Natural Nails

Troubleshooter: Reviving Dry, Cracked Cuticles

Who hasn’t suffered from unsightly, ravaged cuticles at one point or another? Hectic work schedules and cold weather can all wreak havoc on cuticles and hands. 


Dry, parched cuticles are one of the most common problems around. Who hasn’t suffered from unsightly, ravaged cuticles at one point or another? Hectic work schedules and cold weather can all wreak havoc on cuticles and hands. Whether a client bites or picks at them due to stress or they’re dried and chapped because of a dip in temperature, it’s important that nail technicians pay close attention to one of the most sensitive parts of the hand.

Not only are they unattractive, dry, parched cuticles can also lead to other prob­lems such as hangnails.

According to Dr. David Herschthal, clinical associate professor of dermatology, department of dermatology, University of Miami School of Medicine, hangnails form when the skin surrounding the nail begins to crack. “The skin becomes dry and brittle, which m turn becomes a hangnail,” he says.

But in spite of the wear and tear that hands and nails suffer due to chemicals and the environment, the greatest damage to cuticles simply comes from lack of attention. Most people simply don’t consider at-home treatments important and figure that a visit to a salon will be the ultimate cure.

Besides having your clients stick to a regular salon schedule, remind them that at-home care is just as crucial to keeping their hands and nails looking great.

Patti Glick, a Silicon Valley-based registered nurse, says it’s a good idea for clients to use gloves when they’re washing dishes. She also suggests that clients get into the habit of applying a moisturizer (she says ones containing lanolin and glycerin are good choices) right after washing dishes or after they’ve gotten out of the bath, when the skin is still damp.

And don’t forget a nail tech’s most trusted ally: cuticle oil. Make sure clients take home a bottle of it and remind them to use it religiously.

For this service, Michelle De Nicola of Michelle’s Nails in Redondo Beach, Calif., performed a dry manicure (also known as a waterless or soakless manicure). Advocates of the no-water route swear that this method, which basically involves no water but does incorporate plenty of hydrating scrubs, lotions, and oils, can help revive dry, cracked cuticles.

Of course you can choose to soak your client’s hands in water, but make sure you pay close attention to the cuticles.

You can even offer your clients extras such as paraffin dips and hot oil manicures. Add-ons like these are a timely way to increase salon service profits while helping clients alleviate their dry cuticles and hangnails.

Our client, who works in an office and handles all sorts of paper products that dehydrate the skin, suffered from dry cuticles and the skin on surrounding areas. [Photo I]

De Nicola applied a salt scrub on the client’s hands and had her scrub them with a nail brush. [Photo 2] De Nicola then removed the clear polish from the client’s nails with an ace- tone-free solution.

Then, she filed and shaped the nails in a square shape with a 100-grit file. De Nicola smoothed out the edges so they weren’t too sharp, which she says helps prevent nails from splintering.

Next, she applied cuticle cream with a cuticle pusher and rubbed it into the nails and skin for a few minutes. [Photo 3] She massaged the nails in a circular motion, which she says helps stimulate growth.

De Nicola then applied a conditioning cream to the hands and nails and massaged the hands for a few minutes. “I like to focus on the tops of the hands because there is usually more dryness there than on the palms,” she says.

She then used a cuticle pusher to gently push the cuticles back and remove dry skin from the nails. [Photo 4] De Nicola suggests that clients gently push back their cuticles when they’re in the shower to help prevent excess dryness and growth.

Next, she lightly buffed the nails to smooth them and remove any discoloration and oils. Using a cuticle nipper, she gently trimmed excess tissue and hangnails. [Photo 5] Keep in mind that cuticles should not be trimmed or pushed back all the way, as this may lead to infection.

Since the client also had dry, chapped skin along the sides of some of her fingers, De Nicola gently smoothed the skin with the rough side of her buffer.

Then, she used a cleansing solution to remove any moisture and oils from the natural nail plate. Avoid using products containing acetone or alcohol on clients suffering from hangnails, as these can dehydrate.

De Nicola then applied a nail strengthener and a top coat. She completed the service by applying a drop of cuticle oil on each nail and gently massaging it into the skin and nail. [Photo 6] Not only does this add extra hydration to the nails and cuticles, it also helps prevent the polish from smearing, she says.

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