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Cuticles: Defending Your Digits
Cuticles form an occasionally contested border between skin and nail. Learn how nail technicians can safely get them into good condition with Groupon’s investigation.
No one pays much attention to cuticles until they start causing trouble. Either they grow thick enough to intrude on a uniform manicure or they tear and cause pain. But the clingy strips of skin at the bottom of each nail actually perform some important functions. First, cuticles act as protective barriers that help new keratin cells grow into long, healthy nails instead of short, creepy talons. Second, they help keep bacteria out of the nail bed, where it can cause painful infections.
Though some nail salons offer to trim your cuticles during a manicure, the risk of infection—even with properly sanitized instruments—may outweigh any aesthetic benefit. After all, cuticles will grow back no matter what, so even a temporarily neater line at the base of the nail is unlikely to last for more than a few days. But nail technicians do have ways of fashioning smooth ovals or almond shapes without exposing the nail to dangerous intruders. First, they’ll avoid tearing the skin by making sure it’s as soft and supple as possible. An intensive moisturizer will help, as will a soak in a bowl of warm water. Once the hands are well-conditioned, the tech will begin carefully, gently working with a cuticle stick, first pushing the cuticles back and then, with a tiny circular motion, buffing away any dead skin remnants and dried-on cupcake frosting still clinging to the nail.