Must be the cold dry weather that is encouraging people to come out of the woodwork with the best cream for suffering hands. The latest I have been recommended is an old European standby, L'Annine Avocado Hand & Body Cream, that has been hard to come by in the US. I think the fact that people seem to find it in quaint little hardware shops means that it has acquired something of a mystique. Undeservedly, in my view. Now that it is easily bought on, it is time to blow the lid on L'Annine.

For a start, the avocado oil is formulated in this product as a fragrance (I think there might be a peach version). The active ingredients are glycerin and silicone - good for protection, but not really ingredients that do any actual repairing. L'Annine's nod to botanicals (well, I guess, there is the avocado) is allantoin. This is derived from comfrey and keeps cropping up in creams and shampoos even though there is no clinical evidence that it does anything.

Finally, there are two ingredients that cause irritation: sodium hydroxide causes reactions at very low levels; and methyldibromo glutaronitrile, ironically introduced by the cosmetics industry to replace other harmful preservatives, is producing increasing numbers of cases of contact reaction every year.