A pair of perfectly manicured hands can add the right finishing touch to an already great look. Whether nails get polished with the latest and funkiest of colors or a natural and understated clear coat, a fresh manicure can help make a great first impression. On the other hand, ragged, dry and cracked cuticles can ruin the entire look.
Healthy and manicured cuticles aren't just a matter of fashion. Contrary to what some people may think, cuticles aren't piles of dead skin that gathers at the base of the nail. In fact, they're living parts of the skin that serve an important purpose. Cuticles are attached to the nails and help keep them healthy by protecting them from bacterial and fungal infections [sources: Bouchez]. When the cuticle becomes dry and cracked, it can't attach to the nail to do its job. This leaves the nail vulnerable to damage and infection.
With that in mind, you should never clip, nip or trim the skin that makes up the cuticles. No one, not even your manicurist, should take clippers to this delicate area [source: Bouchez]. You can easily damage the cuticles, causing them to detach from the nail and leading to nail infections and nail loss. Also, you won't be able to achieve the polished look you want by clipping your cuticles. The skin will probably grow back in a ragged and ugly fashion, since the damaged cuticle will grow back thicker than before.
However, you can care for your cuticles to keep them looking nice. Your nails and cuticles can become dry and cracked -- especially in the winter -- so moisturizing them is a must [source: Casey]. If you prevent dryness and overgrowth in the first place, you'll never be tempted to clip. Read on to learn how to efficiently moisturize your cuticles in the comfort of your own home.
Tips for Moisturizing Your Cuticles
Before you moisturize, prep your cuticles. Take a shower or soak your fingers in lukewarm water for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the cuticles are soft and pliable. Then check to see if your cuticles look overgrown or thick. If so, push them back gently -- but never use a metal tool to do so [source: Bouchez].
Once your cuticles are prepped, it's time to moisturize. Don't reach for your everyday hand or body lotion, though. These products won't be up to the job. The skin on the cuticle is much more delicate and requires a product designed to deliver heavy moisture with a gentle touch.
If your cuticles are dry but haven't detached from the nail, buy some cuticle cream. Look for ones that have citric acids, which are more effective moisturizers. You should choose moisturizers that contain petroleum, glycerin, shea butter or safflower seed oil [source: Bruno]. These natural moisturizers do wonders for your cuticles as well as your hands.
For detached cuticles, cuticle oil may be the best choice. Cuticle oils are usually made of a combination of enriched vegetable oils, flaxseed oil or citric acids. The oil provides an intense hydration, allowing the cuticle to repair itself and reattach to the nail. They should be used sparingly, though, as the cuticles could become used to such deep hydration, making it almost impossible to use anything else in the future.
For cracked cuticles, try more intensive treatment with vitamin E oil, which you can find in most drug stores [source: Bruno]. Shea butter also works wonders on cracked cuticles. You can find this common ingredient in hand creams and body butters at any health food store [source: Monroe]. If you have no time to go to beauty or health food stores, throw some almond or olive oil in the cart while you're out grocery shopping. Just rub it in the cuticles like any other cuticle oil for the same results.
Just remember to be patient while you're revamping your cuticles. It may take several days to see results -- but the benefits will be long-lasting.
You'll want to keep your newly moisturized fingertips looking their best. Read on to learn how tasty ingredients from your kitchen can cook up a recipe for healthy cuticles.
Home Remedies for Dry Cuticles
Now that the excess skin is gone and your cuticles look healthy and beautiful, it's time to maintain that neat and refined look. Like any beauty routine, cuticle care will take some time and commitment at first, but soon, keeping your cuticles moisturized will become part of your regimen. The best part about your new routine is that you can maintain it at home.
Start with exfoliation: Do it regularly to prevent overgrowth of the cuticles. You can find exfoliators at the drug or beauty supply store -- you can have some fun and whip up a much less expensive batch at home. To use an exfoliating scrub, start with dry hands. Mix oil and sugar into a small bowl of water to create an easy scrub. Massage the scrub into the cuticles in a circular motion for about 30 seconds per finger. Rinse, dry and slather on your cuticle moisturizer.
If there isn't enough time for daily moisturizing and regular exfoliation, or if you feel like you need deep moisturizing, simply do it while you're sleeping [source: Monroe]. Slather the hands in a thick, heavy cream, making sure to massage an extra amount on the cuticles. Cover the hands with 100 percent cotton gloves [source: Mayo Clinic]. The gloves will not only protect the sheets, but will keep your hands from drying out overnight. Wake to beautifully soft hands in the morning and enjoy them all day.
Solutions for dry and cracked cuticles are right at your fingertips! To learn more about keeping your cuticles soft and supple, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Bouchez, Colette. "A Dozen Tips for More Beautiful Nails." WebMD. (Accessed 10/3/09)http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/more-beautiful-nails-a-dozen-tips
- Bruno, Karen. "Women's Hand and Nail Care." WebMD. (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/advances-skin-care-9/strong-nails-hands
- Casey, John. "Beat the Itch of Winter Skin." WebMD. (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/beat-itch-winter-skin?page=2
- Mayo Clinic. "Nails: How to Keep Your Fingernails Healthy and Strong." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nails/WO00020
- Monroe, Valerie. "A Solution to Dry Splitting Nails." O Magazine Online (Accessed 10/3/09)http://www.oprah.com/article/omagazine/omag_200601_val_cuticles
- Rauh, Sherry. "Healthy Fingernails: Clues About Your Health." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/healthy-fingernails-clues-about-health