Explanation: Cuticle

What is the cuticle?

The cuticle and eponychium are commonly mixed up. The cuticle is a layer of clear, dead skin cells located at the base of the nail plate. The eponychium is a layer of live skin cells at the base of the nail plate that is sometimes cut to give the appearance of a “neater” manicure. The eponychium should never be tampered with as it protects bacteria from entering into the nail matrix. The cuticle can be safely softened and pushed back to allow for neater polish application. The hyponychium is the live skin underneath the free edge of the nail that attaches the nail plate to the nail bed, acting as a seal to prevent the entrance of bacteria. 

What parts of the nail need cuticle oil and why?

Just about every part of the nail can benefit from the application of cuticle oil from the actual nail plate to the eponychium to the hyponychium. Cuticle oil keeps the live skin around the nail plate moisturized, helping to prevent dryness and cracking which create potential pathways for bacteria. The nail matrix releases oils onto the nail plate to keep it moisturized, but frequent hand washing, hand sanitizers, etc, washes this oil away. It is important to replenish this oil to the nail plate to keep our nails not only strong, but flexible, to prevent breaking, cracking, and splitting. Massaging the cuticle oil into the skin surrounding the nail increases blood circulation to the nail matrix, increasing nail growth. Lastly, oiling your cuticles and the surrounding skin helps to prevent hangnails as well.

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What type of oils should I use?

It is best to use oils that closely match the molecular structure of the oil our skin naturally produces, or our sebum. You also want to look for an oil that contains vitamins that are beneficial to the nail. These oils include: jojoba oil, vitamin e oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, and olive oil.


  • Your toenails have cuticles as well so oil them too!
  • Apply cuticle oil to the undersides of your nail to keep the hyponychium moisturized.
  • Apply cuticle oil as often as possible. Aim for at least 6 applications per day.

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