When most people think of nail care they think of nail polish, or their fingernail problems like peeling, chipping, and cracking. But your cuticles, the skin immediately around the fingernail, also contribute to nail health and a neat appearance. Uncared-for cuticles are prone to hangnails and dryness, while badly cut or bitten cuticles put the skin around the fingers at a risk of infection. To maximize your manicure’s good looks, and to keep your entire fingertip healthy, follow these steps to proper cuticle care:
1. Moisturize. Seriously.
No matter how well you think you moisturize your hands, your cuticles are especially thirsty for hydration. They’re soaked and dried every time you wash your hands, they’re exposed to chemicals when you clean or work without gloves. If you’re not already rubbing a good quality moisturizer into your nails and fingertips every day, start doing it. If you do moisturize, and you still get hangnails or dryness, start to do it twice. Nail-Aid's Cuticle Cure is specially formulated for this purpose. Pick a time of day when you’re doing something passive, like watching television or reading, and moisturize then.
2. Never cut your cuticles
Your cuticles perform a valuable job: protecting the roots of your nails from invasion by harmful bacteria. If you cut them away, they won’t be able to do their job. Ditto if you cut them poorly. Instead, push the cuticles back with a non-metal tool, such as a rosewood stick. However, bear in mind…
3. Don’t Push Back Dry Cuticles
Cuticles are not only easier to nudge back when they’re moist, it’s also safer. Pushing on a wet, flexible cuticle is much less likely to lead to tears or other damage. Try pushing back your cuticles right after you get out of the shower, or soak your fingertips for a short time in a bowl of warm water.
4. Push Back Cuticles Like a Pro
There are three steps to the push-back: One, apply a cuticle remover (not a cuticle oil or cream). Two, use an orange stick to gently push back your nice moist cuticles. Finally, move the orange stick in tiny circles at the base of the nail to remove any clinging dead skin that’s there. Repeat the last step as necessary.
5. Trim Hangnails Carefully
While it’s not a good idea to cut your cuticles, it’s fine to cut your hangnails. Just go about it with caution: again, you’re trying to avoid causing infection. Use a sharp cuticle nipper that you’ve cleaned with alcohol or peroxide beforehand, and apply antibacterial ointment to the cut areas immediately afterwards—especially if you slip up and draw blood (ouch!).
6. Choose Nail Care Products Wisely
Acetone-based nail polish removers and polishes and treatments with formaldehyde, including formaldehyde resins, are just as bad for your cuticles as they are for your nails. Dump any nail polishes or nail treatment products made before the end of 2007, which are likely to contain formaldehyde, and look for removers that are labeled acetone-free. Both of these chemicals, in addition to being toxic, cause dryness and irritation of cuticle skin.
It’s simple, really: healthy cuticles look better than unhealthy ones. And healthy cuticles help keep nails healthy, too. By following these cuticle-care guidelines, you can prevent cuticle disasters.