Healthy Cuticles Lead to Healthy Nails

Patients come to me every day with nail diseases; sometimes the problem is actually the patient’s own fault.

Nails are an appendage of the skin. They’re important for function (you couldn’t pick bugs off your partner without them) as well as for appearance. When they are diseased or damaged they can be exquisitely painful and unsightly.


The most preventable, self-inflicted nail condition — paronychia — is caused by removing cuticles. Paronychia is a painful inflammation of the fingernail that often results from scraping off or pushing back cuticles.

The cuticle serves the important function of sealing the nail-skin junction. If you break this seal, then irritants like soap and infections like bacteria or yeast get in the space between the nail and the skin, leading to painful paryonychia.

I know that some women feel their nails look better without the cuticle, but, trust me, nails with cuticles look much better than big, red, swollen fingertips with bumpy, ridged nails.

What should you do?

  • Nails dry out just like skin does. When you apply moisturizer to your hands, massage it into your nails and cuticles as well. Moisturizer is best applied just after washing your hands when the skin is still damp.
  • Don’t soak your fingernails in warm water. Use warm olive oil instead, then blot dry with a soft cloth.
  • Mail me your all your cuticle pushers; I’ll recycle them. You don’t need them anymore.
  • Never have a manicurist cut your cuticles. It is the surest way to contract a nail infection.

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik

13 thoughts on “Healthy Cuticles Lead to Healthy Nails”

  1. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    You might be frustrated to find out that the advice in women’s magazines I’ve read is to only let a manicurist cut your cuticles.

    I like the olive oil advice. I don’t soak my fingers intentionally (very guilty of grabbing a rag without donning gloves first, though) but that sounds like it would feel lovely.

    I had exema on my fingers during pregnancy that had deep cracks around my nail beds. Is it possible I have a scar around there that I can’t see that causes a chronic weakness is one section?

    Also, is it true the wearing polish and removing it can strip a layer off the nails themselves and weaken them? What about buffing nails?

  2. Ami –
    The nail bed and nail plate are intimately connected. Damage or scars of the nail bed can certainly disrupt the nail growing over it.

    Wearing polish is not really a problem, but repeated cleaning with acetone can be an issue. Acetone, or nail polish remover, doesn’t strip anything off your nail, but it does dry out the nail plate, weakening the nail.

    Buffing nails is OK, but in moderation. You can thin the plate too much, leading to a weaker nail if you over do it.

  3. I have my cuticle removed every 10 days, for over 15 years now, and nothing has happened to me. Most of my friends (girls) do it, too, and I have never ever heard of any of them getting an infection caused by taking the cuticles. Maybe itยดs because we go to good salons that use only disposable materials, or maybe the enamel kills all the bacterias… ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I have a sore cuticle because I put my hand in my pocket earlier today, where there was a sharp pencil and the tip of the pencil lead broke off and is stuck under my finger cuticle. I can’t get at it with tweezers or a pin, it’s made doubly difficult as it’s my right hand and I am right handed! I have bathed it in warm soapy water and put Germolene and a sticking plaster on. Will it come out on its own or is there anything I can do to help it out? I can’t ease it out by pushing from behind like I would with a splinter in my finger, as it doesnt move.

  5. I have found a product that soften the cuticles, and also calluses in minutes without chemical. It is made from fruit extracts and it leaves your hands and feet soft. When I use this product I do not have to cut my cuticle, because the gentle nature of the soap does the job. All that is needed is just the small wooden tool to push and remove the cuticle. On the feet all that is needed is just a pumice stone.

  6. ive bin lukin round the internet nd all
    dey say is dat its cuz of lack of cuticles
    nd i always push my cuticles bak nd trim dem
    dnt do it!!! dey r made to protect da new keratin cells
    nd by gettin rid of da cuticle the nails wil grow deformed!!! 4rm nw on i aint doin nufin 2 my cuticles.
    hope that helps!!!

    p.s. if u typ in google “vertical ridges” all da nails u c hav no cuticles!!! exactly my point!!! of byeee!!!

  7. i gess ur lucky!!!@Lizz
    i gess ur lucky!!!

  8. Thank you for this wonderful post! It has been very useful. I wish that you will continue posting your wisdom with us.

  9. so – what is the product you found that works?

  10. Serena Click says:

    My nails are weak and they peel. At the advice of my dermatologist I started taking Biotin 1000 mcg and it didn’t seem to be any difference in them after 4 months of taking Biotin. I stopped using nail polish and remover. I applied olive oil as well. I also use moisturizing lotion after washing hands. They are still weak and peeling. I recently came across a super potency Biotin of 5000 mcg and wondered if it would be harmful for me to take that much to help my nails. How about if I take it every other day or should I take it every day? Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you,

  11. first, lead is poisenus. I suggest you put some bacteria ointment on that area, then put a medicated over it. This will soften and protect the cutical and possibly allow the lead to move out from under the cutical.

  12. I left out the word “bandage” to cover your nail

  13. vitamin E is perfrct. also I had the same problen a long time ago and I also used raw Alo from the plant. you can also use Omega fish oil, use a head of a pin to break the gel and rub it in, just a tad will do it. It will smell, so you won’t want to leave it on to long before you clean your nailes.

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