Cuticle Q+A with the founder of Bare Hands
[August 2022, by Suzanne Shade]
Hi Suzanne. I am a big fan of the natural look and have never had my nails professionally done. My cuticles, however, are a nightmare. They grow out and I push them back. Then I peel or pick them and get bleeding cuticles. Does your product help with keeping cuticles in check?
SS— Part of why I developed the Dry Gloss Manicure is because I had a terrible cuticle picking habit, and I found caring for them proactively was the best way to curb my picking. The key to keeping cuticles resilient is to oil them regularly: once or twice a day. My thumbs are a big 'hot spot' and I do them at least twice a day and find that when I don't the problems start.
So what actually is the cuticle?
SS— Technically, the cuticle is the dead, dry and flaky membrane on top of your nail bed. (See below) This is what gets softened with ‘cuticle remover’ and scraped away with a pusher by your nail tech. The reason cuticle remover is in quotes is because technically it doesn’t remove the cuticle, it just softens it.
The part that’s ‘alive’ is the eponychium: the skin flap that contacts your nail. My nickname for this is the Epo.
Becoming a person who stays consistent
gives you more confidence to
keep making gentle adjustments.
Can you tell me more about how and why to trim the eponychium?
SS— This may seem really granular but I have 5 classifications of cuticle issues and separate protocols for each one. Some require cutting, but some do not. Here they are:
#1— “The Dry Edge” This is the first ‘warning sign’ your skin is giving you, and it’s the easiest to fix. It’s where you start to see the skin drier and harder near the edge of the nail bed. Treat this with extra cuticle oil, hand cream, lip balm… whatever you’ve got to hand. Time is of the essence!
#2 — “The Micro Hangnail” These are the usually small hangnails that form off and away from the eepo. This hangnail doesn’t hurt at all. Appropriate cutting here is with a sharp nail clipper (not cuticle scissors!). This keeps you from trimming too close to the skin and causing a puncture.
#3— “The Cuticle Creep” This is what happens when your Epos get hard, and you don’t push them back often enough. They will start to ‘creep’ across the nail bed and stretch as they go, which is the main cause of hangnails. The solution to this is to soak your nails in oil for at least 10 minutes to soften the whole area, then push the cuticle back with the wooden sticks in the Dry Gloss Manicure kit. You may need to do this every day for a few days to really start to get them softened properly.
#4— “The Flappy Epo” This is where an excess skin flap can get thick and loose after you push your cuticle back. It’s super tempting to trim this! And most nail techs do this to maintain a finished appearance. The BEST thing is to keep this area moisturized so that the skin can bounce back and recede on its own. Trust your skin to rebalance— after a few days of moisture it will return to normal. If you must trim this, use extreme caution not to cut too close.
#4— “The Hot Hangnail”This is what happens when you are not addressing the first 4 issues, and it manifests itself as a full blown skin separation. This hangnail hurts because it still has a blood supply at the base of it. Cutting it (especially at the base) is cutting into live skin. A lot of the time this type of hangnail bleeds, and in every case, you desperately want to trim it closely to get rid of the pain. Resist this at all costs!
SS— If you have the fortitude to wait it out a few days without irritating it, the healing process will allow the hangnail to become ‘detached’ from the live skin. If you must trim, trim roughly with a sharp nail clipper. This allows some air to get under the hangnail to promote healing. The toughest part here is to resist agitating it and picking at it further. I recommend silicone finger protectors for these few days to keep you from ‘attacking’ them and creating more damage. Once the hangnail no longer hurts, you can trim it more closely to accelerate healing.
Why don't you promote the use of cuticle scissors or nippers?
SS— These tools were designed for nail techs with literally thousands of hours of experience and training. If they aren't used carefully enough at home, they can cause punctures, create more hangnails, and possible infection. A good, sharp nail clipper is really all you need (I really like the ones made for babies). The bonus of the clipper is that you literally cannot cut too close or poke into areas you should be poking in. Rule of thumb: If the clipper won’t cut it, leave it alone until it can.
Why does the cuticle need more consistent moisture than the rest of my skin?
SS— If you wash your hands, your dishes, and your hair daily that contact is what keeps your cuticle skin from falling behind on regulating itself. Because you are constantly exposing it to soaps that strip oil, It never has a chance to repair, recover, and rebalance like the skin on your face and body. For that reason, oiling them twice daily is recommended.
How can I stay on track with good habits?
Once you’ve been able to achieve consistency in oiling and pushing them back, your mindset will shift from feeling bad about this habit, to feeling good about how you take care of yourself. Becoming a person who stays consistent will make you more confident to keep making gentle adjustments. You’ll most likely stray off the path once in a while, but just like with driving a car, a quick straightening of the wheel is all it takes!