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Why Do My Hands Burn When I Put Cream On?

It’s the worst thing: you’re trying to treat your hands to a lovely moisturising treat and they repay your kindness by stinging at the merest dab of cream!

A burning sensation on your hands is likely to be caused by one or all of these problems:

  1. Your skin barrier is impaired

    Cracked, fragile, raw or scratched skin doesn’t provide an effective barrier; if you put cream on your hands and it gets through the protective top layer, it will likely sting.

    An impaired barrier doesn’t necessarily mean you can see the cracks or broken skin; it can just look dry, because the top layer of skin is only a few cells deep. So if you’ve got sensitive skin, take care about what you put on them!

  2. Your hand cream contains irritants

    Perfumes, preservatives, alcohol, and other additives can sting sensitive skin and act as irritants if they get through the skin barrier, causing inflammation and itchiness.

    These irritants don’t have to be synthetic, although many are; essential oils can also sting sensitive skin, so don’t assume that because something is natural, it will be fine! Everyone’s skin is different and the natural ingredients that one person can tolerate (whether it’s coconut oil, lanolin or lavender), might not suit another.

  3. Your cream is water-based

    Most lotions and creams contain a lot of water! Sometimes the water content of a conventional hand cream can be 80% of the product. And as you know if you’ve ever got into a bath with a paper cut - water hurts! So sore, fragile or broken skin will react to the water in the cream and will sting.

What can you do about it?

Choose oil-based salves, balms or ointments rather than water-based creams!

Oils tend to smooth over the cracks in the skin, even very small ones. An oil-based ointment will soften rough skin and form a protective layer over broken skin, acting as if it were itself a second skin, a barrier both to irritants and moisture loss.

If your hand cream is stinging, we’d recommend you try an unscented balm instead! Skin Salvation is an incredibly rich, super gentle salve, that is even free from essential oils. 

Also, always, always patch test!

Check out our Patch Test page for the whys and wherefores of testing new skincare before widespread use.

99% of people agree that Skin Salvation does NOT sting on application
(from a survey of 507 people)

Recommended products:

Customers in the USA please click here

Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax

Balmonds Intensive Hand Cream
with shea butter and sea buckthorn oil

For customers from the USA and Canada

Order directly from our US website

Important Note

If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.

If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.

Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.

Posted on: Apr 23, 2020

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