Smooth, beautiful natural nails are highly sought after, with many of us opting for the minimalistic groomed look and giving nails a well-deserved break from gels and acrylics. It’s good to let your nails recuperate and be their natural selves every once in a while, but there’s one part of the nail structure which often doesn’t get the care it should – the cuticle.
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What are cuticles?
While you might think that your cuticle is the area of skin that surrounds your entire nail, this is actually something called the ‘nail fold’ that helps to protect your nails from bacteria and moisture damage.
The cuticles are the clear layer of skin you see at the bottom edge of the nail. This layer also acts as a barrier, protecting the nails as they grow out from the base. When your cuticles are damaged, your nails are more prone to infection, and strong, smooth nails just don’t look quite so good when they’re accompanied by dry, peeling skin. Here’s how you can properly take care of your cuticles to complete your manicure:
Cuticle care: the don’ts
Don’t cut your cuticles
Cutting open your cuticles can make them irritated, and open your nails up to infection. However tempted you might be to make your cuticles less prominent, cutting them at home is not the best way to do it. It’s better to avoid the risk of infection and leave trimming to the professionals – if it really is necessary.
Avoid harsh products which can dry cuticles out
Your cuticles are simply layers of skin, which means that they can dry out just like the skin anywhere else on your body does – if not more easily, because the cuticle area is very delicate. If your cuticles are dry, they may flake, or start to peel.
You may notice this more in winter, when there’s less moisture in the air. Cracked, peeling cuticles can also open your nails up to infection, so avoid products and habits which can dry the delicate skin out. Certain nail polish removers, regularly using hand sanitizers or washing your hands too often can be harsh on your cuticles, so be gentle!
Don’t pick at your cuticles
Picking at the skin can be a nervous habit, but if you want to properly care for your cuticles, try to avoid biting and picking at them, as it can allow bacteria to get in. If you’re a frequent nail biter or cuticle picker, look into ways which can help you curb the habit, such as bitter-tasting liquids and ointments that will help put you off.
Cuticle care: the dos
Hydrate your cuticles regularly
In order for your nails to look healthy and strong, the entire structure, including the cuticle, should be kept hydrated. Make moisturizing your cuticles an integral part of your nail care routine, and you’ll be less likely to experience dryness and cracks.
Nail strengthening products, cuticle creams and cuticle oils are popular choices for at-home nail care, but looking for a product which will care for both your nails and cuticles is an all-in-one solution to both concerns.
Use a nail strengthening treatment like ISDIN Si-Nails nail strengthener, which contains cationic hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate both the nail and cuticle, helping to moisturize the entire structure. This keeps nails supple and flexible, while also promoting ideal moisture levels in the cuticles.
Read more: how to check if your nails are healthy
Get a nail technician to trim cuticles or push them back
When your cuticles are pushed back, your nails look longer, but that doesn’t mean you have to go the DIY route. It’s better to get a professional to help you achieve the look you desire. If you do want to maintain the manicure yourself, you can ask your nail technician for advice on the best way to push your cuticles back at home.
This is important as the correct tools should be used, and because pushing back your nails too far or too regularly can be painful if done incorrectly. This can make your cuticles irritated, or cause swelling. If a cuticle really, truly must be cut, rather than pushed back, it’s better to have it done in a sterile environment with a trained professional.
Make sure your nail tech:
- Is working in a clean environment
- Uses new materials such as buffers, nail files, and wooden tools every time, as these materials are porous and can harbor bacteria
- Uses sterilized metal equipment, e.g clippers and metal files
- Is gentle with your cuticles and nails – your manicure shouldn’t hurt
The bottom line? Make sure you’re hydrating your cuticles every day, and try to avoid habits which will dry them out, such as washing up without gloves on, or exposing them to cold, dry air in winter. Follow these simple tips, and visit a professional whenever you need to, and you’ll be well on the way to beautiful, strong nails and perfect cuticles.