Adding This Simple Step Into My Nail Routine Made My Manicures Look Salon-Grade

If there's one thing I've learnt about getting an elevated-looking manicure, it's good cuticle work. Way back when I first started doing my nails, I couldn't work out why my DIY manicures never ended up quite as neat as my nail tech's or pictures I'd see on Instagram. Now, having sat in the salon chair with many a celebrity nail tech in my role as a beauty journalist, I've come to learn that expensive-looking nails are 80% cuticle work.

Groomed cuticles—the skin around our nail plates—really do lay the foundation for a long-lasting, professional-looking manicure. And they can make or break the overall appearance of your nails. With "cuticle removers" receiving over 6000 Google searches each month, we're clearly all wanting to upgrade our manicures. However, there are some important things to know about keeping your cuticles healthy and how to safely improve the appearance of your cuticles. So, I enlisted the help of Michelle Class, celebrity manicurist and Sally Hansen ambassador, to shed light on how to safely remove our cuticles and the best cuticle removers to try at home.

What Is the Nail Cuticle?

Sheer pink manicure

(Image credit: @raelondonnails)

Ok, so what actually is the cuticle anyway? "The nail cuticle is a layer of clear skin located along the bottom edge of your finger or toe, known as the nail bed. Its primary function is to protect the new nail from bacteria when it grows out from the nail root," says Class. It turns out that this small piece of skin actually plays a big role in the overall appearance of your nails, as well as the longevity of your manicure, says Class. "Cuticle prep is crucial for the overall look of a manicure. Properly prepped cuticles help create a clean, polished look, allowing the nail polish to be applied smoothly and last longer," she says. "Neglected cuticles can lead to a messy appearance and may cause the polish to lift and chip prematurely." Pushing back your cuticles can also make your nails look longer, and maintaining healthy cuticles helps to prevent hangnails too.

How to Remove the Nail Cuticle

How to remove your cuticles

(Image credit: @paintedbyjools)

There are several ways to remove the nail cuticle, but some should only be done by a qualified nail tech to avoid causing damage.

1. Cuticle Softener and Pusher: Apply a cuticle softener or remover, then gently push back the cuticle with a cuticle pusher. "For non-professionals, the safest and best method to remove the cuticle is to use a cuticle softener or remover, followed by gently pushing back the cuticle with a pusher," says Class. "This minimises the risk of injury and infection."

2. Cuticle-Remover Creams: These dissolve dead skin around the nail bed, making it easier to wipe away.

3. Cuticle Trimmers: A small tool to trim away excess cuticle skin. However, these should only be used by a professional nail technician. "It is not recommended for non-professionals to cut their cuticles," says Class. "Cutting the cuticles can lead to nicks, cuts, and potential infections, as well as damage the nail bed. It's safer to push back the cuticles gently after softening them."

4. Cuticle Exfoliation: Using a gentle exfoliant to slough off dead skin cells.

How Often Should You Remove Your Cuticles?

How often to remove cuticles

(Image credit: @michelleclassnails)

"Cuticles should be managed and maintained regularly, but not necessarily removed frequently," says Class. "A good practice is to push back the cuticles once a week after a shower or bath when the skin is soft. Over-manipulating or frequently removing cuticles can damage the skin and nails."

Ready to find the best cuticle removers? Scroll ahead for our tried-and-tested edit.

The Best Cuticle Removers, Tried and Tested

The best cuticle removers

(Image credit: @paintedbyjools)

1. Beauty Pie Cuticle Remover

2. Templespa From Strength to Strength Nail & Cuticle Treatment Serum

3. Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover

4. Tweezerman Pushy & Nail Cleaner

5. OPI Exfoliating Cuticle Cream

6. CND Cuticle Eraser

7. Blue Cross Cuticle Remover

8. Diptyque Exfoliating Hand Wash

9. Tweezerman Rockhard Cuticle Nipper

Eleanor Vousden
Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK

Eleanor Vousden is the beauty editor for Who What Wear UK. She was previously deputy editor at Hairdressers Journal, health writer at Woman & Home and junior beauty editor at beauty website Powder. She has also contributed to Wallpaper and Elle Collections with written and styling work.Working as a beauty journalist since 2015 after graduating in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, she has been highly commended at the BSME Talent Awards for her work on Powder and also contributed to the title winning Website of the Year at the PPA Awards.Eleanor’s journalistic focus is to provide readers with honest and helpful beauty content. Through words, video and live broadcast, she has interviewed several celebrity makeup artists, hairstylists and top dermatologists throughout her career, as well as celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Scarlett Johansson. She has a particular interest in finding solutions for acne and eczema, which she has experienced firsthand. She has also amassed a large collection of fragrances and can never say no to a new candle.When she’s not writing or testing the latest beauty product or treatments, she’s on the seafront in her hometown of Brighton and Hove, where she lives with her partner and her miniature dachshund.