Recently, a newly licensed nail technician called NAILS with the question, “How do I use my cuticle nippers?” She explained that she was still unsure about nipper techniques she learned in school.

In this month’s Troubleshooter four of NAILS’ 1994 Top 25 Competitors tell how to use cuticle nippers correctly. As for when to use nail nippers, our experts say they only use cuticle nippers when absolutely necessary, and then only sparingly.

“The Nail Doctor in NAILS Magazine recommends against cuticle cutting. Also, in the state of Florida it’s against state board regulations to cut cuticles,” says Michelle Baker of Euro Style cutters in Lutz, Fla.

Cuticle nipping is allowed in California, but Tom Bachik of Voila in Bakersfield, Calif., says he only trims dead skin and hangnails with nippers “I prefer to use a cuticle remover and push the cuticles back. I also have clients push back their cuticles between appointments when their hands are wet. Then I usually don’t even have to cut the pterygium.” According to Bachik, it’s too easy to take off too much cuticle with nippers, and he found they grew back even faster.

When are cuticle nippers called for? If the client has rough, dry cuticles, hangnails, or overgrown cuticles you may opt to trim and shape the cuticles with nippers. First, though, review these basics about nipper use.

Cut around the cuticle without lifting the skin; cut straight across without pulling. Only cut the cuticles when absolutely necessary: “There should be at least 1mm to cut after you push it back,” recommends Rena Rivera of Rena’s Nails in Jacksonville, Fla.

Learn the difference between the cuticle and the pterygium before you cut anything, adds Baker. “When you look at the cuticle you can see where it’s attached to the nail plate. Where it’s attached there’s a ‘bump’ of skin. After the bump there’s a thin, translucent layer of skin that grows out with the nail plate. Only cut that thin, translucent layer.”

To maintain maximum control over his nippers, Bachik holds the nipper blades between his thumb and index finger, using the palm of his hand to squeeze the handles. “This gives me a more precise cut than I would have by holding the handles with my fingers. By holding the blade between my thumb and forefinger I can follow it around.”

Lee Ann Wood of Lee’s Nail Boutique in Titusville, Fla., suggests that new technicians first have an experienced technician observe their technique and evaluate their skills with a nipper. Then, practice.

Probably one of the best ways to avoid excessive cuticle cutting is to en­courage clients to use a cuticle moisturizer or oil every day.

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