The 10 Best Tips We've Ever Heard To Keep Your Cuticles Hydrated & Strong
Get ready: We are now at that time of year when our cuticles start to look a touch disheveled. (Or a lot disheveled.) With the colder temps, dryer air, indoor heating, more frequent hand-washing and sanitizing, and likely skipped manicure sessions (at least this year), keeping those cuticles from fraying is no easy task.
That is why we pulled together the absolute best advice we've ever heard about keeping your cuticles healthy—from expert tips to staffers' advice:
Use one of these cuticle oils.
If you're really invested in your cuticle health, you should probably have a cuticle oil handy. These little tonics are formulated specifically for the area, and so they can hydrate skin, strengthen the surrounding nails, promote growth, protect the area from environmental aggressors, and loads more. Not to mention they are usually thinner, easily absorbed, and have a quick dry-down time. There's nothing worse than greasy fingers, no? Don't worry; our favorite cuticle oils won't smear everywhere and come with so many benefits from the natural actives.
If you pick, create a physical barrier.
With cuticle and nail health, we are often our own worst enemy—picking, biting, and nagging at snags. In one brief moment, a single fray can turn into two full hands of cuticle damage. If picking is your problem—and a problem you can't seem to kick—it's worth going to the extra step and creating a physical barrier.
"If something is covered, then it's hard to access, and when you try to get to them but can't, that's enough time for you to think, Oh, I shouldn't be doing this," Amy Wechsler, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and psychiatrist, previously told us about picking at cuticles. "Sometimes my patients will be walking around with lots of Band-Aids, but it's the only way to heal things."
Or if you feel the urge coming on, get moving.
If bandages are not a path you are willing to go down, then you can try to stop your behaviors before they get out of hand and you end up going down on your little tips. It takes some self-control, but with enough focus and patience, it just might do the trick.
"One theory is that picking is a self-regulating behavior—it stimulates us when we are bored or sedentary (watching TV, at the computer, talking on the phone) and calms us when we are overstimulated (whether by negative emotions or stress or positive excitement)," Jennifer Raikes, executive director of the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, previously told us.
So when you feel bored, stressed, or any of your triggering emotions—pull yourself out of it by moving your body. It will get your mind off your bad habit and ideally help regulate whatever emotion you're feeling in that given time. And your movements can be simple: Stretch your body, go for a quick walk, tidy up an area of your home, and so on.
Take a skin- and nail-healthy supplement.
One easy way to keep your nails and the surrounding skin healthy is through a supplement, like collagen. Collagen supplements aid in skin health as they are made of hydrolyzed collagen peptides—or short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. When you ingest collagen powders, these travel throughout the body aiding skin cells in creating more collagen and elastin. This can support your cuticle growth so they are strong and not as prone to breakage.
Use the extra oil from your meal prep.
As one mbg staffer told me about her go-to reminder: Use just a touch of the oil on your cuticles when you cook. We love kitchen-staples-as-hydrators here at mbg, and your nightly meal makes for an excellent reminder to tend to those tips. Plus, there are several oils that do wonders that you likely are already familiar with: Extra-virgin olive oil contains a high dose of vitamin E1, an oil-soluble antioxidant that offers protection against inflammation and free radicals. Or coconut oil, rich in fatty acids2, helps your skin boost collagen production3 and can help improve4 moisture levels and the barrier function5.
Wear gloves while doing manual labor.
A practical, yet important, tip: Wear gloves when you do manual labor, household chores, or any job that might put some wear and tear on your hands. Things like dish soap, common household cleaners, and the like can contain drying ingredients—even if they are of the more natural variety. Not only that but also if you are doing dishes in hot water, which may be good to get gunk off plates but is extremely stripping of your hands.
Moisturize after every wash and spritz of sanitizer.
While it is essential to our health (and others' health!) that we wash and sanitize regularly, it can dry out our hands and nails pretty fast. Keep a hand cream nearby—as well as your trusted cuticle oil to make sure those don't become frayed as well.
"It's essential to moisturize as often as possible to restore those lipids and encourage the regrowth of healthy bacteria," board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., previously told us about tending to our hands during COVID-19. "I carry a hand moisturizer with me at all times and apply it within moments of washing or sanitizing my hands throughout the day. If you wait too long, you miss that narrow window of opportunity to really trap and seal those nourishing ingredients in the skin before all the water evaporates off the surface, further compromising your skin."
And according to Barr, with the regular use of hand cream or moisturizers, this is how we'll protect our skin, even now: "The hope is that you can balance the damage with maintaining skin-barrier integrity by using emollients or humectants," she says. "You are trying to restore some sort of balance at this point—because you have to wash your hands."
Use your nightly face oil—if you can spare a drop or two.
Here's my go-to move: When I go to massage or roller in my evening oil, I take the little bit of extra that's on my hands and work them into my skin, cuticles, and nails. Since you usually warm the face oil up in your palms regardless, you probably have some to spare that you don't even notice. Don't let that oil go to waste: Just use it to give your cuticles some extra love.
If you can't imagine sparing your precious face oil—I get it!—or you're not a nightly oil sort of person, you can also simply remember to use body oil as a cuticle oil before bed. This way, even if it's a thicker variety, you're going to rest anyway, so the grease factor doesn't really play a part here.
Push the cuticles; never trim.
Here's the exact proper way to mend outgrown cuticles, from celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann. "Take your cuticle pusher and push your cuticle back toward the knuckle," says Lippmann. If you don't have a pusher, you can use a cotton swab or even the end of your file (wrap the end of the file with a tissue so the abrasive grains won't scrape against the nail as you push). "If you have a piece of skin that's still hanging after you've properly pushed it, you can take your cuticle nipper and just nip that tiny piece of skin. You never want to nip all the way around."
Treat yourself to a mani—even if it is an at-home version.
Even if you are missing the salon or spa, you can give yourself a professional-looking mani right in your own home. This will not only help you keep your nails clean and tidy, but it may inspire you to keep your fingers looking good long term. A well-manicured nail just inspires diligent attention, no? Here's our step-by-step guide to doing your manicure at home.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.