If you’re getting a manicure anytime soon, whether it be a DIY job or at the salon, we have an important PSA: In a recent TikTok video, board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., shares the ugly truth behind a common nail care practice that even some salons swear by. The dangerous practice? Removing the cuticles.
Why you shouldn’t remove your cuticles (or let anyone else do it).
While cuticle trimming may be normalized in many salon practices, messing with your cuticles can lead to some serious damage, Bowe explains. “You can get warts, infections, or permanent dystrophy, meaning a dent in the nail that will last,” she notes.
Now, many nail salons do cut the cuticles with a sanitized metal trimmer, while other professionals choose to push the cuticle back with a metal, rounded tool instead. According to Bowe, gently pushing the cuticles back during a manicure is OK, but peeling or completely removing them is dangerous. In fact, it’s something she would never do after working as a dermatologist for over 10 years. Sure, you may create more surface area for a cute nail art design, but the potential complications outweigh the aesthetics every time.
Remember: Your cuticles have a purpose. That tiny layer of skin rims the base of the nail bed and creates a barrier for your growing nails—so the vulnerable, new spots aren’t exposed to any bacteria as they grow. So if you remove that protective layer of skin, aggressors can sneak their way in and put you at risk of infection, even if the cuticle trimmers themselves are sanitized.
What to do instead.
However, that’s not to say you need to let the excess skin hang off the nail beds; that poses another issue, as many become tempted to pick or bite. You can trim them safely (we’ve covered how to do that here in our cuticle care guide), but the key is to prevent those frays in the first place. Here are a few reminders:
- Use cuticle oil to keep the area soft and hydrated.
- Don’t soak your cuticles.
- Wear gloves while cleaning.
- Moisturize your hands after each wash.
These practices will ensure that your cuticles stay healthy before ever reaching the point of hanging or peeling off. And remember: If you’re going to push back your cuticles as mani-prep, do so very gently to avoid breaking the skin.
While trimming your cuticles is a common practice for DIY and salon-grade manicures, it does come with risks. Removing the cuticles completely can lead to warts, infection, and permanent dents in the nail. Instead, keep your cuticles hydrated and gently push them back. If you’re in the market for a new cuticle oil, here are 10 of our favorites to get you started.