Dear Daniela: Is Cutting Your Cuticles Bad For Your Nails?

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,
Is it bad to cut your cuticles? Like, should I bother getting rid of them, or is it a bit of a losing battle? Cutting them seems like the most effective method but I’ve heard that it’s actually really bad for your nails. Please help!
Melissa, 27
Among the more niche life lessons my mother drilled into my sister and me was that when bathing every night, we should push back our cuticles with the corner of a flannel. I do it every day on autopilot without really thinking about it. Over the years, I've had manicurists idly comment "Nice nail beds" so clearly she was on to something, though I do feel that’s a compliment in line with the blood drive nurse telling you that you have "great veins". (Some other niche life lessons from my mother include a bizarrely specific towel-folding method, a very intricate Tupperware storage system, and always keeping a bag of 'bad' peas in the freezer to ice sprains.)
That being said, I understand your confusion. I’ve definitely heard the line that you must never cut your cuticles and have always wondered if it was a beauty urban legend, like the whole 'never pluck above your eyebrows' thing. (Why? If you have an errant hair a quarter inch above your brow that’s bugging you, why not pluck it?) I asked Juanita Hubert-Miller, founder of my favourite nail bar, Townhouse, for her take.
"Technically, the cuticle is the almost invisible layer of dead skin cells at the base of the nail," she explained. "If you gently scratch your nail right near what you think of as your cuticle, you will see little white bits appear. This has to come off when having a manicure as paint and gel sticks best to a clean nail. What most people refer to as the cuticle is actually known as the eponychium, the fold of skin at the base of the nail. This you need to be much more gentle with as it is living tissue. It is absolutely fine to push it back and this is best done after a shower or bath, or in the salon with professional equipment to avoid damage or splitting."
Essentially, the 'never cut your cuticle' thing is more a case of mistaken identity, not misinformation. Plus, my mum was really onto something when she told us to do it in the bath, but she’s had enough kudos today.
Juanita added: "When it comes to whether to cut the cuticle, if done professionally (meaning very carefully and without cutting too much), it’s simply a matter of preference. Personally I prefer not to have my cuticles cut and instead maintain them by pushing back daily after a shower and with my favourite cuticle oil by OPI."
Illustrated by Olivia Santner
You have a couple of options here. You do the daily pushing back and oiling and then not really need to cut your cuticle, or you can leave them until you go to the salon and let your nail pro handle everything. Cuticle oil really does sound like one of the most extravagant, gilding-the-lily type products and I balked at it for years, but even I have to admit that CND Solar Oil really does make all the difference to the health and appearance of my nails.
Got a question for our resident beauty columnist Daniela Morosini? No problem, qualm or dilemma is too big, small or niche. Email, including your name and age for a chance to have your question answered. All letters to 'Dear Daniela' become the property of Refinery29 and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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