How to Take Care of Your Cuticles, According to Experts

Yes, they address whether you should or shouldn't snip them off.

Best Ways to Take Care Of Your Cuticles
Photo: Getty Images

Love them or hate them, the conversation surrounding cuticles can be polarizing in the beauty world. Some say the best approach is to simply keep them moisturized and push them back, while others prefer to snip them off while getting a manicure. And with the rise of services such as the Russian manicure, many people are questioning if we need cuticles at all.

Regardless of where you stand in that conversation, one thing is clear: proper cuticle care is paramount. Appearance aside, unattended cuticles can swell, becomes dry, and cause pain — and that's not even including the potential risk for infection if you do remove them.

We know we should be taking care of our cuticles, we know it. After all, every time we get a manicure or pedicure our nail techs always ask what we want to do with them, and there are a plethora of products on the market that cater specifically to them. So, to better understand how to care for them, we tapped two celebrity nail artist to share their insights.

What Are Cuticles?

Expert Nail Artist and JINsoon founder, Jin Soon Choi, explains that cuticles are the thin films of dead skin that gather around the bed of our nails. Since they're made of dead skin cells, it doesn't hurt when you snip them off. However, if you pick at them or peel them, you could potentially cause bleeding and even infection.

Why Should We Take Care Of Our Cuticles?

"Our cuticles act as a protectant for nail growth and protect your nails from getting any deformation," explains Soon. And Pattie Yankee, a Consulting Manicurist for Dashing Diva, adds that they're an important barrier and asset to our nail unit as a whole.

If your main objective is to keep your fingers looking good, Soon Choi says that cuticle care is the key to getting there. "Your cuticles look much healthier when they are groomed and moisturized, just like getting a facial and or using good skin care products to make your face glow," she explains. So, if you're already spending time and money on getting a manicure or painting your nails at home, factor in cuticle care as a natural part of the process.

Should You Keep Or Remove Your Cuticles?

How you take care of your cuticles is up for debate. While many say it's ok to completely remove them (in a safe way, of course), others, such as Yankee, urge people not to do so unless it's absolutely necessary. "Removing the living cuticle will cause it to grow back thicker and harder, as our bodies naturally replace cut skin with callus like skin to heal," she tells InStyle.

Both experts recommend keeping the cuticle — not snipping it. "If you really want to have clean cuticles, push back the cuticle thoroughly and just snip the noticeable hanging or dead skin only —not the cuticle itself," reiterates Soon Choi. "If you do a good job of pushing the cuticle back thoroughly, you shouldn't have to cut the cuticle very much at all."

On that note, make sure you're using a gentle pusher, like JINSoon's Diamond Cuticle Pusher which uses ultra-fine diamond diamond particles that smooth uneven ridges, gently exfoliate, and reduce the appearance of cuticles. Ones that are rougher, or — gasp — tooth picks, can scratch the nail's surface and cause damage.

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What's the Best Way to Take Care Of Our Cuticles?

For starters, you don't want to push your cuticles back and scratch your nails, for example, and you certainly don't want to push back dry, cracked cuticles. For the best results, Soon Choi recommends applying an oil, such as her brand's Ex·Tract Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil, on your nail plate to protect your nails from scratching. "If you push the cuticles back without preparation, or even trimming them without experience, it doesn't just harm the nails — it can lead to infection," she explains.

Alternatively, Soon Choi says you can push your cuticles back with your thumbnails while you're taking a shower when the cuticles are soft. (We love Chanel's La Crème Main, which nourishes and softens the skin while brightening its appearance.)

Once your cuticles have been properly pushed back, both our experts recommend following up with a hand lotion to keep the area moisturized. If you want to double up, consider nail slugging — the trendy technique that involves applying a petroleum-like moisturizer (like Vaseline or Aquaphor) over your cuticle oil or cream to lock in the moisture.

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