Cuticle treatments are used to remove the layer of dead skin present at the edges and base of the nail. These treatments include cutting off the skin or dissolving the skin using creams and oils. The different treatments will also contain nutrients to moisturize and promote healthy skin. Common ingredients include sweet almond oil, vitamin E oil and jojoba oil. Creams and oils prevent infection as they do not damage the skin around the cuticle.
The strip of dead cells found along the side and base of the fingernail is called the cuticle. The main purpose of cuticle treatments is to remove this layer so that the nail area looks as neat and tidy, particularly nails with polish. In addition to removing dead skin, treatments will also provide nutrients and moisture to the skin, preventing peeling and painful hang nails.
Skin and nails are normally soaked in warm water to soften the cuticle before it is pushed back with a special tool. Treatments may include clipping off the dead skin using small scissors. There are specific scissors made to cut very close to the nail, sometimes called cuticle nippers. Any trimming should be done with sterile clippers.
In place of cutting, some cuticle treatments use creams and oil. Products are applied to the skin and nail to dissolve and repair the crusted, hard outer layer of skin. This method is preferred by many, as it reduces the chance of infection. Fungus and bacteria may access the nail through the cuticle, and this damage can lead to infection.
Oil is a common component of cuticle creams. Sweet almond oil and jojoba oil are frequently used in products as they will soften the skin around the nail. Vitamin E oil is sometimes included as this helps heal scars, softens skin and adds moisture to dry areas.
Cream based cuticle treatments will frequently contain several oils but also have ingredients such as shea butter and beeswax. These treatments work in the same way as oils, but can be spread over the entire nail and surrounding skin. The cuticle softens, and the treatment also strengthens the nail.
Some of the most effective cuticle treatments are those known as alpha hydroxy acid removers. The alpha hydroxy acids work to exfoliate away, or slough off, the dead skin. Treatments containing these acids are applied to the nails where they chemically remove dead skin and cuticles.