Ask any nail technician and she'll tell you: If you apply artificial product over excess cuticle growth, it will cause the nail to lift. "You want your product to adhere to the nail plate, and any non-living tissue remaining on the nail will block the adhesion of the artificial product onto the nail and cause it to lift," explains Justine Hartell, a nail technician and educator for Creative Nail Design (Vista, Calif.).

Paying particular attention to removing excess cuticle growth is also important when performing a natural nail manicure. If you neglect to do so, applying polish over the excess growth will cause the polish to chip and peel, says Elaine Watson, a manufacturer's educator for Star Nail Products and owner of Nail Envy in Biddeford, Maine.

This step is crucial for aesthetic reasons as well. "With natural nails you want to provide the client with a premium service. If you take the time to really take care of the excess growth, clients will see a big difference cosmetically with their finished nails," says Hartell.

Kris Hizer, an Atlanta-based nail technician and district sales manager for OPI Products (N. Hollywood, Calif), agrees. "In natural nails, overgrown cuticles won't look as nice. You want a clean, uniform, well-manicured look."

Since manufacturers know that any type of nail service begins with proper preparation of the nail plate, namely removing excess cuticle growth, they offer a variety of quality implements and products to help technicians get the job done right.

"Normal cuticle growth should come off by just pushing back the cuticles with a gentle, circular motion," says Watson. "If there's excess growth, I usually soften the cuticles first with heated lotion or oil. I do this especially during wintertime when clients' cuticles are dry and cracked."

Hartell uses an arsenal of cuticle-specific products from Creative on her clients. First she applies C-Therapy Cuticle Eraser, which contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to loosen the bond between dead skin cells so they slough away. "I squeeze a small amount onto the cuticle and massage it in," she says.

Hizer also uses a cuticle treatment on her clients first to let it do some of the work for her. "The AHAs in OPl's Avoplex Exfoliating Cuticle Treatment help exfoliate dead skin cells, while the avocado oil and phospholipid complex help to moisturize and soften cuticles and skin," she explains.

Other companies, such as Poshe (Dallas, Texas) and Orly International (Chatsworth, Calif.), have similar cuticle treatment products. Poshes A.H.A. Cuticle Revitalizer and Orly's Cuticle Therapy Creme also use a combination of fruit acids and moisturizing agents to treat cuticles.

If a client has excessive cuticle growth, Hartell also applies SolarOil, which penetrates quickly and conditions the cuticles even more, she says. Next, she uses Creative's metal cuticle pusher to gently push back the cuticle to reveal the non-living tissue underneath that's sticking to the nail plate. 

Hizer prefers using OPI's PusherPlus, which is a stainless steel cuticle pusher and a nail plate preparation system in one. "I like the rounded edge to push back the cuticles because it won't damage the nail plate when removing excess growth. The dome shape also makes it easy to get in and around the cuticle area. If the edge is straight or pointed it won't work as well," she says. But, warns Hiizer, be careful not to push back the cuticle too far because you risk the possibility of infection. "After all, the cuticle serves as protection from germs," she adds.

"It takes only seconds to remove excess cuticle growth, which is a very important step when preparing the nails," says Kelly Geimer of Mehaz Worldwide (Los Angeles, Calif.). The Combo Pusher (one side is a pusher and the other side is a spoon) is her tool of choice. "The pusher is contoured to the shape of the nail so it: gently lifts the excess cuticle growth and pushes it back," Geimer explains. "I use the spoon to clean out under neath the nail. On toenails, the spoon allows you to dig deeper to remove excess growth along  the sides," she adds. If you use a file instead of a cuticle pusher to remove excess growth, you may leave behind small pieces because the skin is dry and flaky, adds LaCinda Headings, a nail technician based in Wichita, Kan, "Even though the excess growth is dead skin, it still retains moisture, which causes product to lift." Too coarse a grit or too heavy a hand may also tear and weaken the nail layers.

Sometimes a cuticle pusher alone will not completely remove excess growth. "There may still be some tissue hiding underneath the eponychium so I'll use a curette [which resembles a tiny melon bailer] to gently scrape off the non-living tissue that is adhered to the nail plate," says Hartell. She even goes one step further: "1 actually take one side of the cuticle nipper and very gently scoop it around the cuticle area to remove any remaining dead tissue."

If you're using a nipper, Lori Skroski, vice president/sales of Tweezerman Corp. (Glen Cove, N.Y.), recommends using it sparingly and very gently to remove excess tissue and hangnails.

To help remove the skin that's actually stuck to the nail, Geimer uses the #125 Pterygium Remover from Mehaz, which has a contoured handle for easy control. Next, she uses the #999 Nipper (also known as the Long John Nipper) to remove the dead skin between the nail plate and the cuticle. "You want to trim away the dead skin, but be careful because if you trim too much cuticle on the lop part of the nail, the client may get a hangnail and possibly an infection," she Although   nippers come in different sizes, Geimer prefers one with a 1/8-inch jaw. Its very small  and precise and allows me to remove just what I want to." she explains.

Even though their choices vary as far as what brand of implements or products to use to remove excess cuticle growth from clients' nails, nail technicians unanimously agree that carefully ridding the nail of the dreaded dead skin is paramount for maximum adhesion of the artificial product as well as polish adhesion on natural nails.

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