Cuticle Care 101

Cuticle Health

Healthy nails are dry and clean, not moist, bacteria-friendly homes. There are simple steps you can take to maintain beautiful and healthy cuticles.

First of all, you don't want the cuticle covering half of your fingernail. Carefully push it back with a soft washcloth after you shower. A gentle push will not tear the skin, which should prevent infections since the cuticle is left intact. But never push too hard or too harshly [source: Buffalo].

Next, be careful about your daily habits so that you don't damage your cuticles. In other words, cutting, biting or picking at them is not a good idea. Although carefully and routinely pushing the cuticle back is fine, pushing them back with too much pressure can cause damage. You can also cause damage by unconsciously playing with or digging into the cuticle with your fingers [source: Samman]. Never tear a hangnail off -- carefully cut it with clippers or cuticle scissors [source: Mayo Clinic]. If your hands will be wet for a long time, or if you are using detergents and chemicals, use rubber gloves to protect your cuticles [source: New York Times].

Thirdly, it's best to try and keep the cuticles and the nails strong. Frequently put lotion on your cuticles -- they need moisturizing just like your skin does [source: Mayo Clinic]. Use sharp clippers or scissors to regularly trim your nails. To keep your nails strong, cut them straight across with a gently rounded tip -- filing your nails into a point weakens them [source: AAD]. If you use a nail hardener, make sure it does not have toluene sulfonamide or formaldehyde on the ingredient list -- these can irritate the skin and sometimes turn it red [source: Mayo Clinic].

Taking care of your cuticles is important for maintaining a healthy appearance and avoiding infections. For more information on nail care, visit the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Nail Fungus and Nail Health." 2008 (Accessed 10-6-09)
  • Buffalo, Jody. "How-tos for Cuticle Care: Expert Advice on How to Keep This Fragile Skin, and Your Nails, Healthy." Shape Magazine, December 2004 (Accessed 10-21-09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Acrylic nails: Can they harm your natural nails?" 1-29-08. (Accessed 10-6-09)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Nails: How to keep your fingernails healthy and strong." 11-30-07. (Accessed 10-6-09)
  • MedlinePlus. "Nail Diseases." 10-1-09 (Accessed 10-07-09)
  • MedlinePlus. "Paronychia." 4-17-09 (Accessed 10-6-09)
  • New York Times. "Paronychia." Reviewed 4-12-07. (Accessed 10-6-09)
  • Samman, P.D. Journal of Cosmetic Science. "Nail formation and some nail disorders." 23 405-413 (1972) (Accessed 10-6-09)