It seems like a big ole waste. At this very moment, your bathroom medicine cabinet is probably filled with various creams designed to protect your skin — there's a cream with SPF, a night cream with retinol, a body lotion that smells like vanilla and a hand lotion because... hold on a minute, your hands are a part of your body — can't you simply kill two birds with one stone (and save money) by using one lotion for everything below your neck?
Well, actually, no — not unless you're satisfied knowing you'll be short-changing your poor hands, which are incredibly susceptible to dry, tight skin, particularly during the winter months.
"Although one cannot generalize, most hand lotions are thicker and more emollient than body lotions," says Dr. Christine Choi Kim, a board-certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist. "There are certainly 'body butters' and thicker body lotions as well. Hand and body lotions, for the most part, could be used interchangeably."
There is one exception to the rule — a caveat that should inspire you to carefully read labels before using your hand cream on your body.
"One exception is that some hand lotions may also have keratolytic (peeling) ingredients such as lactic acid to gently exfoliate as well as moisturize rough skin," Choi Kim says. "Although these formulations could also be used on rough elbows, knees and the bottom of your feet, they may be irritating if used all over the body. Both hand lotions and body lotions may include sunscreen, which is great for daytime protection."
Some say you can avoid lotion confusion by sticking with what they consider the best product that can add moisture to any part of your body — one you can find in the grocery store: coconut oil.
Miki Spies, a spiritual care giver, credits her soft skin to just that. "I am 48 years old and my skin has never been softer," she says. "A jar of coconut oil costs around six bucks and lasts a long time. When you get out of the shower, lather it on. Apply again before bed."
Bottom line: If you're using natural moisturizers like coconut oil, you may be able to get away with applying them all over your body — hands included. But it isn't recommended that you use hand lotion on the body, nor should body lotion cross over into hands territory unless you've already been blessed with baby-soft hands. On a positive note: You haven't been wasting money all this time — hurray for that!