Having dry or chapped hands might be one of the worst feelings in the world for me. And particularly since I spend a decent amount of time working on computers, I’m always on the lookout for really good, non-greasy hand creams. Recently, O’Keeffe’s sent us a sample of O’Keeffe’s Working Hands ($6.98, amazon.com) and O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet ($7.56, amazon.com) to test out, and I’ve found it’s the perfect balance of moisturizing and non-greasy, in part thanks to its novel texture. Since the ingredient lists are identical, I can tell you about what both creams do within the same post.
I cannot tell you how much I love glycerin. There’s a reason you see it in all kinds of products, because it’s the bee’s knees. It’s an emollient, as well as a humectant and occlusive moisturizer, which means that while it softens skin, it also pulls water from the environment and helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). It’s also a natural moisturizing factor (Baumann). Impressed yet? I’ve got more. In studies looking at glycerin, researchers found that the ingredient at a 20 percent concentration in a formula actually improves skin moisture significantly over a 10-day period of daily usage (International Journal of Cosmetic Science). And how did it stack up compared to oil-in-water dimethicone and petrolatum-based products? In terms of hydration, glycerin was the best (Ostomy Wound Management). One of the theories of why glycerin works so well to hydrate skin and improve skin function over time is that it might actually allow skin cells mature (Science News). Right now, this research is in its infancy, but studies are promising and will help us have a better understanding of why glycerin is so great for skin.
Paraffin wax is a derivative of petrolatum that, despite rumors otherwise, has been found to be perfectly safe (FDA). One study found that while glycerin had a slow method of action for altering skin, paraffin worked very quickly increased skin’s distensibility (in about 10 minutes), which improves skin hydration (Acta Dermatologica Venereologica). It's also an occlusive moisturizer. While there are sometimes fears that paraffin is comedogenic, researchers have found that it forms a layer over skin that isn’t clogging, and that it also has similar levels of penetration to vegetable oils like jojoba (COSSMA).
This ingredient is often used as an alternative to parabens as a preservatives and can be successfully incorporated into a water-based cosmetic like O’Keeffe’s (Technical Resource International). There’s some fear because it’s a formaldehyde donor, which means that in a solution they break into ions (one of those ions being formaldehyde) and kill microbes (Chemists’ Corner). But this isn’t the same thing as formaldehyde, and the minor exposure from cosmetics is very much within safe levels (CDC). And the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel found that it was non-mutagenic.
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands and O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet have a really interesting texture. They’re thick and almost waxy in the jar, which means that it can take some effort to get a little out. But, as the jar suggests, a little really goes a long way. The fragrance-free cream quickly seems to melt into hands and if you have a lot on, it can take quite a while to absorb (which is why it’s best to be conservative with your application.) While there’s still the slight feeling of something on your hands, it’s an ever-so-slight waxy feeling (likely from the paraffin) instead of the greasy feeling that comes along with petrolatum. Overall, it made my hands feel very soft and I had no issues getting right back to the keyboard after using it. And bonus? The jar cleverly has rubber around the rim so it’s easy to twist the lid on and off, even with cream-moist hands.
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands and O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet are great creams for those with dry hands and feet. They include moisturizing and protective ingredients that improve the quality of skin immediately as well as over time. While there’s been some negative press about the preservative, it’s been found safe. Overall, this is a great cream to improve skin on hands and feet.