Dry, peeling cuticles can be quite painful and look unsightly.
Luckily, this is one problem you can solve without too much time or effort – you just need to be prepared to give your hands a little TLC.
Moisturizing Your Cuticles
Make a homemade cuticle cream. If you have the time, you can make a really effective cuticle cream at home using some hand cream and oils. Here’s how:
- In the microwave, warm up a bowl of 1/3 cup hand cream, a few glugs of olive oil (or grape seed oil, if you have it), and 3-4 drops of lavender oil (found in the health food store) to a temperature that is warm but not too hot to touch.
- Apply a generous amount to each fingernail and gently massage into the nail, cuticle and surrounding skin, spending a minute or two on each. The cream is extremely good for your hands (and feet!) and will keep your cuticles soft.
- You can keep and re-warm this homemade cream for up to 3 days in your fridge if you store it in a dark glass bottle.
Get a hot wax treatment. If you can afford it, investing in a hot wax treatment at your local nail salon can work wonders for hands, nails and cuticles.
- During a hot wax treatment, a special oily wax is melted down and applied to the hands and fingertips. Then you will be asked to wear a pair of plastic gloves and place your hands in a mitt.
- After 10 to 15 minutes, you will remove your hands from the mitt and the wax will be removed, leaving the skin of your hands and cuticles feeling soft and supple.
- It is also possible to buy paraffin wax treatment kits online, which you can use yourself at home.
Use petroleum jelly. If you’re looking for a cheap yet effective option for moisturizing your cuticles, buy a tub of petroleum jelly and rub a generous amount into the cuticles every night before bed. Petroleum jelly will soften your cuticles and stop them from peeling, but it can be a little greasy for use throughout the day.
Try essential oils. Essential oils can be helpful in moisturizing your cuticles, while also smelling great! Some of the most effective ones are jojoba oil and orange oil, while tea tree oil is great for clearing up any small infections.
In a pinch, use some lip balm. If you’re out and about and your cuticles are bothering you, have a look in your bag for a stick of lip balm and try rubbing a little on your cuticles. It should provide some temporary relief until you can get your hands on some hand cream.
Caring For Your Cuticles
Soak your fingertips in hot water. Give your hands a soak in hot (not boiling) water or take a long bath. This will help to soften the cuticles and any loose skin. If you like, you can add a teaspoon of freshly-squeezed lemon juice or vinegar to the water. This will help to exfoliate any dead skin.
Push back your cuticles with an orange stick. Once your cuticles have been softened, it should be easy to push them back using an orange stick.
- An orange stick is a small wooden or metal stick used to push back cuticles and clean under the nails. They can be purchased cheaply at the drug store or online.
- Use the flat end of the orange stick to push back the cuticle. Try to do this very gently – if you push too hard you might hurt yourself and make your cuticles worse!
- Push the cuticles back until you can see the white half-moon shape (called the lunula) at the bottom of each fingernail. Don’t do this more than once or twice a month, as the cuticles are quite sensitive.
- Metal orange sticks need to be sterilized after each use, while wooden orange sticks should be thrown away.
Never cut your cuticles. Your cuticles are important – they protect your nail’s growth matrix (the part the nails grow from) by preventing any dirt or bacteria from entering. As a result, you should refrain from cutting your cuticles and switch to pushing them back instead.
- Cutting your cuticles removes this protective layer and exposes your nails to infection. It also makes the skin of the cuticles harder and more prone to splitting and peeling.
- Don’t worry about your cuticles growing back faster once you stop cutting them – this is a myth. Their rate of growth will remain the same even if you stop cutting.
Regularly moisturize your cuticles. Regularly moisturizing your cuticles is one of the most important steps in stopping your cuticles from peeling. You should moisturize them at least twice a day – once in the morning and once at night.
- Don’t forget that your cuticles are made out of skin (despite their thicker texture), and all skin needs to be moisturized in order to stay hydrated and prevent peeling and flaking.
- During the day you can use a moisturizing hand lotion which soaks in quickly and doesn’t leave your hands feeling greasy. At night, however, you should use a thicker cream or cuticle ointment for more intense hydration.
- After you moisturize your hands and cuticles at night, it is a good idea to wear a pair of cotton or wool gloves to bed. This prevents the cream or ointment from rubbing off on the bed sheets, while the extra heat will help your skin to really absorb the moisturizer. You will wake up in the morning with really soft hands and cuticles!
If your cuticles are cracked and painful, use a topical antibacterial ointment. If the skin around your fingernails feels cracked and irritated, you may have a small infection. If this is the case, you will need to clear up the infection before your cuticles can start to heal.
- You can do this by applying a generous layer of topical antibacterial ointment (such as Neosporin) to the cuticles.
- Once you have applied the antibacterial ointment (which is more effective than the cream version), you should wrap a band-aid around each affected nail.
- Leave the band-aid on overnight and in the morning you will find your cuticles looking and feeling a lot better!
Know when to consult a doctor. If your cuticles are painful, have pus or swelling, or develop red spots, you may have an infection called paronychia. If you suspect this could be the case, see your doctor as soon as possible as you may require a course of antibiotics to clear the infection.
Preventing Dry Cuticles
Protect your hands from cold weather. Cold weather can be very drying to your hands, causing cuticles to crack and peel.
- Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to protecting your hands in wintertime, or whenever you are experiencing very cold weather.
- Always wear gloves when you are outdoors and remember to carry a small hand cream in your purse that you can apply at regular intervals.
Keep your fingers away from your mouth. People who tend to bite their nails or nibble at their cuticles are much more likely to develop dry, peeling skin around their fingers than those who don’t.
- You are also at risk of developing an infection, as your mouth contains bacteria which can easily transfer to your nails. Saliva also contains enzymes which break down the skin, leading to further dryness.
- Therefore one of the most effective measures you can take to prevent dry, peeling cuticles is to stop biting and keep your hands away from your mouth.
- To help you, you can purchase special foul-tasting ointments for your nails. They make your fingers taste so bad that you’ll think twice before biting again!
Avoid drying agents. Having dry hands can accelerate the cracking and peeling of cuticles, so make sure to protect them from any unnecessary exposure to drying agents.
- Frequently washing the dishes in hot, soapy water can be very drying for your hands, so protect them by wearing rubber gloves every time you do the washing up.
- If you don’t like wearing the gloves, then at least invest in a more moisturizing dish soap designed to hydrate hands as you wash.
- Steer clear of acetone-based nail polish removers, as these sap moisture from your nails like nobody’s business. You should also try to keep hand washing to a minimum, as frequent washing removes important natural oils from the surface of the skin and nails.
Choose your manicurists carefully. Be careful when choosing a nail technician for your manicures and pedicures, as a poorly executed manicure can do more harm than good.
- Some nail technicians can be very rough with your nails and cuticles, which can result in peeling, cracking and soreness.
- If your nail technician tries to cut your cuticles, or tries to push your cuticles back too far, politely ask her to stop. They’re your nails, so you get to decide what happens to them.
- If your nail technician cuts your cuticles and you end up with soreness or an infection, this could be the result of improperly sterilized equipment. If this happens, you should consider switching to a different nail salon.