Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is cuticle?

Please see image near bottom of Doug Schoon's website.
Salon Life's cuticle explanation video
This is the best image and video I could find online that is accurate, and I don't want to publish them here and take traffic from them, so please visit the links. :) Thanks!

See the Proximal Nail Fold (PNF)? That is what most people confuse with the cuticle and they end up doing damage to it. PNF should never be cut, poked or prodded aggressively on purpose. It works as a seal to protect you from bacteria and infection and needs to be allowed to do its thang. :)

The cuticle is an epidermal layer of skin that is virtually invisible. It grows out in a thin layer attached to the top of the natural nail plate from the underside of the PNF.
What most people call the cuticle is actually the PNF. Cutting, picking, or any other attempt to remove the PNF should be avoided at all costs. Doing so greatly increases the risk of paronychia (a nasty painful bacterial infection). On top of the dreaded infection, the body replaces the cut/torn/eradicated skin with scar tissue and/or calloused and hardened PNF so it will be even worse (bigger/tougher) when it regrows.

If you or someone you love cuts their PNF, get them to stop. Have them use softening and exfoliating products like Alpha Hydroxy creams, CND Cuticle Eraser, and pure lanolin to soften and exfoliate the hardened skin. They can even use a gel or creamy cuticle remover, which will help to remove the dead cuticle from the nail plate and detach the PNF from it with very gentle pushing. My favorite remover is Blue Cross from Sally Beauty or KBShimmer Clean Start gel cuticle remover, and I used to use Sally Hansen's Instant Cuticle Remover in the blue bottle which is also really good.

I took the below photo of my own nail to demonstrate the part of the cuticle that can safely be removed weekly or bi-weekly to keep your nails pretty and your polish on. :)
The purple arrows shows the stuff you will want to remove, the red arrow is what you want to leave be (PNF) except to detach it from the dead cuticle so that it will retreat back where it should be. When PNF gets pulled down the plate by the growing cuticle, it will stretch the PNF out and make it look bigger than it is. Detaching it will let it 'spring' back and after a day it will look like it should. To see how this is done please visit The Salon Life on youtube, she has dozens of videos of natural nail manicures that teach how to do this gently.

Usually, the purple arrow portion is not visible but thanks to acetone it showed so I could photograph it for you!

The red arrow is the PNF which seals out bacteria to prevent infection, and is the part you'll want to moisturize daily and let it do its thang.

Go forth and treat your PNF well!


  1. This has nothing to do with your current post, but I just found your blog today and basically went through every post. I don't know if you're still into bath & body stuff, but have you ever tried Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab?

    1. :D Thanks for finding me! And yes! I love me some bpal! I hope you enjoyed your read, some of the older photos and such were some that I copied here from flickr - hope those weren't too much of a bore!

  2. I really like nfu-oh's cuticle remover. It kind of lets you know what the cuticle is. It makes my cuticles very soft and easy to wipe away without ruining the eponychium thingy lol. Plus, I saw it recommended on so many blogs I had to try it for myself. I'm still looking for a good cuticle cream to keep my fingers moisturized. This post is very informative! Thanks for educating us:)

    1. I've read about Nfu-Oh on other blogs as well and its definitely on my wishlist to try once I have used up the remover I currently have.
      Your cuticles and surrounding skin looks very well cared for! For something different, I'd suggest trying a lotion or cream containing hemp oil. Hemp helps skin cells regenerate and is the best oil for skin, next in line is jojoba oil. I believe Sally's has a travel sized hemp lotion and the Body Shop carries some hemp products as well. I like getting small sizes so I can carry them with me and they're good for trying out something new without investing too much.
      An alpha hydroxy lotion like amlactin will help keep skin fresh looking, perhaps alternate it with your usual moisturizer. Best of luck on your hunt, and let me know what you find to work best for you!

  3. Thank you for letting me know about the eponychium thingy. Whenever I have gotten my nails done professionally I have seen them pushing it and even cutting it a little, so I thought it was ok to do. (Truly I only push not cut) One of my fingers has been hurting when I touch that part and had before from the nail technicians so now to figure out how to get it to heal. I know that you gave the advice, but having to get rid of the cuticle that grows without touching the epon...you know. Thank you again for the great advice.

    1. Cuticle nippers can be used if there is dead skin hanging. Often times once the cuticle is pushed back it tends to cling to the nail plate and kind of hang there. I usually use a terry towel and rub a little. The rough surface of the towel is good at getting it to detach and much safer than cutting. If you do choose to cut, make sure the skin is dead and hanging.
      I have seen pros use nippers to cut hanging dead skin. The key is that its dead - if they're cutting live tissue make them stop.

      For healing I'd suggest Neosporin or similar generic product, and either baby that area when using your hands or wrap it in a band-aid but be sure to give it some air time too.
      I hope it heals quickly!


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