How to Take Care of Your Cuticle? The cuticle is such an elusive part of the nail anatomy that even some nail technicians get it wrong. So let’s cut to the chase and investigate:
Just where exactly is the cuticle located? And how in the world are you supposed to manage it?
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Demystifying the cuticle
Most would say that the cuticle is the skin located at the base of the nail and would happily accept this as the complete definition. While this is partly true, the anatomy of our nails is much more sophisticated than that. Let’s get a bit more technical:
Defining the cuticle
There are two types of skin that extend a little from the skin to the base of the nail plate: the cuticle and the eponychium. Both terms are commonly mixed up, even by some experts, but there are some notable differences between the two.
One main difference is their composition. Unbeknownst to many, the cuticle is made up of dead skin cells, while the eponychium is composed of healthy, living skin.
Another distinction is in the appearance. The cuticle is so thin, it’s hardly noticeable when viewed from the naked eye. You would actually need to scrape your nail in order to be certain that it exists.
The cuticle also grips firmly onto the nail plate, which means you would need a bit of effort in order to push them back. The eponychium, on the other hand, is an apparent fold of skin that is quick to spot.
While the eponychium and cuticle are two different entities, they are considered interchangeable in some sources. But what’s important is that you know that there are clear distinctions between the two.
What does the cuticle do?
The cuticle protects the delicate nail matrix—the part where the nail grows from. It is designed to extend from the underside of the eponychium in order to lock onto the nail plate, securing a tight seal. Together with the eponychium, the cuticle serves as the glue between the skin and the nail plate.
The controversy behind cutting the cuticle
You may have heard of the nail controversy that is cuticle cutting. Many naysayers claim that a protective element such as your cuticle should never be trimmed—as it is a gateway for bacteria to enter into your system. But in the same breath, we see a lot of nail prep videos on Instagram that involve nipping away those cuticles in order to achieve flawless, immaculate digits.
So where should we stand amidst all this?
Remember that the cuticle is a commonly misunderstood part of the nail anatomy; the eponychium, which is composed of living tissue, gets usually mistaken as the cuticle A LOT. So when people say you shouldn’t cut the cuticle, they actually mean you shouldn’t cut the eponychium.
In other words, you can technically cut your cuticles as they are essentially just dead skin cells, but NOT the eponychium.
But what about achieving the coveted Gram nails?
Gram nails are short for Instagram nails. They are called so because of the look they possess—perfect, exquisite, and near unattainable. And Instagram, being known as the go-to haven for staged looks and aesthetics, played a huge role in the rise of the Gram nails.
But beauty is not without its price. To achieve the coveted Gram nails, you’d have to dig deep into the practices inside the nail community—enter the unorthodox, relatively new, and controversial procedure that is the Russian Manicure.
Russian manicure and cuticles
For the majority, doing a Russian manicure is essentially just electric filing your nails as opposed to the traditional cuticle pusher and nipper. But there is a controversial side behind the Russian manicure—it’s invasive nature.
The Russian manicure involves cutting through the eponychium to achieve that clean, polished look that is absolutely free of dry skin that normally surrounds our nails. From an outsider’s point of view, the Russian manicure might sound like a surgical nightmare. The eponychium is living skin, after all. However, you’d be surprised at how common it is among nail technicians, especially those based in Eastern Europe.
But just because it’s common does not make it totally okay.
Risks of Russian manicure
In the US, the Russian manicure is still an intimidating procedure for many—clients and nail technicians alike. The use of tools and its overall invasiveness require the utmost precision. This means that if your Russian manicure is being done by an amateur, mishaps and accidents are likely to happen.
While it has become the norm in some areas for Russian manicure to take place, in some states and countries, nipping out your proximal folds and eponychium (both are live skin) are still forbidden due to legal and health concerns.
You might think it’s just an overreaction, but there is a scientific basis to the dangers of cutting more than what’s required when it comes to the nails.
First is the risk of bleeding. When you cut your eponychium, the likelihood of blood coming out increases because it is live skin. If your nail technician is an inexperienced one, this risk dramatically increases.
Cutting your eponychium also risks you of bacteria exposure and infection. The eponychium acts as a seal to protect your nail matrix from unwanted bacteria. Trim that away and you rid yourself of natural nail protection.
But overall, it’s not as bad as it sounds, right?
Despite health risks, the practice of ‘cuticle’ cutting is still very much apparent and will likely stay with us for a long time. And the Instagram videos are proof enough that it may even be a solid embed into the nail community.
So ultimately, it all comes down to what you are comfortable with, and whether it is allowed by your state to do so.
Here are the are key takeaways to all this:
- What many refer to as the cuticle is actually a living skin called eponychium
- The true cuticle can be cut, but the eponychium ideally should not be
- Russian manicure is also another term for simply electric filing
- Be it traditional filing or electric filing, what matters is you are under the care of an expert who prioritizes safety above nail aesthetics