Taking care of one’s skin extends beyond one’s face. An often overlooked but important aspect of skincare is cuticle care. Happiest Health talks to experts about taking care of this area of skin which is crucial for maintaining the health and appearance of one’s nails.
Healthy cuticles, happy nails
Dr Sunil Kumar Prabhu, consultant dermatologist and aesthetic physician at Aster RV hospital in Bengaluru, says, “The nail bed consists of the cuticle which is a transparent layer of skin on the bottom edge of fingers or toes and nail lunula which is the shape of half-moon at the base of the nail above cuticle.” For better nail health, it is important to tend to the entire nail bed and not just the nails.
Dr Chaudhry, UK board-certified dermatologist, Scandinavian Biolabs, highlights the benefits of healthy cuticles:
- Protect the nails from bacteria and prevent infections
- Protect the nail plate and promote healthy growth
- Keep nails moisturised, preventing them from becoming brittle or fragile
- The keratin layer of the cuticle helps create a barrier between the nails and external agents, such as water or chemicals
Shivani S (22) a postgraduate student from Bengaluru, says, “I started making small changes to my routine, like wearing gloves every time I did the laundry and applying coconut oil at night. It made a huge difference in my overall nail health and even made my toenails look softer.”
Ways to take care of cuticles
- “The easiest way to care of them is to soak your hand or foot in soapy, warm water for around ten minutes 2-3 times a week,” says Dr Prabhu.
- To keep them in good shape, it is best to gently push them back with a soft cuticle stick or pad after bathing or showering when their natural oils are softened.
- It is important to keep them hydrated and moisturised.
- Oils like coconut oil, almond oil, or vitamin E should be applied to the entire length of each nail and underneath the free adge for extra nutrition.
- One can soak their hands and nails in a lemon and olive oil mixture for at least ten minutes before applying hand lotion overnight.
- “Additionally, it is preferred to wear gloves when washing dishes and doing any other manual outdoor work as it protects your nails and skin and ensures they stay healthy and beautiful,” adds Dr Chaudhry.
Common cuticle care missteps to watch out for
- Overcutting them leads to crevices and can cause infections.
- Usama Ahsan (23) from Shimoga, who loves gardening, says, “I’ve spent countless hours with my hands in the mud and never gave much thought to my cuticles. But a painful infection and swollen finger reminded me that self-care is just as important as taking care of the garden.” Ahsan says that he picked a thorn from his cuticle using an unsterilised needle. However, it is never safe to use sharp objects as they can be painful and dangerous.
- Picking or peeling them causes irritation and sometimes bleeding.
- Pushing them back too hard can cause cracking or splitting in the nail bed, thereby, increasing the risk of infection.
Tackling damaged cuticles
“A damaged cuticle can lead to painful irritations around the fingertips or even infections like paronychia that require medical attention. Tending to them can help prevent dryness, tears, and other damage,” says Dr Chaudhry.
- Soften the damaged area by immersing them in warm water for a few minutes and apply oil or cream to your cuticles.
- Avoid cutting or trimming tears or any hangnails (torn piece of skin next to a fingernail) or toenails as this can further damage and irritate the skin around your nails.
- Use an earbud to gently push back any overgrown cuticle material. Seek professional assistance from a manicurist in case of a severe cuticle damage.
- “The area around the nail bed is delicate, hence, trim delicately around the nail bed, removing only excess skin and hangnails,” says Dr Prabhu.