What are my cuticles and how do I tame them?

5:04 PM

It's time for another edition of Rehab Your Nails! Today's post is all about cuticle care. It's something we all deal with and keeping them healthy and in shape is easier than you think! Here's how to properly push and nip your cuticles!

Tools needed:
1, 2: Cuticle Remover
3,4,5: Cuticle Pusher
3, 6: Cuticle Nippers
7: Cuticle cream

You don't need all of these tools I'm just showing you some different things so you can get an idea of the options you have.  If you're nervous about cutting your cuticles, you can either skip that step or start with a slanted cuticle nipper like #3.  It has a V shaped groove you can simply slide around your cuticles. If you're feeling more confident, choose nippers like #6.  I like to use 1/4 jaw nippers since the blade is smaller which gives you more control.  #4 is a two sided metal pusher.  I prefer this type but if you're new to pushing you're better to start with a soft tip pusher like #5.  Be aware that a metal pusher CAN go through your nail plate so it's important to watch how much pressure you use and the angle at which you push.  I also have some cuticle cream which is optional but a good idea to have.  Cuticle oil would be another great option to finish your cuticle care routine.  If you don't have either of those you can use olive oil or a good hand lotion but cuticle oil/cream is well worth the investment because it really will help you keep your nails healthy and looking great.  Onto the procedure!!

This is the finger I'll be showing you on.  I waited a bit so I'd have a nice amount of cuticle to work with. You may have less or more.  I've added an arrow to indicate where the cuticle is.  You can tell that it's sort of a ledge if you will where the skin of your finger meets the nail plate.  The 'base' of this ledge is your eponychium, which is a fancy word for live skin.  You'll want to avoid cutting that since it will hurt and it will bleed.

Start by choosing a cuticle remover or softener and applying it around the cuticle area.  If you want, you can soak your nail in warm water after applying it (in a semi-thick layer in that case) to help soften the cuticle.  This DOES cause more damage to your nail plate though, so for me, it's not really a win situation.  Leave the cuticle remover/softener on according to the package directions.  If you feel any tingling, pain or other sensations you should remove it with soap and water immediately. Cuticle is DEAD skin. It doesn't have feeling so if you're experiencing pain there is a problem!  I used the Avoplex Exfoliating Cuticle Remover and left it on 3 minutes (or about a commercial break!) before massaging it in to my finger with my other hand.

Now you'll want to choose a pusher.  I'm going to use a metal two sided pusher.  Please PLEASE PLEASE do not buy a metal pusher until you are comfortable with this procedure.  You can seriously injure yourself with one and can even cause irreparable damage to your nail. You can also use an orange stick in a pinch.
Hold the pusher at about a 45 degree angle aimed at your cuticle.  Now using GENTLE, circular motions, press the cuticle back towards your hand.

Start the pusher about a quarter of the way up the nail from the cuticle when you push.  There is skin on the nail plate which will flake forward and come off the nail while you're pushing the still attached cuticle back.  This is normal and it's actually the purpose of pushing the cuticles.  Here's a better picture of what I'm talking about:

You should notice the color difference in my nail where I started pushing with my pusher about a quarter to halfway up the nail plate. See all those little flakes of skin?  That's cuticle and that's what we're trying to remove.  This is another great reason to start with a soft tip pusher or an orange stick. A metal pusher CAN remove layers of your nail. It will look different and it will feel different BUT if you're starting out you might not know the difference. Your cuticle remover/softener should have loosened this skin and made it pretty easy to push off.  You're going to notice that the cuticle which is still attached to your nail is also much easier to see after pushing.  I'm going to show it to you at a different angle so you can see what I mean.

The #1 in this picture shows you the line where I began to push with my pusher.  The #2 is the attached cuticle.  You don't have to cut this.  I never cut mine for years and years and it didn't bother me.  Leaving it alone CAN make you more prone to hang nails if you're not properly moisturizing your cuticle.  But removing it can have it's downsides as well.  It will grow back fairly quickly and if it's not cut properly it will grow back a bit weird.  Nothing to worry about mind you but just enough that you'll have to keep cutting it for awhile! If you decide not to cut then you can simply add cuticle oil or lotion and swipe your nail plate with alcohol or acetone (or wash your hands) to remove the lifted cuticle.  If you're going to cut you'll want to choose your nippers at this point.

I'm going to explain how to use the 1/4 jaw nippers because that's what I use but if you choose to use the V shaped blade nippers all you need to do is place the V at the base of the cuticle and press it gently to the other side of the nail, following the natural curve of the nail plate.  Easy.  It's another great starter tool because it's cheap and fairly easy to use without making your cuticle look like a hot mess.  You can pick up a double ended V blade/pusher for less than $5. These nippers (granted they're VERY nice nippers) cost me around $40.  If you're going to get a pair of jaw nippers you should also be aware that they're only good for about a year.  After that, they're too dull to do much good anymore so keep that in mind when investing.

To use the jaw nippers, position them at the base of your nail and just above the cuticle.  Now GENTLY press them down and then close the nippers. Then, with the nippers still closed, lift upwards, similar to tweezing hairs.  If you're nervous close them slowly. If you can FEEL them, they're on live skin. Reposition and try again.  It's not a race so take your time! You don't need to press hard either.  Just enough so that the nippers are on the cuticle.  When you close them and lift upwards there should be no pulling of skin. If it doesn't cut cleanly and pulls your skin, you need new nippers. 

Now add your cuticle oil and....voila!! Pretty, cuticle free nails! You'll notice I did leave a small cuticle on my nails. I prefer it this way since I work with my hands and don't always slather on lotion. If I remove them completely I get a lot more cracks in my eponychium.  I hope you all found this helpful!  I can't wait to share more tips with you all!

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  1. I really loved this article :) very 'informing' ( can't think of less formal word :p)

  2. This was great Bee! I've always struggled to understand about cuticles, I think I'll try to pick up some remover cream and have a go, as I have some skin stuck down on my nails around my cuticles. Have you tried the Sally Hansen remover? Thats an easily accessible one for me to try :)

    1. I haven't Sam but I have tried several of them, cheap and expensive and honestly, they seem mostly the same to me!

  3. thanks! especially about the pusher(I use orange wood sticks)..i never push that far up my nail, I always just stay at the base 'cause I really had no idea

    I'm still scared of nippers!

  4. thanks for this...I need it!!!!

  5. Thanks...really useful. My nails have never looked this pretty to me. My nails thank you!

  6. Fantastic article and terrific pictures. Thank you!

  7. Awesome post and loved the pictures! You would think at 52 years old I would know what a cuticle is but I didnt until I read this post. Thanks so much!!!


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