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How to Fix the Skin Around Your Nails

Two Parts:Repairing Your CuticlesPreventing Dry Cuticles

Many people suffer from dry, cracked skin surrounding their nails due to things like cold, dry weather and biting their nails. Along with biting their nails, sometimes people even bite the skin surrounding their nail. This can lead to painful rips and tears that have the potential to become infected. Thankfully, dry, cracked, and ripped skin around the nail can be repaired by following a few easy steps to ensure your hands stay groomed and moisturized.

Part 1
Repairing Your Cuticles

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    Soak your hands. Take a medium sized bowl and fill it approximately 4 inches deep with warm water.[1] Dip your hands in the water, making sure to submerge your nails and cuticles. Soak your hands for about 5 minutes.
    • Warm water helps to soften the skin around the nail for easy and pain-free grooming.
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    Dry your hands. Pat dry your hands with a towel. Your cuticles should be free of water drops, but still moist. You want your skin to stay moist and soft while you manicure your cuticles, so it’s easier and less painful to remove dead skin.
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    Push back your cuticles. Using a wooden cuticle pusher, or an orange stick (a manicuring stick with a pointed end and a flat end) can help keep your cuticles from growing out onto your nail. Use the flat end of the orange stick to push the cuticle back, and the pointy end to run along the underside of your fingernail and remove any built up dirt.
    • Metal orange sticks should be sterilized before and after every use, and wooden orange sticks should be thrown away after every use, otherwise they can harbor bacteria.[2]
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    Cut the extra skin around your nails. Using manicure nippers and manicure scissors, cut away extra, dead skin around your nails. This could include skin near your cuticle that you pushed back with the manicuring sticks, but be very careful to only cut away skin that is loose and soft, not your actual cuticles (the skin immediately surrounding and protecting your nail, especially near the nail's beginning edge).
    • Loose, extra skin will be white in color compared to the actual attached skin on your fingers. You only want to nip away skin that can snag on things and cause skin tears.[3]
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    Apply moisturizer. Use lotions, moisturizing oils, or store bought moisturizers specifically made for cuticles to moisturize the dry areas around your nails. Rub a generous amount of moisturizer on the nail, and pay special attention to your cuticles. The entire area surrounding your nail should be coated with the moisturizer.
    • You can also try applying moisturizer underneath your nails as well.
    • Alcohol and fragrance free moisturizers usually hydrate skin better.[4]
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    Wear moisture locking gloves. Put on cotton gloves and wear them overnight. The gloves seal in the moisturizer and help heal your nails and cuticles. Remove the gloves in the morning.[5]
    • For better, longer lasting results, repeat this procedure every night.

Part 2
Preventing Dry Cuticles

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    Moisturize often. For smoother, hydrated skin around your nails, moisturize everyday, multiple times a day. You always want your cuticles and nails to be hydrated, because hangnails, rips, and breaks happen when your nails and cuticles are dry.
    • Keeping your hands moisturized is especially important in the dry, winter months.
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    Avoid drying agents. Dry hands are prone to cracking and peeling, so protect your hands from unnecessary exposure to activities that can dry out your skin. Avoid things like:
    • Washing dishes in hot water without gloves. The hot water and soap pull out moisture from your hands.
    • Stay away from acetone-based nail polish remover. Acetone removes important natural oils from your skin and nails.
    • Not wearing gloves in the winter months. The cold, dry air during the winter dries out your skin, so protect your hands by wearing gloves.
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    Avoid picking your skin. Rather than picking at loose skin around your nails, soak and moisturize your hands. Picking can lead to open cuts, which can breed infections.
    • Some people pick the skin around their nails as a nervous habit. Looking into better ways to curb nervous habits, and practicing self-control can break this habit.
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    Keep your hands out of your mouth. Try to refrain from biting your nails or nibbling on the pieces of loose skin around the nail. Bacteria in the mouth can lead to an infection if you rip your skin around your nail, or bite your nail too low.
    • Try using a special foul-tasting ointment to keep you from putting your fingers near your mouth.
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    File your nails. Keep your nails at a length that prevents them from getting caught and snagged on things. Pay special attention to the corners of your nails and keep them smooth, so the edges don’t injure the skin around your nail.[6]
    • When you do file your nails, pull the file across your nail in one, steady direction. This helps prevent splits and tears in nails that "sawing" (pulling the nail file back and forth) creates.


  • Never completely remove the cuticles around your nail. Any loose, dead (white) skin can be snipped at, but the whole cuticle should never be totally removed.

Article Info

Categories: Nail Care