You’ve been to the nail salon hundreds of times, but still every time the nail technician asks you if you want your cuticles cut, you have no idea how to respond. The answer is simple—that is, if you actually knew where the cuticle was. Turns out most of us have been calling the wrong part of our nail “the cuticle.” Roxanne Valinoti, an education manager for the beauty supply company, CND, gave us the 411 on cuticles—what they are, and how to keep them healthy at home and at the salon.
“The word cuticle gets misused in salons,” says Valinoti. What most people refer to as the cuticle is actually the eponychium, which is the living tissue at the base of the nail and it gets pushed back during a manicure. “The cuticle is the non-living tissue shed from the underside of the eponychium fold,” she says. “This tissue ‘hitches a ride’ with the nail plate as it grows and should be removed up to the eponychium edge.” If it’s not removed, your nail polish won’t stick as well, and leaving it on isn’t unhealthy.
The eponychium, on the other hand, is living tissue, and “cutting into it will cause it to grow back thicker and harder, causing a callus and even exaggerating growth.” This explains why, if you get a manicure and the nail professional cuts all of the eponychuim, a few days later the skin surrounding the nail starts peeling, and you need another manicure. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead, Valinoti recommends only cutting when there are hangnails.
Here are a few more of her cuticle care tips, so you can get a longer-lasting manicure:
Exfoliate and Condition
Exfoliate dry skin around the nail daily with an A.H.A. cream like CND’s Cuticle Eraser ($11, cnd.com), which micro exfoliates and keeps dry skin at bay. Rich in vitamin E, it hydrates the cuticle and surrounding skin, while also preventing nail breakage. Valinoti also recommends using a light penetrating oil, like CND’s Solar Oil ($11, cnd.com), to open the skin’s pores and deliver even more moisture. Use both daily.
Smooth the Skin
Smooth, don’t cut, the skin around your nails using a soft fine buffer or file.
Paint Inside the Lines
Keep nail polish and treatments off the surrounding skin as they tend to dry out cuticles. Plus it’ll look so much neater.
Read more: Tips to Make Your DIY Manicure Last Longer