(The Nail File)

Lackluster Manicure? Ignoring Your Cuticles May Be To Blame

Follow these expert-backed nail health tips.

by Natasha Marsh and Jessica Fields
Originally Published: 
Tips for healthy cuticles
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Nothing ruins a new manicure faster than dry and cracked cuticles. In fact they’re easily one of the one of the most important aspects for a healthy-looking nails. However, cuticle care is often over-looked, but incorporating the practice into your daily routine is quick and easy.

Before getting into how to properly care for your cuticles, it’s important to understand their function and where they’re located on your nails. Contrary to popular belief, the cuticle area is actually made up of two layers: the true cuticle and the eponychium. The eponychium is the outermost layer of the skin and is comprised of living tissues, while the true cuticle is located on the nail, bordering the lunula (the half moon-looking shape) of the nail bed and is made from non-living tissue.

“Together they form the barrier that stops bacteria entering the body and causing infection so properly cared for cuticles are essential for good nail health,” says Alyx Lippiatt, a UK-based manicurist. Like all areas on the skin, the cuticle area can become dry and begin to crack when dehydrated — which is why upkeep in-between salon visits is important.

A properly groomed nail bed allows for a smoother paint application, longer-lasting manicure, and less risk of hangnails. For that reason, TZR consulted with top manicurists to get their best tips on caring for your cuticles. Plus, they share holy-grail products to keep nails growing strong. Think: cuticle serums, hydrating hand creams, and more. Translation: say goodbye to poor cuticles and hello to a healthy nail routine.

Healthy Nail Tip #1: Apply Cuticle Oil Regularly

The number one thing the experts all agree on is a nail routine with cuticle oil. “You should apply cuticle oil to your cuticles and nail plate multiple times a day every single day for the healthiest nails,” says Vanessa Sanchez McCullough, celebrity nail artist. There are several different options that work wonders for your skin and nails including jojoba oil, olive oil, and apricot oil, which nourishes to prevent brittleness and cracking.

Begin by applying the oil to the base of the nail and gently massaging the cuticle area and the nail beds until it is all rubbed in. “Well-groomed cuticles will give you that ‘clean’ aesthetic thats so popular these days, and moisturizing with oil is a step that can easily make your manicure look put-together and even more professional,” Lippiatt says.

Healthy Nail Tip #2: Push Back Your Cuticles Instead Of Peeling Them

As satisfying as it might be, resist the urge to peel off your cuticles. Incorrectly taking off too much skin could risk damaging the nail as a whole and open the barrier for potential bacterial infections. Instead, Marcela Correa, a licensed medical pedicurist and owner of medical-grade pedicure business, Medi Pedi, recommends gently pushing cuticles back instead with a disposable wooden nail stick, being careful to not damage the nail plate. “Improper nail care is also a big factor in dehydrated and peeling cuticles,” the pro tells TZR. “When they are pushed back too far the skin tends to weaken and it leads to peeling nail beds.”

Healthy Nail Tip #3: Use The Proper Tools

The right tools can make all the difference to properly groom cuticles and there are a few that are standard in any salon. Lippiatt’s favorites include two cuticle pushers, one curved and one straight, and a set of super fine cuticle trimmers from Navy Pro Tools to get the cleanest look. “I begin by pushing the cuticles back and removing the excess from the sidewalls of the nail and then, gently nipping away any dead skin,” she says.

Salon-quality tools are pretty accessible these days but as Lippiatt recommends, “You should use extreme caution when manicuring your own nails at home.”

Healthy Nail Tip #4: Keep Cuticles Moisturized

Because hanging cuticles are the result of dry skin, always make sure to keep them moisturized. Like the skin on your body, the best time to moisturize your cuticles is after bathing or washing the dishes. “For an at-home manicure start with a scrub such as the kiwi scrub from Biosculpture to soften the skin,” Lippiatt says. Once the cuticle area has been throughly exfoliated, apply an even coat of a nourishing oil to the area and rub in until smooth.

To maintain your cuticle care you should consider regular manicures and consistent use of cuticle oil to keep the skin hydrated. This doesn’t have to be with a professional, you can absolutely do them on yourself at home! Also wearing gloves for things like cleaning and washing up will stop the skin drying out from the harsh of chemicals and water!

Healthy Tip #5: Maintain Good Habits

There are a few things you can do in-between salon visits to keep your cuticles looking fresh. Yes, moisturizing may be the most obvious, but Lippiatt also suggests making adjustments to daily tasks that can further dehydrate your skin. “Chemicals can be extremely harsh on the delicate skin so try wearing gloves when cleaning,” she says.

Excessive hand washing is another big issue when it comes the health of your nails. To ensure that the skin around your nail bed stays moisturized and youthful, make daily use a good hydrating lotion.

Healthy Nail Tip #6: Sanitize Your Nail Tools

Like your makeup brushes and hair tools, your nail instruments should be under regular cleaning to prevent bacteria. They can be cleansed with soap and water and wiped down with alcohol.

Ready to have great, healthy cuticles and nails? Invest in some of the expert-approved products below.

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