"Before caring for your cuticles, take your nail polish off so that your nails can breathe and your surrounding skin can absorb oil," says Stone. Gutierrez concurs, adding that it's even better if you can start your DIY treatment right after a shower, when skin is softer. "Applying a cuticle remover will help break down and loosen dead skin on the nail plate, making it easier for you to gently push back with a cuticle pusher," Gutierrez says, adding that doing so will eliminate the need to trim and nip the cuticles off your nail plate. "Rinse hands well with warm, soapy water and apply cuticle oil to re-hydrate and soften cuticles."
There's no need to invest in an oil designed specifically for your cuticles, says Stone: "Almost any natural at home oil that you can find in your kitchen also works great for moisturizing cuticles. My favorite is coconut oil! It normally comes in a solid form, and it will melt on your skin as you rub it in." Smooth hands and a tropical-drink scent? Sounds like a mid-winter dream, no?
A little warning, though: don't even think about trimming your own cuticles. According to Stone: "Your cuticles are there to protect you from bacteria entering into your body. If you accidentally make an improper nip or cut, you could potentially cause serious damage to the health of your nail and put yourself at risk for infection." If you can't resist trimming, make sure you only trim dead skin away — which is what a hangnail is. This, according to Stone, is the one time when it's actually ideal to trim. "If you don't clip it, you will find yourself picking at it all day until it is a small wound! I have seen this on numerous models and celebrities."
The key to avoiding ragged cuticles, according to both pros, is prevention. Suggests Stone: "Keep a cuticle oil or balm in your purse at all times and moisturize when your hands get dry — even lip balm works great in emergencies." And if you still get hangnails and dry skin? Do. Not. Bite. "My biggest tip for a nail or cuticle biter is to swipe nail polish remover on their fingertips throughout the day," says Stone. "When you go to put your fingers in your mouth, you will get a whiff of the remover, and it will immediately turn you off to the thought of biting your nails again. It may sound unpleasant, but it will get the job done." Hey, to never have a hangnail again, it could be worth it.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!
Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh