Cuticles aren’t just in the way of your next manicure, they’re your body’s first defense against fungus and other things that can damage your fingernail or nailbed. Various beauty regimens prescribe everything from total non-interference with your cuticles to completely cutting them off. The real key to cuticle health lies somewhere in between. With a little attention to cuticle health, you can avoid hangnails, calloused edges and thick, unsightly cuticles.
The most important component for healthy cuticles is a daily moisturizing regimen. Moisturizing hand cream or lotion used several times per day generally works the best, with special attention given to your cuticles and nail beds. Make sure that you choose a product that’s specifically for hands, as general lotions may have too high of an alcohol content to use this often without causing drying and irritation.
To help remind you to moisturize, leave a small pump bottle of moisturizer next to the sinks in your home, or carry one with you when you leave the house. Every time you wash your hands, massage a small amount of moisturizer into your hands. Also moisturize after showering or exercise. This not only improves the health of your cuticles, but reduces the risk of the skin drying and cracking if you wash your hands with soap frequently.
About once a week, take a few minutes to maintain your cuticles. This will generally only take about 10 to 15 minutes every time. Massage a cuticle remover product into your cuticles until they’re soft. Using an orange stick, push the cuticles back from all sides of your fingernail. Note that you should never cut the cuticle. This used to be common practice and is still occasionally recommended for home nail care, but it makes you more susceptible to infection. The same effects can be achieved by pushing back softened cuticle without destroying the natural form and function of your cuticles.
Taking care of problems
Cuticles often dry out and splinter, causing hangnails. A hangnail can be painful and unsightly and, even worse, it’s prone to catching on clothes, hair and furniture. Torn hangnails can reach deep into the sensitive skin on your fingertips. They can also take a long time to heal because the hands are constantly in use, and constantly come into contact with potentially harmful substances.
If you already have a hangnail, get a good pair of sharp cuticle scissors. These scissors will not be used for any other purpose. Wipe down the blades of the scissors before and after use with at least 92 percent rubbing alcohol. This helps ensure that potentially infectious microbes are killed before the scissors come into contact with damaged skin. Carefully clip off any hanging tissue.
Cover the site of a hangnail with an antibacterial or antimicrobial product. Let it sit on your fingers as long as possible, and wear knit gloves to bed if you’d like the product to stay on your cuticles longer. Reapply as needed until the hangnail site has healed. Continue moisturizing during the healing period. Adopt a more rigorous moisturizing regimen to prevent further hangnails from forming.