Soulcare Renewing Body + Hand Wash
- What it does: Keys Soulcare Renewing Body + Hand Wash is a cream-gel cleanser that purifies, hydrates and nourishes the skin. It can be used as both a hand soap and a body wash.
- Key ingredients: Glycerin, shea butter, cocoa butter, sunflower seed oil, vitamin E, honey.
- Scent: Sage, oat milk.
- Editor’s notes: Dry skin will appreciate the creamy texture and rich lather of this multipurpose cleanser. Developed by a board-certified dermatologist in partnership with Alicia Keys, it is packed with hydrating ingredients (including plant butter-derived fatty acids as well as humectants from Manuka honey).