Cutting or pushing down nail cuticles used to be standard practice in nail salons because it provided a more aesthetically pleasing look. A cuticle is the part of the skin tissue at the base of the nail that seals the nail to the skin. Some people have a nervous habit to pick at this area, since these little pieces of skin tend to catch on fabrics, thus calling attention to themselves. However, the practice of trimming cuticles is falling by the wayside as increased awareness about foot hygiene is spreading.
There are three main reasons to avoid the brutal practice of cuticle cutting, according to experts:
1. Cuticles Protect You from Bacteria & Fungus!
Cuticles may look like ugly, wayward flaps of skin, but really they serve an important biological function. “Your cuticle is like a delicate flower, […] so you want to be gentle,” advises New York City nail tech Simcha Whitehill (aka “Miss Pop”). “And when it’s sliced open, because you or some salon tech doesn’t know what he or she is doing with the nippers,” she adds, “the flood gates are immediately opened for bacteria and fungus to get inside and infect you.”
The Huffington Post goes on to explain that sometimes cuticle-trimming instruments are not cleaned or sterilized properly, which contributes to bacteria infiltration into the base of the nail.
“Your cuticle has purpose in life and its purpose is to protect the matrix where the nail grows from,” clarifies celebrity manicurist, Mandi Levanah. When the nail matrix gets disturbed, bacteria and fungus can get down in there, making it difficult to treat. Cream and nail lacquers cannot penetrate that deeply, so a person’s only option may be risky oral medication or costly laser nail treatment.
Dr. Zoe D. Draelos, M.D. — a dermatologist from High Point, North Carolina — recommends placing a drop of vinegar on traumatized skin tissue before it becomes extremely infected. Furthermore, a drop of betamethasone clotrimazole cream applied to the nail twice daily can treat mild onychomychosis (toenail fungus), she says.
2. Ugly Cuticles Grow Faster when You Mess with Them!
Traumatized cuticles that have been cut excessively will grow faster, says New York City dermatologist Paul Kechijian, M.D. “It may grow back faster because it’s actually healing itself It’s irritated and inflamed, and it’s growing quickly, just like burned skin will grow at a faster rate than healthy skin,” he explains.
Besides, Simcha Whitehill describes the look of runaway cuticles as resembling “fish gills.” And no one wants that!
3. You Risk Hurting Yourself when Scissors & Cuticles Meet!
“The cuticle is so thin, a person would have to be a microsurgeon to cut it without cutting too much,” says Paul Kechijian.
Simcha Whitehill recalls how students in beauty school would always cut each other’s fingers bloody, because it’s so easy to accidentally cut the skin.
In some places, like New South Wales, Australia, cuticle cutting is illegal. “Even if they don’t draw blood, [salon techs are] still opening that area of the skin and there is a clear liquid that is released from your skin once it is penetrated, and that can carry viruses such as hepatitis, HIV, and all that kind of stuff,” warns Mandi Levanah. Even at home, it’s easy for cuticles to be accidentally lifted up away from the nail plate, causing the cuticles to grow back “drier, tougher, and harder because it’s protecting itself.”
Why risk it? There are other ways of approaching an unsightly cuticle, without putting your hands and feet at risk.
What to Do about Pesky Cuticles
If anything, it is safer to have the cuticles pushed back. A good time to tame cuticles is just after a shower when they are softest and most pliable, according to Cosmo. Generally, you’ll want to keep your nails short and flat to avoid trauma. Use cuticle remover, like Deborah Lippmann’s, to tackle cuticle overgrowth. If you must, you can gently push the cuticles back halfway with an orange stick wrapped in cotton. Wash off the cuticle remover solvent with soap and water, using a nail brush to remove any possible irritants. Moisturize the cuticles using Vaseline or special cuticle lotion to prevent unsightly cracking and peeling.
Proper Hand & Foot Hygiene Helps Prevent Nail Fungus
The SteriShoe ultraviolet shoe sanitizer removes bacteria and other pathogens from your footwear to help you prevent toenail fungus. However, our product can’t do everything for you. Part of toenail fungus prevention is proper nail and foot hygiene. So if you have suffered from nail fungus in the past, you will want to take special care to leave your cuticles alone!
Worried about foot bacteria? Buy a SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer risk-free here.