3. Moisturize. continued...
"Cuticles get dry. They crack, peel, and flake, just like the skin does," Scher says. "A good moisturizer for the cuticles is important, just like for dry skin. Any skin moisturizer will work fine for the cuticles. When you put it on your hands and there's some left over, rub it into the cuticles."
Most dermatologists recommend thick moisturizing products, such as ointments or creams, for the best results. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends petroleum jelly (Vaseline) as an inexpensive way to care for the cuticles. But some doctors say that using a thick product like petroleum jelly throughout the day isn't always practical, so there are alternatives to use when you're active.
"Ointments are harder to wear during the day, because they're messy," says Bruce Robinson, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "You can use them at night when you aren't touching papers in your office. Lotions can be used throughout the day, because the hands don't get as greasy, but lotions aren't as moisturizing as creams and ointments."
A hot wax treatment, which may be offered at the nail salon, is another good way to moisturize the cuticles, according to Toombs. Special oily wax is heated until it melts. People dip their hands into the warm, oily wax, then put on plastic gloves and a mitt to seal in the heat, which they wear for 10 to 15 minutes.
"After you take it off, the hands, nails, and cuticles are softer," Toombs says. "It's a wonderful treatment for nails and cuticles."
Whatever method you choose, be sure to moisten your hands regularly.
"The more frequently you lubricate the hands, including the nails and cuticles, the better they will be," Toombs says.
4. Avoid Rough Manicurists.
Many people see their dermatologist when they develop red, sore spots around their nails or cuticles caused by a skin infection called paronychia.
"Often, patients come in to me when they went to a new nail salon and had a very aggressive nail technician," Scher says. "Usually, they have an infection from over-vigorous manipulation, which usually manifests as redness and soreness. Antibiotics may be necessary."
Before getting your nails done, tell your manicurist that you only want your cuticles pushed back very gently with an orange stick, nothing more. If she pushes the cuticles too vigorously, ask her to stop right away.