Why Cuticle Oil Is Non-Negotiable in Your Nail Kit

March 29, 2024
Writer Lauren Levinson
By: Lauren Levinson | skincare.com by L'Oréal

The skin around my nails is perpetually dry and cracked, especially in the winter. That’s why there’s one step I always look forward to when getting a manicure: the application of cuticle oil. When the nail technician rubs hydrating oil around my dry nail beds and fingertips, my skin feels instantly nourished. However, once I return home post-manicure, I find that it’s easy to neglect this important skincare step.

Cuticle oil has so many benefits for your skin and nails. This essential nail care product nourishes dehydrated cuticles and helps keep the skin around your nails looking and feeling its best. Ahead, we’re breaking down the benefits of cuticle oil further and sharing some of our favorite hand care products with the help of board-certified dermatologist and Dr. Stephanie Smith-Phillips.

What Causes Dry, Peeling Cuticles?

If you’re dealing with dry, peeling cuticles, it means that the skin around your nails isn’t receiving enough hydration. Your hands are constantly exposed to the elements, which can strip essential moisture from your skin and lead to dryness. “Virtually all of us have experienced dry hands, especially during the colder months of the year,” says Dr. Smith-Phillips. “This common condition is usually related to excessive hand cleansing, exposure to irritating chemicals, and cold, dry environments.”

When your cuticle dries out, it can separate and peel, causing loose skin (a.k.a. hangnails). While it can be tempting to pick at dry, peeling cuticles, Dr. Smith-Phillips recommends focusing on proper hand care instead. Picking on loose skin can cause a vicious cycle where the skin in this area continues to dry out and peel.

What Is Cuticle Oil?

As the name implies, cuticle oils are typically oil or serum formulas that are designed specifically for cuticle care. These oil-based treatments are meant to help restore moisture to your cuticles and hydrate the skin around your nails. You can think of them as a daily moisturizer for your nails. And, just like your face or body moisturizer, cuticle oil can be a step in any skincare routine for hydrated, healthy-looking hands.

Cuticle oils are often formulated with vitamin E, antioxidants, and a medley of moisturizing oils, such as jojoba, almond, apricot, and sunflower oil. They come in a variety of packaging options, including brush-on, roll-on, and drops. Some cuticle oils are available in a balm texture that transforms into an oil when applied.

What Are the Benefits of Cuticle Oil?

Protecting your nails involves more than just catering to the nail plate—you want to ensure you’re caring for the skin, too. And this is where cuticle oils can make all the difference in your skincare routine. Read on to discover some of the perks you can expect from using cuticle oil.

Hydrates and softens your cuticles

Just as moisturizer helps hydrate the skin on your face, cuticle oil helps soften and nourish the skin around your nails. These oil-based formulas are able to reach the small, delicate areas around your nail beds to effectively target dry spots. Many cuticle oils also feature emollient ingredients, which can help soften and smooth your skin.

May help protect your manicure

There’s a reason cuticle oil is a nail salon staple, after all! Rough, dry cuticles can make your manicure look messy, no matter how nicely your nails are polished. Regularly using cuticle oil at home can help keep your manicure and the skin around it looking hydrated during those two-to-three week stretches between mani appointments. They may even help you maximize the potential of your manicure by creating a strong foundation for long-lasting nail polish. Generally speaking, nail polish will apply and adhere more effectively to healthy, hydrated nails and cuticle oil can play a role in helping to prevent chipping.

Helps enhance the appearance of nails

Along the same lines, cuticle oil may help support healthy-looking natural nails. When your cuticles are hydrated, it can help create the base for nails that look and feel their best. Applying cuticle oil regularly may also help reduce nail breakage and minimize dry, peeling hangnails. Think about it: when you apply oil or serum to your face, you glow! The same goes for nails. Your nails and cuticles may look instantly shinier and (literally) more polished.

Helps support nail health and growth

If nails and cuticles are dry, they may be more prone to cracks (much like chapped lips). Nourished nails, on the other hand, may be less likely to break. So, just as you’d use a lip balm to create a barrier against the elements, you can do the same with cuticle oil. These oils can be especially helpful during the cold, dry winter months when the skin around your nails is especially susceptible to dryness.

How To Use Cuticle Oil

Applying cuticle oil is one of the best ways to hydrate those dry nooks and crannies around the nail. But you don’t need to apply a lot in order to enjoy the benefits of cuticle oil. In fact, a little goes a long way when it comes to applying this nail care product. Most formulas only require you to apply a drop or two on each nail, depending on the formulation.

Although applying cuticle oil is pretty straightforward, it’s important to apply it correctly. Here are the steps to follow when incorporating cuticle oil into your hand care routine.

Cleanse gently and apply hand cream first

“While cleansing our hands is necessary for a multitude of reasons, it’s important to do so with care,” says Dr. Smith-Phillips. She recommends washing with warm water—not hot—and choosing a soap that is gentle and hydrating. “After washing, pat your hands dry and immediately apply a moisturizer,” says Dr. Smith-Phillips. One option to consider is CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream, a non-greasy and intensely moisturizing formula that temporarily protects chapped, chafed, or cracked skin on the hands.

Apply your cuticle oil

Next, it’s time to apply your cuticle oil. One of the key benefits of this product is how easy it is to apply—you can typically use it as often as needed, whenever your cuticles are in need of extra moisture. We suggest using cuticle oil at least twice per day as part of your morning and evening routine. It’s also helpful to use this product before heading outside in wintery weather. Apply it to your cuticles and fingertips before putting on gloves to help keep your skin protected from harsh, dry winter air.

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of exactly how to apply it. As mentioned, cuticle oil can be dropped, brushed, or dabbed on, depending on the packaging. Massage the formula onto your cuticles using your fingertips. Then, work the oil all around your nail, focusing on the beds, tips, and the skin at the nail corners (where it often cracks). Personally, I keep cuticle oil by my bedside and apply it before going to sleep along with my nightly lip balm mask.

5 Editor-Approved Products for Cuticle Care

Browse some of our editor’s favorite cuticle oils and hand care products to add to your routine, ahead.

Importance of Cuticle Oil in Nail Care Routine

Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil

This great-smelling cuticle oil is a must-have if you love treating yourself to at-home manicures. It features a fast-absorbing, intensely conditioning formula with beneficial ingredients like apricot, sunflower, and jojoba seed oils. The 97% natural formula is designed to instantly condition, provide moisture, and protect cuticles from dryness. Just brush it on and enjoy the hydrating benefits.

Importance of Cuticle Oil in Nail Care Routine

Essie On a Roll Apricot Nail & Cuticle Oil

If you prefer to care for your cuticles on the go, try Essie’s On a Roll Apricot Nail & Cuticle Oil. It’s just as intensely moisturizing as the original formula (above), but it comes in a tube with a rollerball applicator that allows you to easily massage the product onto your cuticles. The packaging also makes it ideal for traveling, since it’s compact and the rollerball makes for mess-free application.

Importance of Cuticle Oil in Nail Care Routine

Aesop Reverence Aromatique Hand Balm

Try pairing your cuticle oil with a rich, skin-softening hand balm, like this concentrated cream by Aesop. It provides sustained hydration with carefully-selected emollient ingredients and an earthy, smoky scent. Apply it onto clean hands as needed, paying extra-close attention to your cuticles.

Editor Tip: If you love this hand balm, you may also want to stock up on their Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm, which features a woody, citrus aroma and botanical ingredients like mandarin rind, rosemary leaf, cedar atlas.

Importance of Cuticle Oil in Nail Care Routine

Olive and June Cuticle Balm

For dry cuticles that need some extra TLC, try using this cuticle balm every night before bed. According to Olive and June, this mega moisturizing cuticle treatment features a convenient stick applicator (inspired by lip balm) that’s totally fuss-and-mess free. It’s formulated with an intensive cuticle formula that includes sunflower and meadowfoam for deep hydration. Plus, it’s pocket-sized so you can easily take it with you on the go.

Importance of Cuticle Oil in Nail Care Routine

Dear Sundays Studio CS. 01 Healing Cuticle Serum

Another DIY manicure essential is this healing cuticle serum by Dear Sundays. The brand notes that this non-greasy, non-toxic formula is infused with a light, earthy scent that is designed to help brighten your mood while hydrating your cuticles. It contains myrrh and jojoba oil, plus nail-strengthening vitamins A, D, and E.

Next Up: 5 Reasons Why Your Cuticles Are Peeling

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