Cuticles: To Cut Or Not To Cut
Updated: Apr 28
Ever gotten your nails done and don't know what to do when the manicurist asks whether to cut or push your cuticles? Seen those viral yet gory cuticle cutting videos on instagram that make you wince in pain? Today we'll get answers to the age old question of whether one should cut their cuticles or not.
What Are Nail Cuticles?
The cuticle is the semi-circular layer of clear (almost invisible) dead skin cells that circumvents and covers the back of the visible nail plate. The eponychium is the fold of skin cells that produces the cuticle. Both are continuous, and some references view them as one entity. The eponychium can also be called the medial or proximal nail fold. The dreaded hangnail is actually called paronychia and is the continuation of eponychia on the side of the nails.
What Is Their Function?
The cuticle’s function is to protect the area between the nail and epidermis from exposure to bacteria; so it basically acts as a physical barrier to keep the bad guys out from the nail matrix and nail root from where new nails grow.
Why Do You Need To Tend To Your Cuticles?
Since cuticles are very thin, they tend to get dry which leads to peeling and cracking. These cracks/ peeling and cutting of the cuticles can lead to infections, both bacterial and fungal. Mild infections can be dealt with at home, but severe and prolonged infections should be dealt with medical intervention.
Also, hangnails tend to be dry and cracked, and if you’ve ever made the mistake to pull on one, you know how much that hurts!
The cuticle naturally doesn’t grow in an even semi-circle and makes manicures and/or nail extensions look rickety. If you get any nail polish on your cuticles, it becomes easy for the polish to peel off, leading to quicker wear and tear of your manicure.
So you need to tend to your cuticles to avoid these problems.
How To Properly Take Care Of Them?
For a daily routine and for people who don’t paint their nails, you needn’t do much to your cuticles. Just applying a hand cream daily at night before sleeping will keep your cuticles hydrated and moisturized enough to avoid any peeling and cracking.
2. Cuticle Oils
If you have exceptionally dry and vulnerable cuticles, using a cuticle oil is the way to go. Apply a thin layer of the oil on your cuticles and then gently massage it in and then apply the aforementioned hand cream at night. You can find a ton of these oils online or in drugstores; or you can DIY them.
How To Remove Your Cuticles?
1. Cut Them? No!
If for whatever reason (mostly manicures and extensions), you need to remove your cuticles, do not, and I mean do not cut your cuticles!
As mentioned before the cuticle acts as a protective seal for the nail matrix and keeps infections at bay. If you cut them, you are literally cutting away this seal leaving your nail bed vulnerable and prone to infection. People also observe redness and inflammation at the site post cutting. No matter how expertly trained the nail professional might be, cuticles should not be cut to avoid inflammation and infections.
The Russian Manicure
You've seen those viral videos on instagram where a very thin curved scissor is used to cut of a hefty chunk of the cuticle. Also commonly known as the 'Russian Manicure", it gives a very clean and pristine look, but the after effects are not so pretty. The matrix is left exposed to the risk of infection and if the skin is irritated, it may lead to redness and swelling and may develop into an infection. So no matter how pretty the outcome and how experienced the nail tech, it is not worth the risk.
The Machine Manicure
This is a newer technique. Drill bits for nail extensions fasten the process for nail technicians and are perfectly safe in trained hands. But if you're using this without proper training, you may end up doing more harm then good. Still not as bad as cutting the cuticles, this technique is best left for trained veteran professionals.
2. Push Them? Yes
Nail cuticles grow back, so pushing them is the best and safest option to deal with them.
You need softened cuticles for this, so the ideal time for this is post a long warm shower or if you got a manicure done, in which case ask your nail tech to push them, no cutting. Alternatively, you can use hand cream or specialty cuticle softeners which are available in stores/online. Once, soft and malleable, use an orange stick or a rubber cuticle pusher to gently push them back into a proper semi circle shape. Some parts might require force, but be gentle and firm. Being rough might damage your cuticle.
Leave the use of metal cuticle pushers to professionals because you might end up scraping your nails and damage them.
3. Trim Them? Yes.
Unlike cutting, trimming your cuticles means removing only the clear unruly part of the cuticle that grows onto the nails without using scissors. You use something called ‘Cuticle Remover” which is a special solution that dissolves the dead skin of the cuticles. You apply this solution onto the cuticles as directed and then gently scrape and wipe off the dead skin.
This is perfect for people who like the ‘cut cuticle’ look but want to avoid the negative side-effects.
4. Cutting Hangnails? Yes.
If you have to cut something, cut those pesky hangnails that get stuck in clothes and irritate you. Using a clean (preferably) sterile pair of nail clippers, carefully cut off any piece of protruding hangnails without going too deep. Moisturize and use cuticle oil to prevent any further hangnails. You should never bite or tear off a hangnail. Doing so risks infections.
Note: When in salons, request your manicurist/ nail tech to only push or trim your cuticles and to use sterilized equipment to prevent infections.
So in conclusion, cutting your cuticles is a no-no and pushing/trimming them is the way to go. In case of cuticles, prevention is better than cure, so keep them moisturized and hydrated to avoid an array of problems.