Does Cuticle Oil Actually Help Your Nails Grow? We Investigate

Experts settle the debate once and for all.

Woman filing nails
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While experimenting with the many viral nail art trends out there can be fun, there's a downside: It can eventually lead to wear and tear on the nails — and over time, this can cause them to become weak and brittle. If you're scrambling to find a solution to keep your tips strong, you're not alone. And without a ton of other options, many have been turning to cuticle oil to be that quick fix.

But cuticle oil might not be the end-all, be-all for healthy nails that it might seem. While it does offer benefits in its own right, strengthening the nails isn't usually one of them. So: Why use cuticle oil at all? With that in mind, we turned to the experts to learn what the advantage of a cuticle oil may be, and how you can get its benefits in your own nail-care routine.

What Is Cuticle Oil?

Cuticle oil is an oil designed to intensely nourish the nails and cuticles, which includes the delicate skin around the nailbed. When you apply a cuticle oil, it strengthens the barrier between the nail and the nail fold, says Gloria Lin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. (FYI: The nail fold is the tissue at the root of the nail that covers where the nail starts to grow.) In doing this, it can help keep out bacteria, fungus, and other factors that may hinder nail growth and function.

Does Cuticle Oil Help Nails Grow?

Thanks to cuticle oil's ability to moisturize and protect the nail, it often gets credit for encouraging nail growth, too. But that's not actually the case. "Cuticle oil does not specifically stimulate nail growth," says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, NY. "But it can help to keep the nails and the skin around the nails healthy by optimizing the skin barrier function."

What Are The Benefits Of Using Cuticle Oil?

The good news: Cuticle oil can support the nail and create a healthy environment for the nail to grow quickly, since it can minimize inflammation, dry skin, and eczema — all of which could otherwise interfere with growth, says Dr. Lin. That can be more important than you might think, since common nail-care habits, like using an acetone-based nail polish remover, can inadvertently dry out the nails.

Plus, cuticle oil is essential for those with dry or rough cuticles, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. And keeping cuticles healthy and moisturized is key since they protect the underlying skin structure called the nail matrix (which is where the nail is produced). When the cuticle is damaged or removed, he says, this increases the likelihood of an infection in the nail matrix — and the potential growth of an atypical nail, like one with thin, brittle edges.

Are There Any Downsides To Using Cuticle Oil?

While there's no real downside to using cuticle oil, Dr. Lin recommends being cautious about touching your face with cuticle oil on your hands — especially if you're prone to acne, as the oil could transfer to skin and clog pores. And, just as you would with any new skincare product, scope out the ingredient list before using it to make sure you're not allergic to any of the components in the formula.

How Do You Use Cuticle Oil?

Easy: Just apply cuticle oil to your cuticles and massage it in. How often you do this depends on how dry your cuticles are; for instance, applying it nightly at bedtime should be sufficient if your cuticles seem normal and intact.

However, if you notice dry, cracked, or peeling cuticles, try using it twice daily, then follow it with your typical hand cream to lock in hydration, says Dr. Lin. If you can remember, you could increase the frequency, applying it after you shower, wash your hands, and before going to bed. Experiencing severe dryness? Dr. King is a fan of nail slugging, since the combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives can deliver long-lasting moisture.

Not all cuticle oils are created equal. Dr. Lin likes REN Moroccan Rose Otto Ultra Moisture Body Oil, since it has Moroccan rose to soften, hydrate, and calm the skin, as well as fatty acid-packed Ella + Mila Oil Me Up.

For a more spa-like experience, try Butter London's Champagne Fizz Manicure Candle.  "It's a beautiful candle that provides a treat for all of the senses as the lightly fragranced warm oils are massaged into the skin of the hands and cuticles," says Dr. King. "The blend of soybean and coconut oils supports the skin barrier and locks in moisture to leave skin softer and smoother."

If you need moisture in a pinch, consider a classic you might already have on hand. "The best-kept secret for your cuticles is Vaseline Healing Jelly, which you can use on the cuticle and even on the entire nails for brittleness or peeling," says Dr. Zeichner.

Bottom line? Even if cuticle oil isn't the slam-dunk solution to growing out nails quickly, it still delivers a ton of benefits in its own right — making it a must-have in any nail-care routine.

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