The ultimate guide for looking after your cuticles at home

The ultimate guide for looking after your cuticles at home

You’ve sussed how to nourish your body, face and hair but what about keeping your cuticles and the dry skin around your nails in check? Stylist’s expert guide has all the products and quick tricks you need.   

Bad cuticles. Like split ends, flaky lips or those rogue mascara smudges that appear out of nowhere, they’re a small but mighty beauty conundrum with the power to spoil your look pronto.

But is it really okay to make like the professional manicurists and tend to your own cuticles while waiting for nail salons to reopen? And does daily cuticle oil application actually make a difference?

We quizzed some of the industry’s leading nail technicians on the cuticle care tips and products worth knowing…

How to remove and push back your cuticle safely

For starters, it’s important to understand what our nail’s cuticle is for. Located along the bottom edge of your finger or toe, it might look like a mere sliver of skin but its job is to act as a protective shield.

While you might notice salon manicurists getting to work on the area with all kinds of tools, cutting your own cuticle is a no-no, according to the experts we spoke to.

“Your cuticle is essentially the end of your skin and it behaves as a barrier to avoid bacteria getting in. If not cut correctly, it can bleed and can also create jagged edges causing your manicure to look messier than if you hadn’t touched it at all,” explains session nail technician Maddy Rooke.

So what should we do if our cuticles are looking a little worse for wear? 

“To perform safe and effective cuticle work, a good knowledge of the cuticle anatomy is needed so it’s best left to the professionals. That said, you can gently use a nipping tool on hang nails around the edges as long as you’re only touching the dead skin. Any living tissue should never be trimmed as this will only encourage the skin to grow back thicker,” says Jenny Longworth, whose clients include Rihanna and Harry Styles.

“You can gently push cuticles back to make the nail bed look cleaner and healthier with the help of an intensive cuticle treatment like Jessica Nourish Therapeutic Cuticle Formula, £14.10. Apply it generously, massage it in and leave for a couple of minutes to absorb and soften. 

“Then use a clean damp flannel, with a slightly exfoliating texture, to rub in circular motions. This will remove the excess and allow you to gently push your cuticle back as well as banishing the dead skin cells that can cause hangnails and make gel manicures lift,” explains Rooke.

“Be careful when dealing with the ‘half moon’ area close to your cuticle, though. This controls the health of the nail growing through. When pushing back your cuticles, make sure you don’t apply too much pressure here as it could affect how the new nail grows, creating ridges or white spots,” she adds. 

And hacking at our cuticle isn’t the only manicure mishap we’re making.

“It’s not always a good idea to soak your cuticles in warm water. It might feel nice at the time, but as we all know after a lot of housework when our hands are immersed in water, it can really dry the area out. Wear gloves when doing the washing up and using cleaning products to avoid this,” advises Rooke.

Do I need a separate hand cream and cuticle oil?

All the experts we quizzed were unanimous on this one.

“A separate oil, used daily, is imperative for good cuticle and nail care. The molecules in oils are smaller than those in hand creams meaning they can seep down into the layers of the nail. Look for those containing jojoba or avocado in particular as these are most effective at penetrating the nail plate,” Longworth says.

“I see your hand moisturiser as your conditioner and your oil as your treatment. A healthy cuticle will promote a healthy nail and faster growth. I would apply hand cream after washing your hands throughout the day and cuticle oil at night so the product can be absorbed and the cuticles intensely treated for a long period of time,” Rooke tells Stylist.

“Cuticle oil and hand cream typically have different jobs. Hand cream helps relieve the feeling of dryness whereas cuticle oil intensely nourishes and protects your nails from environmental damage. The skin on your hands also tends to produce less oil than the rest of your body so it’s important to use products especially for that area,” agrees manicurist Jessica Thompson, who started her career at the iconic now-closed WAH Nails and has since worked backstage at Jeremy Scott and Moschino.

Manicurist Stephanie Staunton, who has worked on fashion shows like Kenzo and Burberry, even takes ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of her clients’ tips after a fortnight of using cuticle oil – the results are that impressive. “Using hand cream instead of cuticle oil is like expecting your shampoo to do the job of your conditioner. It’s just not going to nourish sufficiently. My clients see a dramatic difference within a fortnight of using cuticle oil,” she reveals.

Best cuticle care products

  • Best professional cuticle oil: Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturiser

    This is a mainstay in manicurists’ kits including that of Maddy Rooke. “I find my clients are more likely to use a cuticle oil if it sinks in quickly and isn’t too greasy. This multi-tasker fits the bill. 

    “It smells amazing and the sweet almond oil has brilliant repairing properties. You can also mix it with your moisturiser for dry areas of your body or on the ends of your hair for split ends,” she tells us. 

    Shop Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturiser at lookfantastic, £14.10


  • Best cuticle nipper tool: Tweezerman Mini Hangnail Squeeze and Snip Nipper

    This clever tool gets manicurist Jessica Thompson’s seal of approval for nipping little bits of dry dead skin. 

    The sharp, angled blades prevent pulling or snagging; just keep it gentle and limit yourself to skin that’s really hanging off. 

    Shop Tweezerman Mini Hangnail Squeeze and Snip Nipper at Tweezerman, £13


  • Best cuticle oil pen for on the go: OPI Pro Spa Nail and Cuticle Oil-To-Go

    If you’re serious about upgrading your cuticles, you’ll want to reapply your oil several times a day. Keep this nifty pen within reach and you’ll soon notice a difference. 

    The fast-absorbing gel feels lightweight but delivers souped-up moisture. 

    Shop OPI Pro Spa Nail and Cuticle Oil-To-Go at Boots, £11.50


  • Best cuticle remover product: Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover

    Think of this gel as your targeted active serum, helping slough away those dead skin cells so the task of pushing back your cuticles is a little easier. 

    Containing soothing chamomile and aloe, you just leave it on for 15 seconds then use a manicure stick wrapped in cotton wool to gently neaten up the area. Wash off the excess with warm, soapy water.

    Shop Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover at Sainsbury’s, £7


  • Best cuticle oil if you have a nut allergy: Famous Names Dadi’Oil

    Ever wondered why manicurists ask if you have any allergies? It’s because many hand and cuticle products contain almond oil which can’t be used by those allergic to nuts. 

    If that’s you, this is a great alternative, says Rooke. It feels a lot more plush than the mini price tag would suggest. 

    Shop Famous Names Dadi’Oil at Nail Polish Direct, £11.95


Main Image: Getty

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