Cuticles, the strip of skin surrounding the fingernail, protect the nails from infection. Maintaining cuticle health is a critical component of healthy, attractive hands. Constant efforts to moisturize can be a top means of healing dry, cracked cuticles. Take daily measures to support overall health and to improve the appearance of the cuticles. Avoid practices that can damage both the nails and the surrounding skin. Consult a physician about any suspected infections or dry skin conditions that do not respond to ongoing moisturizing efforts.
View cuticle health as an extension of general well being. Take a daily multivitamin and drink plenty of water to support health. Contact your physician immediately if there are any sudden changes in cuticle health, especially significant discolorations as these can signal larger health issues.
Continually moisturize the hands, especially in dry climates or the cold winter months. Use a natural moisturizer such as shea butter or vitamin E 2 to 3 times daily, per the recommendation of podiatrist Carolyn Siegal. Particularly dry hands may require overnight moisturizing treatments such as applying lotion and wearing moisture-locking gloves.
Moisturize after contact with harsh soap or other drying substances. Even hand soaps can further dry the skin around the nails. Carry a moisturizing hand sanitizer to alleviate the need to use harsh soaps. Wear gloves to protect the nails while washing dishes or using cleaning chemicals around the house.
Avoid using cuticle trimmers, which can tear the skin and lead to infections in the nails. Always soak hands to soften the skin before trimming or filing. Gently push back the cuticles with the aid of a manicure stick.
Save the petroleum-based balms for the hands and find a natural beeswax product for lips – our favorite is actually a product made for cuticles! Petroleum-based lip balms are good for protecting lips during outdoor activity, but not for everyday softening and lip comfort.
For very deep painful cracks, it may speed healing to gently clip away hard skin ridges with fingernail clippers before using the advice in this article.
References and Resources"USA Today"; Protecting the health of your nails for a polished look; Michelle Healy; August 2011
"KVTB"; Your fingernails may signal your health; July 2011
"Oprah"; A Solution to Dry, Splitting Nails; Valerie Monroe; January 2006