It doesn’t matter how beautiful your shiny new nail polish is—if your cuticles are dry, cracked, or tearing it can ruin your manicure (maybe even your day). In fact, it’s not even worth getting a manicure if you’re not going to care for your cuticles after you leave the salon. Essie’s celebrity manicurist, Michelle Saunders, spills her tips for keeping them in tip-top shape, below.
What Causes It
“Just like hair texture and color, you either have raggedy cuticles or you have naturally flawless cuticles,” says Saunders. “But it’s only half-genetic. The other half is what you do and use if you have unruly cuticles.” Don’t feel bummed if you’re team raggedy. Saunders says as soon as she tells someone she’s a manicurist she’s bombarded with questions on cuticle care, so you’re clearly not alone.
How to Fix It
Stop messing with them. “If you have a painful hangnail do not bite it, pick it, or pull it,” she says. “Take a small cuticle trimmer or nail clipper and gently trim what’s hanging. Then immediately wash your hands and add an anti-bacterial ointment.”
Cover them up. “Just like any open wound, bacteria can seep into the area and cause a nasty infection,” says Saunders. “I sometimes recommend a band aid around a pulled hangnail overnight.” If you can’t stop touching or picking at your hangnails and cuticles out of habit, slapping on a bandage can help.
Treat your cuticles the way you treat your face. Delicate skin requires maintenance and hydration—especially if yours is on the dry side. Saunders suggests applying cuticle oil and hand cream every morning and night, or after each hand washing if you really want to step up your game. You should change your polish every week, getting or giving yourself a mani every two weeks, and a pedicure once a month. “And try not dig into your pockets or handbags as this causes major fraying.”
Take your vitamins. “The health of your cuticles and nails can be improved greatly if you take multi-vitamins daily in addition to an omega 3 fatty acid,” says Saunders. Upping your protein intake can help, too.
Consider this an excuse to get a manicure. Ever notice how soft and polished your cuticle area feels after a professional manicure? Saunders says regular salon visits do help, and that you shouldn’t be shy about telling the nail tech your issues. “There are some cuticles that get worse with trimming and can actually fray more! I always believe my clients when they tell me their cuticles are worse after a manicure. In that case, I just push and slightly nip only what’s hanging off.” Whether you head to the salon or DIY, don’t overdo it with clippers. “Only trim what’s loose, not attached,” she says. “When you start looking at it this way, you’ll begin to realize that less trimming is better. Gently pushing the cuticle back—as long as they are moist—is safe for everyone to do.”