I fear this may be a multi-part post. I’ll certainly never turn down an opportunity to say more about cuticle care. My obsession must amount to something. It must.
Having said that, I fully acknowledge that I’m employing a bit of a misnomer. Turns out your cuticles aren’t what you’re taking care of at all! Big Mani has been lying to us this entire time!
The nail cuticle is a thin layer of skin found on the base of the nail. It works with the area commonly regarded as the cuticle, the eponychium, which is the fleshy part of your finger just below the cuticle. The eponychium is actually what needs to be taken care of, not the cuticle. For reasons that probably have to do with the number of consonants (and syllables) in the word eponychium, however, the whole region just gets called the cuticle.
There are many things you can do to help grow long, strong, natural nails, and you’ve probably heard most of them: avoid using your nails as tools, wear gloves outdoors during cold weather, don’t pick or peel gel polish or gel/acrylic nails, file regularly to avoid splits or breaks, take a vitamin supplement…and while all of these are important, one of the best things I have ever done for my nails, the thing that made the biggest difference in growing and maintaining my natural nails was cuticle oil. Or, well, eponychium oil.
Nail oil helps strengthen the natural nail without making it brittle. I found nail strengtheners or hardeners could make my nails more prone to breaking after long-term use. However, nail oil keeps nails flexible and strong, less likely to fray or snap even in cold weather. They also help reduce hangnails and keep nails conditioned while wearing gel polishes. I do find that nail oil does seem to have some correlation with the longevity of traditional nail polish in that is seems to have a negative effect on it, but those findings require deeper investigation.
There are a lot of oils available for cuticles, so many that even in my exhaustive search for the perfect cuticle oil I have yet to try them all. I do find high-end brands work better than drugstore brands, but that’s a testament to the quality of ingredients more than anything. Lots of drugstore brands use apricot or coconut oil, neither of which seem to hydrate the nail. I also get a little twitchy when I see formulas that include lemon oil, since lemon can dry out the skin. Shea butter is great, as is cocoa butter, but the best of the best, the creme de la creme, the oil of all oils is jojoba oil.
You can totally put straight jojoba oil on your nails and enjoy its fantastic benefits that way. It’s not really practical, though. The oil is quite runny, and while it absorbs quickly, it’s not so quick that you can pop it on while working without leaving oil marks everywhere. Simplynailogical mixes her jojoba with vitamin E oil to thicken the consistency; you can find out more about how she grows her magnificent nails in this video (skip to 11:00 if you just want the details on the nail oil).
Speaking of Simplynailogical, prior to mixing up her own nail oil, she swore by Bliss Kiss Simply Pure Hydrating Oil, and thanks to her example, I do too. Simply Pure uses both jojoba oil and jojoba wax, so it doesn’t run all over the fingers like jojoba oil. It stays where it’s applied and offers long-lasting hydration for my nails. The nail pens make it convenient to apply wherever I am, and given my obsession, I do have at least one of these with me at all times, everywhere I go. I do own the largest bottle of the stuff, but it’s not quite so cost effective when shipping to Canada. What I didn’t pay in shipping, I paid for in customs. Sigh…
Want a more detailed run down of my adventures in nail oil? Need to see some brands duke it out and try and measure up to my standard, Simply Pure? Stay tuned. My obsession with cuticle care isn’t going anywhere.