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safe hand lotions for moms and babies

Helping a New Mom’s Hands

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

I so appreciate your thoughtful attention to parenting questions large and small. This one is a small but I thought you would know the answer. I am a new mom to a cute little girl, and she doesn’t really chew on her fingers but she likes to chew on mine! I try to wash my hands a lot, and between that and my newly increased laundry responsibilities, my hands are a mess of cracked skin and ragged cuticles. They scratch her beautiful skin, and they look bad in pictures if I’m holding her– woe!

Can you recommend any hand creams that really work and are safe for babies?


Yay! Let’s take a wee break from in-law/holiday dramaz and talk PRODUCTS. Fun and pampering (yet totally essential) products.

All of my babies were hand-chewers and suckers. MY hands. Ike, in particular, never took a pacifier EVER, not even once, and sucked on the tip of my index finger for months (until he got teeth). Noah preferred my ring finger knuckle, while Ezra gummed on whatever finger he could get his hands wrapped around. And since those two were born in the Fall, I spent the following winters fighting really crazy chapped, cracked skin. (Not to mention that most mothers of newborns end up abusing their hands quite a bit, what with laundry and sterilizing various things and rash creams and etc.)

In other words, I’ve gone through a LOT of hand creams and salves and treatments throughout the years. Here are my personal favorites (please to add your own in the comments!):

1) Lanolin.
Like what you probably done put on yer bewbs. It does WONDERS for those ragged cuticles you mentioned, as well as cracks from general seasonal dryness. If you’ve got a tube of Lansinoh lying around, dry dabbing a dot of it on your nails, cuticles and knuckles and massaging it in. Plus, it’s safe to go in baby’s mouth!

2) Coconut oil.
You can buy this at the grocery store and do all kinds of amazing things with it for your hair and skin. (We also use it as a fatty-rich cooking oil post-stomach-flu onslaught when we’re trying to help our already-skinny kids get their weight back up.) If you stick your jar in the fridge it will solidify — then I just break off a small chunk with a spoon and massage it in my hands to warm it back up into a lotion-y oil treatment. You can also microwave it for two seconds and get it super warm and nice.

3) Rosebud Salve.
A great all-purpose salve for lips, cuticles, chapped skin, diaper rash, you name it. I keep tins of this stuff EVERYWHERE in the winter: nightstand, diaper bag, handbag, changing table, etc. It is petrolatum based, if that’s a concern for you. (I’m pretty meh on the topic, as you can pry my Vaseline and Vicks and Rosebud out of my cold dead [yet soft and healthy!] hands.)

4) California Baby Skin Protectant Cream.
I admit that I find a LOT of the super heavy-duty dry-skin baby products to simply be too greasy and hard to rub in for my tastes, but this one is very nice. I would pair this with one of the more targeted skin healing/protective treatments mentioned above, then use this throughout the day on an as-needed basis.

5) Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve.
A heavy-duty, fragrance-free hand cream that seals in moisture and heals chapped skin and cracks…that also manages to not “feel” thick and greasy. Fragrance free and derived from olive, avocado and sesame seed oils (so potentially take note if you have any sesame seed allergies in the family). Makes a lovely gift, by the way, paired with Kiehl’s Creme de Corps body lotion and lip balm.

6) Lemony Flutter by LUSH.
An awesome hand cream that basically combines the best of almost all of the above: Lanolin, shea butter, avocado oil, coconut oil, chamomile, beeswax, etc. It’s designed to especially help dry cuticles and nails, too.  There is a tiny, tiny bit of fragrance in it (WHY LUSH WHY?) but as someone who is usually pretty sensitive to fragrance, I have never been bothered by it.

So: it’s UNLIKELY that your baby would get a whole lot of exposure to any one ingredient that’s been absorbed into your skin before she gums on it, and I admit you can easily drive yourself BATTY with all the conflicting advice and information out there regarding what’s safe and what’s suspect. I actually left my all-time absolute favorite hand cream off this list — Helping Hands by LUSH — because it contains both almond oil and honey. (While pure sweet almond oil is a popular massage oil for babies in India, the fears of nut allergies have made it decidedly less popular in the U.S., and some parents and doctors feel more comfortable using the alternative oils, like olive, avocado or coconut.) But as a good rule of thumb when you’re nursing (or offering other body parts up for your baby to suck on),  it’s best to use products on yourself that you’d also feel comfortable using directly on them.

To get the most bang for your product buck, I would recommend finding 10 minutes a day to give yourself a quick hand treatment — just until you get some of the worst damage healed up and under control. When your daughter goes down for a nap or bed, COAT your hands in a generous amount of the product(s) of your choice. (Since lanolin can be pricey, reserve that for your problem areas and then also slather on a topcoat of coconut oil, Vaseline or one of the hand creams.) For a really nice spa-like treat, squirt some of the lotion in a dish and microwave for three seconds, or let hot water run over the packaging. Then wrap your hands in plastic wrap and stare into space for five glorious minutes. (You can also put on spa gloves, if you have them. If not, plastic wrap really does the trick very nicely.) Unwrap your hands and massage for another minute or two, then blot off the excess product with a towel. Do this once a day and then apply salves/creams as-needed throughout the day.

And remember! In winter, banish nail polish unless it’s an event-related necessity (TOES TOO), and try to limit your skin’s exposure to super hot water. And go easy on the hand sanitizer — a gentle soap is probably going to do a better job of keeping your hands clean and germ-free without drying you out with all that alcohol. Oh, and watch out for those first teeth. They’re kind of bite-y and sharp.

Published December 10, 2012. Last updated December 31, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Isabel


    December 10, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    My 9 year old son gets mild eczema/ dry skin flare-ups in the winter. I use non-petrolatum based products on him. Just some more to think about trying out to see what works.

    His favorite is Baby Burt’s Bee:

    But these also exist that are petrolatum free:

    Honest Healing Balm:

    BabyGanics Healin’ Groovy Ointment:

    Good Luck! I hope you find something that helps.

  • Stefanie

    December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I’m a big fan of the “sock hand” as it’s referred to around my house–it’s similar to Amy’s hand treatment. Slather on lots of your favorite healing lotion or cream (I like both lanolin and aquaphor) and put a pair of clean cotton socks on your hands before bed. I had spa gloves once upon a time, but was always losing them, so sock hand became a regular thing. It is not terribly sexy, but neither are bleeding knuckles!

  • Kat

    December 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Curel!! CUREL! I have no idea if it is baby friendly (their “Itch Defense” version is what I use on my 8 month old for his mild eczema and it is awesome, approved for 6 months and up so it can’t be that bad) I originally bought it for him but have been using it myself for about a month now (I have super sensitive skin, and he loves to chew on my knuckes). It has made a huge difference without being overly thick (and no scent, from what I can tell). Funny thing: I actually found this product thanks to some of Amalah’s archives!

  • Leigh

    December 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I love Coconut Oil. It is the only thing that does not itch when I put it on sore skin.
    I particularly love to put it one before I do dishes in dish gloves. The heat from the water really helps it absorb.

    My 19 month old also likes to dab her finger in and rub it on her cheeks.

    • tasterspoon

      December 11, 2012 at 1:46 am

      It has never occurred to me to do a hot oil treatment while doing dishes. This is GENIUS.

      I also have heard nothing but rave reviews about coconut oil. Supposedly it is also somewhat of an antibacterial, so bonus.

  • Brooke

    December 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    In our lab we swear by Proguard Handcream. I have no idea if it has anything objectionable for babies, but it’s OK to use with latex gloves! It absorbs really quickly and works well, even though it smells like a hospital.

  • bonkrood

    December 11, 2012 at 12:43 am

    I like Lush’s Lemony Flutter but to me it smells like diesel fuel and I can’t handle that. I tend to use Dream Cream instead because the smell doesn’t bother me.

  • Liz

    December 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Ooh! Ooh!  I have strong opinions!  OPI makes a lotion called Avojuice.  It looks like obnoxious teenybopper stuff, but it’s actually heralded in the professional nail polish community as one of the best lotions.  I have a daughter who does a lot of thumb-chewing.  I love Avojuice because it’s super moisturizing,  absorbs REALLY fast, and doesn’t leave a residue.  So I can scrub bottles and pumping equipment, then lotion, then pick up Lady Chomps A Lot without worrying about what’s ending up in her mouth.
    Thanks for a great column, Amy!  I always love the variety of advice questions you pick!

  • Moira

    December 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I second the Lansinoh and Aquaphor. Also, consider the Lansinoh for really chapped lips in the winter, so says my midwife.

  • Mona

    December 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Besides all the other tips, and applying to high-fat hand lotions, I would like to ask if you have considered being allergic to your soap, if you are using an antibacterial one containing triclosan? That makes my hands itch and peel, especially if used frequently. Reacting to it is fairly common, and it might help to switch (bacteria won’t survive normal soap and warm water, so the additive is not necessary).

  • Lindsay

    December 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Amen Lanolin, because it works super-well and because you’ll have no doubt that it’s safe for baby.

  • Elizabeth

    December 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Vanicream! Pharmacist’s use it often to mix meds in for a topical cream. It is very safe, pure, and does the job for both baby and me! Baby girl had very sensitive skin and our doc reccomend the vanicream. We haven’t had any trouble since we made the switch. Great for my dry hands too!

  • Myra

    March 28, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    I took a chance on the Lady Soma Skin and Nail Cream because I’m always looking for a solution to dry cracked fingers during the winter. I like this product because it does not leave residue and it has no odor. Other wise it performs the same work as shea butter, but just feels alot better.

    • brandim

      February 7, 2016 at 4:36 pm

      i use this as well. I also tried their argan oil – great brand !