Healthy Cuticles Equals Longer Nails
Cuticles are not something most people stop to think about…but they should. Not only do healthy cuticles grow longer, stronger nails, but they can also indicate a person’s state of well-being. Cuticles that peel, or grow profusely onto the nail, or those that are dry or damaged, can often signal an unbalanced health condition. Cuticles register stress, as well as react to environmental conditions, so keeping your nails healthy not only makes you look nice, and grows stronger nails, but it can also help keep you and your skin healthy. Here’s how.
Cuticles 101: What are They?
Cuticles are there to do more than make your nails look pretty. They actually serve an important purpose. Cuticles are a type of skin layer, believe it or not, and it protects your nails growth matrix, which is what causes your nails to grow and remain strong. Cuticles offer a layer of protection for the matrix, keeping out bacteria, and promoting skin health. So, it is very important to take care of your cuticles.
Should You Cut Your Cuticles?
Absolutely not, experts say. Cutting them in any way allows infection or bacteria to get into the nail’s matrix, or under your skin. When there is cuticle damage, it can lead to white spots on your nail, white lines, and sometimes ridges that show up. Experts suggest simply pushing the cuticle back using a wooden orange stick, but take care if your cuticles are already dry and brittle as they could split. Moisturize and rehydrate the cuticles before pushing them gently back. Cutting a cuticle makes them grow back even tougher than before, which keeps the nail from being able to push through and grow longer and stronger. You want the nail stronger, not the cuticle, which should remain flexible and soft.
Moisturize and Feed Your Cuticles for Longer Nails
Cuticles are basically a type of skin, so like other parts on your body, it needs moisturizers and lotions that won’t irritate but naturally add and assist in retaining moisture in the cuticles. In the winter, in particular, the air is dryer, which is when many people begin to develop ‘hang nails’, which are really just fractured cuticles. The fraying of the cuticle is caused by the skin’s need for an adequate moisturizer.
Interview Your Nail Salon and Manicurist
An inexperienced manicurist or someone who simply doesn’t know what they are doing can really damage your cuticles and thus damage your nails. A type of skin infection called paronychia can be contracted from nail salons where good hygienic practices are not employed. Likewise, nail salons that have manicurists who insist on cutting your cuticle should be fired right away, and if a manicurist is too aggressive with pushing back your cuticles, ask her to please stop. Most good manicurists don’t want to injure or hurt you and will stop. The best manicurists won’t hurt you at all.
Go Acetone Free for Cuticle Health
When switching out from one nail polish to the next, your cuticles can become extremely dry if you are using acetone nail polish remover. Likewise, any type of activity that is likely to pull moisture away from your hands needs to be avoided, or if it can’t be avoided, then make a point of moisturizing as soon as the activity has been ceased.
Treating Damaged Cuticles
So, what do you do if you have already broken all 10 Commandments of cuticle health? Luckily, the cuticle is resilient and with proper attention and care, it comes back and functions as good as ever. The amount of care and treatment you need depends on the extent of the damage. If you are a nail-biter, then put some hydrogen peroxide on the cuticles to clean them. At least a few times a day, every day, use a heavy moisturizer on massage the cuticle to work the lotion into the area thoroughly. Specially made cuticle creams are ideal for this. To save yourself some money, opt for rubbing hair conditioner into your cuticles to moisturize the skin.
If you have a sore that has developed, soak your cuticle and nails in warm salt water a few times a day. Go to the doctor to receive antibiotics if it worsens. Fingernails grow only about a quarter of an inch a month, and toe nails less than that. Healthy cuticles make sure that growth happens naturally and consistently. Cuticles are found on toe nails as well, so do not neglect your feet.
Exfoliate Your Hands and Feet for Cuticle Health
Just like other parts of your body that have skin, excess skin cells can build up on hands and feet, often accumulating around the cuticles as well. Use a nice exfoliating cleanser such as the kind you’d use on your face, and gently work into hands, around nails, and repeat the process on the feet and toes. Be careful not to scrub too hard around the cuticle areas because it could be too abrasive. The idea is to remove dead skin cells, not healthy cells that are doing their job correctly. Buffing your nails, in an outward motion, can actually stimulate circulation in the nails and promote nail growth without damaging the cuticle. Make sure to buff your nails in one direction, however.
Choosing a Cuticle Product Wisely
By its very nature, cuticles are sensitive and respond to gentle treatment, especially when it comes to cuticle products. Cuticle oils and creams that are formulated using natural ingredients, oils, and do not use chemicals are the lotions of choice.
Painting Nails Properly for Cuticle Health
Most nail paints have drying agents in them, which is good news for your nails, but bad news for your cuticles. What can you do? Allow your nails to dry between coats, for one thing. This allows all of the moisture to escape before the next layer goes on. Not only will this make your nail paint last, but it will also keep moisture from being trapped against the cuticle. Cuticles like moisture, but not the type that is drying, such as water or chemicals.
Choose the Proper Nail Care Tools
Where cuticles are concerned, anything made of metal is disastrous. Many manicure sets come with metal files for pushing back cuticles, or (gasp) cutting them. You would do well to repurpose those for something else, like a letter opener for example, rather than using them on your cuticles. Orangewood sticks are still your best bet, and your cuticles will thank you.
A well-groomed hand stays a lot about a person, whether you stop to realize it or not. Hands that are dry, flaking, or nails that are dull, and chipped don’t make a very good impression. Likewise, cuticles that are frayed, cracked, splitting, or rough detract from your overall appearance. Just a little bit of care can go a long way where cuticle health is concerned, and once you get into a routine of daily moisturizing and weekly cuticle maintenance, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning set of nails that are healthier, shinier, and stronger.
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