|Although often neglected, cuticles play an important role in maintaining the health
of the nails. Unlike the nails that can be shaped and painted to make our fingers
more aesthetically pleasing, cuticles only seem to cause problems like hangnails.
In reality, cuticles are the barriers that protect the skin on the fingers from
dirt and infections. However, if you don't take proper care of cuticles they become
dry, fragile and easily damaged. Besides causing pain and discomfort, this could
create a tear that would allow dirt and bacteria to get under the skin. That is
why it's important to incorporate these easy and quick cuticle-grooming tasks into
One of the biggest problems cuticles face is dryness. Dryness causes hangnails,
which are dry pieces of cuticle that appear on the sides of the nails and cause
discomfort. To prevent hangnails, massage cuticle oil or a moisturizing hand cream
or lotion into the cuticle on regular basis. It is not enough to just apply hand
cream to your hands; to achieve the necessary results you need to specifically apply
and massage it into the cuticles. Small and convenient sticks of cuticle moisturizing
cream are very handy to take along in your handbag. Dryness also often causes cuticles
to tear and peel the skin around the nail. Sometimes the cause of the dryness is
not lack of care, but rather too much grooming. If you use nail polish and other
lacquers more often than once a week, it could dry the cuticles out as well. If
you have symptoms of dryness around the cuticles, perhaps you should give them a
GROOMING VS. CUTTING
Another problem occurs when cuticles are cut off during a manicure or if people
bite or pull them off through nervousness or carelessness. Beside damaging or removing
this important protective barrier, cutting live cuticles will make the skin around
the nails dry up and peel. It also makes the fingers vulnerable to serious infections.
Cuticles are constantly growing and besides moisturizing them, they need to be groomed
as well. Use a gentle approach at all times. A cuticle remover and an orange (cuticle)
stick are necessary tools. A cuticle remover is specifically made to soften cuticles
so they can be gently pushed back. After applying the cuticle remover, hold the
orange stick at an angle and push the cuticles back. Make sure not to apply too
much force. After you're done, remove any dead cuticle skin that flaked off. If
you still have hangnails you may cut them off with a cuticle nipper that is specifically
made for that purpose, making sure not to cut too far or too deep. Never bite or
rip out hangnails; you'll cause damage. Always make sure that the instruments you
use are clean, sterilized and sharp enough to do the job.
Here are two recipes for making cuticle softeners:
Olive Oil Softener
A small amount of warmed up olive oil can be massaged into the cuticle before using
an orange stick. Olive oil is an excellent moisturizer. The temperature of the oil
shouldn't be too hot, but warm oil will have better results.
Eucalyptus and Jojoba Oil Softener
Mix 2 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil and 1 teaspoon of Jojoba oil very well and
massage the mixture into the cuticles before pushing them back.
ALLERGIES AND IRRITATION
If your cuticles become red, swollen, itchy or irritated, it could be an indication
of an allergic reaction. This may result from exposure to acrylic nails, nail polishes
or hardener, or harsh chemicals present in household cleaning products. To relieve
the allergic response and to prevent future occurrences, discontinue the use of
the suspected offending nail product. It's a good idea to wear rubber gloves when
doing housework that involves prolonged exposure to water and harsh chemicals.
If your cuticles become severely inflamed or infected, you should consider seeing
a dermatologist or a podiatrist. The infection could be caused by dirt that needs
to be cleaned out, but it could also be due to nail fungus, yeast or another serious
infection. If left untreated, even a small infection could grow into a serious problem.