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Caring for your cuticles

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

You probably don't give a second thought to your cuticles. If you have a manicure you may get them treated and trimmed but it pays to look after them regularly.

They are the gateway to all sorts of nail problems and infections so give them a bit of TLC and treat them with care.

What is a cuticle?

If you look at your nail the cuticle is the thin ledge right at the base of your nail. It looks like your nail starts growing from the cuticle but it doesn't, the nail root is further down.

The cuticle is the thin layer of dead skin which is very, very close to what's called the eponychium. The difference is the cuticle on the nail plate is dead and that's the bit that's often removed in a manicure.

The eponychium is right underneath it and is living skin and must be avoided at all costs. Together they form a protective seal.

BABTAC is the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology. Its nail technician of the year 2013 is Kirsty Ewins. We spoke to her about cuticle care.

Kirsty says: "Don't cut the skin underneath the cuticles as the eponychium acts as a barrier to harmful bacteria."

She says, "At home people can get a bit carried away and the more you snip and cut at your cuticles the more likely you are to get splits which could lead to the development of an infection."

How to treat your cuticles?

There's no real reason to cut your cuticles but when you have a manicure they are often pushed back and trimmed to make the nail look longer.

Kirsty says: "Use a special cuticle remover and then push the cuticle back with a special soft tipped pusher or orange stick."

She says when you are in the bath your cuticles are soft so try to push them back then.

If you do cut them, use cuticle nippers and be extremely careful.

It is fine to trim hangnails and loose bits of cuticle skin but don't cut too much. Don't bite or pull at your cuticles as that too can cause damage and cuts where bacteria can get in.

Moisturise well

Although the cuticles don't feel like the soft skin on the rest of your hands, they are composed mainly of skin, so it's good to keep them moisturised.

There are plenty of specialised products on the market; hand and nail creams, lotions and ointments.

Kirsty says: "To keep your cuticles soft and supple cuticle oil is probably best, use it twice a day, on natural nails or on acrylic nails as it'll go through to the nail bed and keep it hydrated."

Nail bars and salons offer hot wax treatments that give extra nourishment to hands and nails.

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