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Cuticle Care

Our hands are one part of our bodies that are always out there for the world to see. Whether we are chasing after kids, typing on the keyboard or handing money to a cashier, it's safe to say our hands are often noticed - and that means our cuticles as well.

It's one part of our nails that becomes ornery when neglected for just a couple days too long, and it shows. After all, cuticles are really just dead skin between the nail plate and the nail bed. But they're also more than that. Cuticles help nourish our nails as they grow and even protect against infection. When properly cared for, they do their job and keep our nails looking beautiful.

There are a few essential products to help aid any cuticle care regimen but what is most important is remembering to use your cuticle creams and oils at least once a day. Other than that, you'll just need to devote 5 minutes a week to keeping those cuticles in check!

Cuticle Oils

This is a necessary item to have if you're on the quest for cuticle bliss. It's typically made from avocado or almond oil and is usually rich in Vitamin E. You may even find some Shea butter listed in the ingredients, as well. Prepare to spend at least $5 to $8 for your basic drugstore brands, and upwards from there.

Cuticle oil is multifunctional and a cuticle care must-have because it serves 2 purposes. First, it's gentle enough to use every day. Your best bet is to use this at night, before bed, so it has some time to soak in. You don't necessarily want to put it on in the morning, because as soon as you wash your hands, that oil and all its benefits go right down the drain.

The second purpose of cuticle oil is when grooming. If you don't have a cuticle dissolver or other softening solution (we'll cover this later), you could use cuticle oil as a way to soften cuticles before pushing them back. After all, you never want to push them back when dry - that leads to shredding, ripping and infection, which is almost worse than cuticles that have grown out of control.

Also, never underestimate the power of olive oil. When you're looking for one of the best moisturizers nature could provide, this stuff will do the trick. Simply soak your nails in a bowl of olive oil for several minutes, rinse and you're ready to groom.

Cuticle Creams

You may be asking yourself, why can't I just apply my regular skin moisturizer to my cuticles? You could but it may not be as effective. Cuticle creams are unique in that they're heavily laden with natural fats like petroleum and beeswax. Applying cuticle cream regularly helps replace those natural fats cuticles lose when they dry out. This makes them soft and flexible again and keeps your nail from becoming brittle or damaged.

When shopping for cuticle creams, you can spend as little or as much as you want. On the inexpensive end, Burt's Bees offers a lemon butter cuticle cream for just $6. Just like with cuticle oil, you can use cuticle cream every night. You may find it especially comforting during those long winter months when your hands and nails are so much more vulnerable to the dry, cold conditions outside.

Cuticle Pushers

You can get a cuticle pusher for under $2 through stores like Sally Beauty Supply, or you may even have one as part of your manicure kit already. If you haven't incorporated a cuticle pusher into your weekly manicure regimen, you need to start.

This little metal device is crucial to any proper manicure, whether it's at home in your bathroom or at the nail salon. Pushing your cuticles back makes your nails look better groomed as a whole and even elongates the appearance of your nail. When you fail to use cuticle pushers, you'll get that awful line three-fourths of the way down your nail, which even you don't want to see.

Before you use the cuticle pusher, make sure to soften up those cuticles with some oil or dissolver. Using the flat end of the pusher, you'll gently push the cuticle down to its base at the bottom of the nail. You'll also want to scoop along each side of your nail to clean up the sides. Any residue or flaky skin that's left should be cleaned off the nail when you're done pushing the cuticles.

Cuticle Nippers

One way to help tame problem cuticles is with cuticle trimmers. While this doesn't remove the cuticle completely, it helps you get rid of excess length. For many of us, cuticle nippers can be a bit intimidating - because if you use them the wrong way and pull at the skin, you could traumatize cuticles and end up with redness and irritation.
To prevent this, look for a cuticle nipper with a firm grip, fully loaded spring and small but sharp head. This way, you can easily cut the cuticle without stretching or tearing and you can get into all those tiny creases on the sides of your nail plates. One extremely important rule is to apply cuticle oil or dissolver beforehand or else the process could be rather painful.

Cuticle Dissolvers & Removers

These usually come in the form of alkali creams or solutions, which break down the keratin in the cuticle. This leaves a flaky excess, which you can wipe away, push down or trim with cuticle nippers. While cuticle dissolvers are extremely helpful in keeping nails nicely groomed, you do need to use them with caution. Since they break down keratin cells, you don't want to leave them on too long. Usually 10 minutes or less will do, depending on the bottle's instructions. Any longer and you could remove more cuticle than necessary, opening up your nails to infection.