Thursday, March 22, 2012

Manicuring 101 - Cuticle Care

Hey guys!

It's been far too long since I've posted an instalment for my Manicuring 101 Series! So for any of my followers who haven't seen any posts from this series yet, check out the Manicuring 101 tab at the top of the page and you'll find links to all of the other posts from this series.

My last Manicuring 101 post was all the way back in November and it covered all the different types of nail files. At the end of that post, I mentioned that the next post for the series would cover beveling, which is a part of the filing process. However, my nails do not currently need filing so I'm going to put that post on hold until I can get good photos of the beveling process for you.

In the meantime, today's post is a very important one - cuticle care! I'll discuss topics that include removing cuticles, pushing them back and moisturizing them. In addition, I'll let you know what cuticle care products I personally recommend.

Keep reading!

Before we continue, I think that it is important for anyone who's reading this to first go back to my Anatomy of the Nail post for a quick refresher. I'll try not to use professional jargon in this post as much as possible but I still think that's an important post to understand.

Ok, now that we're all refreshed, let's discuss our first topic.

Cutting or removing your cuticles:

I'll keep this part of the discussion pretty simple - don't cut/remove your cuticles!

Your cuticles are a form of natural protection and they protect your newly forming nails. Furthermore, they protect your nail matrix (see my Anatomy of the Nail post) from potential bacteria and fungus. If you remove your cuticles, you're essentially removing that barrier and opening your nails up for bacteria to grow. Aside from all that, it's so much more aesthetically pleasing when your cuticles are intact!

Pushing back your cuticles:

This is an important step in proper manicuring and will keep your cuticles looking happy and healthy. I think this step is often confused with our first topic of actually removing your cuticles and that might have a lot to do with the fact that many products on the market now are called "cuticle removers". This bothers me because we don't want to actually remove our cuticles with these products, we simply want to get rid of the dead, excess cuticle skin (tip: you can tell the difference between dead and live skin by looking at the colour - dead skin is whiteish, while live skin is translucent).

To properly push back your cuticles, first use a cuticle softener or exfoliator (such products can also often be called cuticle removers). I use either Nail Life Cuticle Remover (found at Sally Beauty Supply) or CND Cuticle Eraser. Both do fine jobs but I think I lean the most towards the CND one. I've also heard good things about Nfu-Oh's Cuticle Remover, but I haven't tried it myself yet.

After you've applied your product, I suggest bathing your nails in a bath of warm water as this will help to further soften the skin. After removing your nails from the bath (leave them in for about 5 minutes), take a cuticle pusher or an orange stick and gently push back your cuticles. Because the skin has been softened and the product has been exfoliating, you should see the dead skin lift right off your nail plate (tip: use a circular motion with your pusher or orange stick to help lift cuticle that sticks to the nail plate).

At this point, you can use a pair of cuticle nippers if you have any ragged excess cuticle or hangnails. However, I must stress that nippers can be both intimidating and dangerous, so if you're unsure at all, I suggest skipping this step. If you are comfortable with the nippers, be sure to remember my tip about live vs. dead skin from above. Furthermore, if you continue to follow the steps outlines above (and below), you shouldn't be seeing too much of the ragged excess cuticles or hangnails, so you shouldn't see a need for nipper use.

There you have it! All the dead skin is gone and your cuticles should be looking pretty good at this point.

Moisturizing your cuticles:

Now that you've properly cared for your cuticles, it's important to maintain them, and a big part of that is keeping them moisturized. There's nothing worse than seeing really beautiful manicures and nail art surrounded by bone-dry cuticles!

I did a review of 3 popular cuticle moisturizers here and Sarah from Chalkboard Nails recently posted a nice, well-rounded review of some other products that I didn't cover in my post, so check that out as well. So, find a cuticle cream that you like and use it daily to maintain those cuticles (tip: hot water sucks the moisture out of your skin, especially your cuticles because they're so sensitive, so I like to always apply my cuticle cream after my shower).

Finally, find a hand moisturizer that you like and try to work that into your manicuring routine as well. My favourite is OPI's line of Avojuice Skin Quenchers, which I did a review of here.

I know this was a long and wordy post but I hope it was helpful and if you have any further questions, feel free to send me an email by going to the contact tab at the top of the page, or leave me a comment on this post.


  1. Really helpful!! thank you very much :D

  2. Really informative post, thank you ^-^ Just wondering, how often would you suggest pushing back your cuticles?

    1. Yes, I probably should have mentioned that! Once every two weeks should be sufficient to keep your cuticles looking happy and healthy.

  3. Thank you for this really good and informative post. I've always wondered about the cuticle removing thing - I never understood why people wanted to remove them. Now I know that I've been right all along. :)

  4. So I push back my cuticles and instead of being all nice and lovely and neat like yours I'm quite often left with what looks like excess, especially on my thumbs. I'm not really sure which but I should be removing... am I meant to be taking off any of the skin that lines the bottom of the nail?

    I really enjoy these posts :)

  5. Thanque Kayla for this post, and like your new layout for blog <3 <3

  6. I pride myself with keeping up with my nail care more than what shade I will wear next on fingers/toes. I use Barielle's Nail Strengthening Cream - that sets up for ~30 sec and I combo it with Barielle's Intensive Nail Renewal Oil. Have used these 2 for years - try other things and always come back to these. I always keep pots of indi made olive oil paste in a tin, Burt's Bee's cutical tin as well to are all over the house. In my purse their is also another olive oil tin and an OPI Avoplex To Go. I never miss an opportunity to hydrate while I am driving, or waiting for my coffee, or waiting for an appointment. I push what little cuticle I get back but I have not needed to use a cuticle remover for a long time. If I do need one, I use Sally Hanson's Problem Cuticle Remover. The Barielle products I use and RAVE over, can be bought at or at Sally's. At Sally's you need to look at the Barielle Pro line. The box the strengthening cream comes in is different than what it is off the Barielle site -but the name is the same. The oil has a different name at Sally's than on the Barielle site - but just look for the hydrating treatment oil - I am forgetting the name of it at Sally's in the pro line as I have 3 bottles here from But both are a lot cheaper bought at Sally's than on Barielle's site - esp if you have a Sally's card and it's % off time for you in addition.

  7. THANK YOU for doing this. my cuticles are atrocious & i've had the hardest time trying to keep them healthy. This post really, really helps! :)

  8. How often would you recommend using a cuticle remover?

  9. Can't wait for your post about beveling! My nails are sqaure right now but I've thinking about making them oval..

  10. Great tips! Thanks for sharing.
    I must admit I have been guilty of cutting cuticles, but I'm a lot better than I used to be :)

  11. My question would be how to approach using the cuticle nippers when you do need them. My nails, hair and cuticles grow SUPER quickly. No matter where I go to get a manicure they take forever working on removing my cuticles. If I follow your tips I end up with a good millimeter of dead skin after one week. I find my nails look a lot better when I trim the cuticles, but I can't get it to be neat like manicurists can. Any advice for those of us who really need to cut our cuticles?

  12. Just what a newbie like me needs, Thanks!

  13. Thank you so much for this article!! :)

    Because of the name, I've ended up trying to remove live skin and hurting myself with cuticle removers sigh.. Definitely going to start investing in some cuticle care treatments to avoid getting so much dead skin and ragged hangnails! Finally starting to understand my hands better.

  14. Really helpful article but I got the essie conditioning cuticle remover, and was wondering if it's alright to use it and push back your cuticles everyday? It doesn't seem to say on the bottle or container. Thanks :-)

  15. I've always cut my cuticles, but after reading this, I will make sure I do not do that again! Thanks for the help> :)

  16. Really useful article :)

  17. Eeeee thanks! I feel the confidence to remove my cuticles now since you are a manicurist ^_^

  18. could you post a photo of what you mean by "dead" and "live" cuticle? I am always confused about this and worry that i push too far. what happens is that the whole semicircular piece of cuticle on my nail gets "lifted" up when i push it back, but there is no pain or signs of irritation at the nail bed. is this normal?


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