If you neglect the skin around your nails, you run the risk of infected cuticles and hangnails. As well as being painful, in extreme circumstances these infections can cause your nails to change shape, colour or texture, or even become detached. Here’s how to look after your cuticles and the skin around your nails. Read on for healthy hands and fingers, and stronger more beautiful nails.
Before we tell you how to care for the dry skin around your nails, you need to understand a bit about the anatomy of your fingernails.
If you like a manicure or you’re a fan of nail polish, you probably already know what cuticles are. However, you may not know what they are for and how you should look after them. The cuticle is the layer of clear skin at the bottom of your fingernail. If you don’t push your cuticles back, they tend to overlap the base of your nail.
The cuticle is waterproof, and its purpose is to protect the new nail and the skin around it from bacteria as the nail grows out from the nail root (or nail matrix in technical speak). Although you should never cut your cuticles, you need to keep them clean and moisturised. You will also want to push them back from your nails for a bigger nail area and a better manicure.
Hangnails are those irritating, jagged pieces of skin that jut out from around the sides of your fingernails. For some people, hangnails are painful. Unfortunately, they can also become infected. If this happens, the area can feel warm and sore, and you may notice an abscess. An infection of the skin around your fingernails or toenails is called paronychia
What causes hangnails?
Cracked, brittle skin can cause hangnails, so moisturising your hands is essential, especially during winter. Other causes of hangnails include washing dishes without gloves, swimming in chlorinated water, frequent hand washing, and nail-biting.
How to care for the skin around your nails
- Fill a bowl with warm, soapy water.
- Soak your hands (or feet) in the water for about 10 minutes.
- Remove them from the bowl and pat them dry with a towel.
- Apply a cuticle oil like our award-winning Sienna Cuticle Oil and massage it into your cuticles.
Your nails, cuticles, and the skin around them will now be clean and soft. Push your cuticles back gently with an orange (cuticle) stick. We prefer to leave it at that but if you have lots of cuticle, you can now trim any excess skin and hangnails around your nails with cuticle scissors. To finish off, apply lots of your favourite moisturiser to your hands, fingers, cuticles, and the skin around your nails.
- Use a sanitised nail clipper or cuticle scissors to cut off any hangnails or dead skin that is jutting out.
- Ask someone to help you cut off hangnails, especially if the hangnail is on a finger on your dominant hand.
- Moisturise your cuticles regularly with cuticle oil to prevent them from becoming dry and cracked.
- If a hangnail gets infected make sure to see your pharmacist or naturopath for the correct medical advice for your unique skin.
- Never cut off the entire cuticle. Make sure to leave a good amount of skin so you don’t expose it to infection.
- Do not pick or rip off hangnails. A: It hurts! And B: If you are not careful with hangnails, you can damage the skin around your nails and risk infection.
- Don’t bite your nails or the skin around them, or you risk hangnails.
- Don’t forget your gloves in cold weather or while gardening or doing housework.
Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise
Finally, always moisturise your hands and cuticles liberally. At night, before you go to sleep, apply your favourite moisturiser and leave it to soak into your hardworking hands. And remember, you don’t have to wait for manicure day to moisturise your cuticles; you can also apply cuticle oil in-between times. Sienna Cuticle Oil is ethically made in France, certified vegan and cruelty-free and perfect for taking care of the area around your nails.