On my last visit to the nail salon, a technician appraised the fraying skin framing my nails with disapproval and told me the state of my cuticles would make it difficult for her to apply polish in a clean, precise manner. So as to never be shamed again, I asked Shelly Hill, head of operations for the Los Angeles- and Denver-based nail salon Base Coat for some pointers on caring for my oft-overlooked cuticles from this point forward.
To begin with, she says that you should never cut your cuticles. Like, ever. “These act as a barrier for the living part of nail that actually grows,” she cautions. “When cutting the cuticle, you can open up a barrier to bacteria, which could cause an infection on your finger.” What’s more, she says, cutting the cuticle will cause it to grow back thicker, as a part of the body’s natural healing process. When you get around to painting them, this thick skin can give even a fresh paint job a “grown-out” effect.
Instead, Hill says, you should push back your cuticles just once a week. On top of that, regularly moisturize them, especially after a bath, shower, or time spent washing dishes or soaking your hands. And when you get a manicure, skip the nail soak all together, because it extends the life of your mani and keeps the skin around your nails more chill, too.
Here, the cuticle-specific oils, lotions, and masks to keep next to your desk, on the tub’s edge, and by your nightstand for regular use. In a pinch, says Hill, you can also use household items such as coconut or olive oil to pamper your tips.
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