What Are Cuticles? + Cuticle Care 101

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If you have gotten a pedicure or manicure at a nail salon, perhaps you already know that you have cuticles on your nails. 

Though they may seem useless, did you know that cuticles serve a good purpose? 

comparing a finger nail with unclean cuticle and a nail with a pampered cuticle on a white background

This thin layer of clear dead skin at the nail beds keeps your nails healthy and strong. That’s why it is crucial to maintain and keep them pampered regularly. 

Unfortunately, not everyone has deep knowledge about them. What are cuticles on nails? And how do they work?

So what are cuticles and how can we care for them properly to get beautiful-looking nails?

If you want answers to these questions, read this article until the end for a comprehensive guide about cuticles — their purpose and how to keep your cuticles healthy. 

What Are Cuticles?

What are cuticles made of?

Cuticles are those thin, colorless dead skin layers found along the bottom edge of your toenails or fingernails, commonly called the nail bed. 

They serve to connect your nail to the skin of your fingers.

Your growing nail rips the underside of your skin at the base of the nail, known as the eponychium. 

The cuticle forms between the nail bed and the eponychium, gripping both of them and making a tight seal to keep debris and dirt out. 

Make sure to include cuticle care and maintenance as part of nail care.

To do that effectively, you should be able to determine what the cuticle is and where it is located. 

Purpose of Cuticles

So what are cuticles for?

Cuticles play a vital role in nail health as they protect the tissue that generates new cells to form nails. 

Apart from that, cuticles protect the soft, new keratin that comes out onto the nail as it grows. 

This means that the hardened skin layers at the base of our nail beds are there for a reason: to be a barrier for your nails’ growth matrix.

The area surrounding your cuticles is delicate and can get damaged, dry, and infected. 

Since your nails are continually growing, you need to take care of the whole nail area and keep it clean to maintain healthy nails. 

a woman's hand lying down in a light brown towel with clean and healthy nail cuticles

Importance of Cuticle Care

Cuticles serve as the “brain” of your nails. In order to help your nails grow longer and stronger, taking care of them properly is a must.

Below are some of the reasons why proper care of cuticles is important:

Healthy cuticles feel and look better.

Once your cuticles get irritated or dry, achieving the clean, beautiful manicures that you want can be difficult. 

Having well-maintained and healthy cuticles can help minimize feelings of irritation or dryness. Plus, healthy cuticles give you confidence because of how your nails and fingers look after every manicure!

Cuticles protect growing tissues.

Though cuticles are made out of tissues that no longer grow, the hardened skin layer underneath is still growing. 

The nail’s skin can be sensitive. Since people frequently bare their hands and fingers to many activities throughout the day, it is crucial to keep the growing tissues protected. 

You can do so with the help of proper cuticle care.

Cuticles minimize the risk of infection.

Cutting or removing the cuticles can be tempting. However, this is not recommended by dermatologists.

But if you wish to reduce their appearance or push them back, you need to be careful as you do so and make sure not to cut them open. 

Throughout the day, your fingers are subjected to several pathogens, making them prone to irritation and infection.

Fortunately, you can minimize the risk of infection and exposure to bacteria by using well-sanitized tools and doing proper cuticle care. 

What Are the Signs of an Infected Cuticle?

Cuticle infections can be painful and serious. One of these infections is paronychia, a skin condition around the nail.

Once you see these signs or symptoms of infections, visit your dermatologist or doctor as soon as possible to have your nails checked:

  • Bleeding
  • Changes in nail texture, color, or shape
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Rawness or redness
  • Tenderness

Generally, you can treat mild infections at home with over-the-counter antibacterial or antifungal medications. However, more severe cuticle infections may require a doctor’s prescription. 

Nonetheless, cuticle infections are exactly why you should show your cuticles some love just like you do for your nails.

How to Keep Your Cuticles Healthy

If you choose to neglect your cuticles, they can lead to the infections above.

Follow the essential tips below to know how to maintain your nail cuticles properly and achieve healthier and stronger nails: 

Never cut your cuticles.

Cutting your cuticles can only cause your nails to be exposed to outside bacteria, fungi, and germs. 

Because of that, certified dermatologists highly discourage everyone from cutting them as that can only result in white lines, white spots, ridges, infections, or worse, threatening nail diseases. 

You can still let your nail tech trim any hangnails. But make sure that they won’t completely cut off your cuticles. 

Use a wooden orange stick.

Rather than cutting the cuticles to make your nails look longer, you can gently push them back using a wooden orange stick. 

If you begin to cut them, they will only grow stiffer and harder and will eventually crack more frequently.

Apart from that, your cuticles grow more rapidly once they are always cut. 

Remember not to scrape your nails or push your cuticles too hard if you want to avoid getting torn cuticles or infected nails. 

Here’s how you can push back your cuticles using a wooden orange stick:

Don’t forget to moisturize your cuticles.

Like how you take care of your skin, cuticles also need to be moisturized as they are primarily composed of skin. 

Cuticles tend to flake, peel, crack, and dry like the skin. Applying moisturizers is one of the best ways to boost the health of your cuticles to make them moisturized and soft. 

Once they are well-moisturized, nourished cuticles can also keep your nails from getting infections.

Applying cuticle oil is one of the best ways to moisturize and help improve cuticle health. 

Add some good cuticle oil to your skincare routine to keep your cuticles and nails in a better condition. 

Cuccio Naturale Revitalizing Cuticle Oil is one of the premium cuticle oils that we swear by for its paraben-free, cruelty-free formula, which helps repair cuticles quickly and gives intensive hydration to nails. 

a woman with purple manicured nails is applying oil to her cuticles to moisturize

Book nail care/manicures with expert nail technicians.

Leaving your nail care to the experts is one of the best and easiest ways to keep your nails and cuticles taken care of. 

Make sure to avoid rough manicurists to avoid getting nail soreness and redness due to aggressive nail service. 

But don’t worry! You can skip this tip if you don’t have the budget to visit nail salons regularly. 

Stay away from drying agents.

Did you know that cleaning the dishes, washing hands frequently, and even doing other household chores can damage your cuticles?

Yes, that’s true! Especially if you use cleaning products with drying agents or even nail polish remover containing acetone. 

So to prevent drying out your cuticles and damaging them, we suggest you use gloves while doing any chores that involve strong cleaning agents.

Also, use acetone-free nail polish remover.

Refrain from biting your nails. 

If you have a habit of biting your nails, it’s time to work on those habits and stop doing so.

Most doctors tell people to keep their hands out of their mouths because hands are the most exposed to bacteria.

Furthermore, the saliva could break down the cuticles and infect the nails.  

Frequently Asked Questions about Nail Cuticles

Why push back cuticles and not cut them? 

Certified dermatologists recommend not cutting cuticles. Instead, it is best to push your cuticles back with a clean wooden orange stick.

Cuticles are there for a reason: to protect your nails from being infected. Once you remove the cuticle, you expose your nails to fungus and bacteria. 

So if you don’t want to damage your nails or get infections, do not trim or cut your cuticles.

Do cuticles grow back or repair themselves?

Usually, it would take about a week or two for damaged cuticles to heal before they see better days. 

You will need to consult your doctor for proper medications to severe nail and cuticle infections. The repairing time could take months to treat infected cuticles. 

How do you safely remove cuticles? 

If you insist on removing your cuticles, soften them first by soaking your nails in warm water or by taking a bath. Then, you can use a cuticle remover. 

Consider using moisturizers on your nails if you think your cuticles are dry.

With a cuticle pusher, carefully push the cuticle back along the nail plate. Trim the hangnails and excess skin but do not cut off the whole cuticle. 

We highly recommend the BONA FIDE BEAUTY Glass Cuticle Pusher. These 2-piece cuticle pushers made of premium “Bohemian” Czech glass are perfect for gently trimming and pushing back natural fingernail cuticles.

Moreover, these agile pointed glass cuticle pushers are the perfect nail care tool for anyone who wants to improve their nails.

Consider Adding Cuticle Care to Your Beauty Routine Today!

Taking care of your nails comes with essential steps that you should consider, which include proper cuticle care. 

Apply all the tips we listed in this article and enjoy nail smoothness, improved nail health, reduced risk of infection, and even stronger and healthier nails that can keep up with your busy days!

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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