Cuticle oil is an essential part of the mani/pedi. It’s a quick lubricant that seals in moisture to keep the cuticle area and nail plate soft and flexible. Cuticle oil also promotes healthy nail growth and preserves resilience in nail enhancements. But as one of the most natural yet widely used products in the nail industry, how does this little miracle actually work? NAILS spoke to CND’s ­resident chemist, Dr. Dave, for answers.

NAILS: How exactly does cuticle oil penetrate the nail bed?

David Valia: Cuticle oil is a blend of oils in varying molecular size. The smaller molecules, like jojoba for instance, will penetrate between the nail layers and are able to go deeper into the nail to condition and soften it. The larger ones, like sweet almond, will stay closer to the surface and help condition the upper layers. The molecules penetrate and become entrapped within the nail and skin layers.

NAILS: Does cuticle oil really keep polish color stable?

DV: Nail polish is solvent laden (liquid heavy), and as the solvent evaporates over time, the polish coating can become brittle. Cuticle oil acts as a plasticizer and keeps the polish from becoming brittle.
[Editor’s Note: As the liquid evaporates, the nail polish breaks down and cracks. Plasticizing is a method of keeping something pliable, and a plasticizer is an additional agent (in this case oil) that can be used to keep something liquid without adding extra water. The oil prevents evaporation and makes the polish last longer.]

NAILS: How does cuticle oil help give the nail flexibility?

DV: The oils in the product help the nail by making it more supple due to the conditioning effects of the oils, which then allows for flexibility. It prevents dryness and brittleness. I believe it was first formulated due to the above-mentioned needs — to make the nails and our coatings more flexible, moisturized, and resilient. It became a part of the mani/pedi process due to the fact that it works.

NAILS: What effect does it have on the actual cuticles?

DV: It shrinks and tightens the cuticles to help prevent hangnails.

NAILS: What types of ingredients should you look for in cuticle oil right now and why?

DV: Jojoba oil is a light, penetrating oil that gently opens the skin’s pores to deliver the moisturizing and healing benefits of other key ingredients. Vitamin E oil is nature’s own anti-aging ingredient, and helps repair and preserve the skin’s cells. Rice bran oil, a well-known beauty ‘secret’ naturally softens and conditions as well.

NAILS: How often should it be applied?

DV: Massage cuticle oil into the nail and cuticle area daily.


Jojoba oil

Avocado oil

Grapeseed oil

Vitamin E oil

Rice bran oil

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