Understanding the importance of caring for your cuticle

Dr Sunil Kumar Prabhu

By Dr Sunil Kumar Prabhu, Consultant Dermatologist and Aesthetic Physician, Aster RV Hospital

The cuticle is a layer of clear skin located along the bottom edge of your finger or toe. This area is known as the nail bed. The cuticle function is to protect new nails from bacteria when they grow out from the nail root. The area around the cuticle is delicate. It can get dry, damaged, and infected. It’s important to care for the entire nail area and keep it clean so that your nails stay healthy.

It’s important to keep your cuticles clean at home. This prevents infection. The easiest way to care for them is to soak your hand or foot in soapy, warm water for around 10 minutes once every 2-3 times a week. This helps soften the cuticle and keeps your nails clean. You can also apply cuticle oil and a massage cream. Moisturize your cuticles regularly to prevent dryness and cracking.

Cuticles protect both your nails and the skin surrounding them from infection. After cutting the cuticle, it’s easier for bacteria and germs to get inside. This can lead to an infection. Most nail salons continue to cut cuticles, despite these guidelines. They argue that it helps polish go on better and stay on longer. Instead of having them cut at your next manicure, better to ask your technician to just push back the cuticle and trim loose skin and hangnails.

How can you prevent cuticle damage?

Avoid picking at your cuticle. If you have a hangnail, carefully remove it with tweezers or clippers, instead of ripping it out or biting it off. Since cuticle is a delicate part of nail damaging it may lead to paronychia infection and inflammation around the nail bed.

Also, limit your use of harsh nail polishes and removers. Use an acetone-free formula for a nail polish remover.

Self-treatment

Unless you have diabetes or another medical condition that places you at special risk, you may be able to successfully treat an infected fingernail at home. The steps are simple.

  •  Apply warm compresses or soak the finger in warm, soapy water for 10 to 20 minutes, at least twice a day.
  •  Apply antibiotic or antifungal cream.
  •  Keep the infected area covered with a sterile bandage.

Tips for getting a manicure

  • When visiting a nail salon, keep these tips in mind
  •  Only visit salons that are licensed and have trained professionals
  •  Work only with technicians who are trained to what to do
  •  Make sure all tools are sterilized and look clean before getting your nails done
  •  If you are concerned about the quality of equipment, you can bring your own. Most nail files, clippers, and cuticle sticks can be purchased relatively inexpensively at offline and online stores

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