Risks of cutting cuticles generally include bacterial infections that can range from minor irritations to more serious conditions, such as paronychia. Cuticle skin acts as an important protective barrier that normally keeps harmful bacteria away from the nail bed. Trimming cuticles is a frequent practice in nail salons, though most manicurists take care not to cut too deeply and to leave enough cuticle skin in place. Biting cuticles is a fairly common habit usually attributed to stress, and it can often lead to open sores around the nail bed that further heighten the risk of a harmful infection.
Some people who regularly perform manicures on themselves make the mistake of cutting cuticles completely away with small pairs of nail scissors. Most prefer the cleaner look of removed cuticles and sometimes may not be aware of the infection possibilities. Cuticle skin can often be delicate, and it can be fairly easy to trim too deeply and create small cuts surrounding the nail. These nicks are often easy access points for bacteria, and the risk can be even higher if nail polish or polish remover is applied after cutting cuticles in this manner. Infections can also result from cut cuticles that are frequently immersed in water or cleaning solutions.
Biting, rather than cutting, cuticles also carries high chances of infection due to the bacteria in human saliva. This habit frequently leads to larger sores around the nail as well as ragged, uneven cuticles. Tactics for stopping cuticle-biting can include temporarily wrapping the fingertips in bandages until the sores heal. Biting and cutting cuticles frequently results in dry, brittle cuticle skin as well, so most nail care professionals recommend regular application of creams or lotions designed to soften cuticles. Moisturizing and gently exfoliating cuticles are usually considered healthier and safer alternatives to trimming them.
Signs of a cuticle-related infection generally include redness and swelling around the nail. Blisters filled with pus may appear in more serious cases and often indicate paronychia, an infection that can result from bacteria or sometimes from certain types of fungus. Treatment for this problem requires medical attention and an antibiotic prescription in most cases. Most sufferers are also required to soak their infected fingers in clean warm water at least a few times per day. The most severe cases of paronychia can require surgical treatment, such as lancing of the blisters or even excision of part of the affected fingernail.