While you may think the nail color is the most important part of a perfect manicure, we're here to fill you in on a little known secret: It's all about the the cuticles. Giving your cuticles the proper TLC — whether in the salon or at home – is critical to keeping your nails and the surrounding skin healthy and looking, well, polished.
The cuticle is the layer of skin at the bottom of your nails and its "primary purpose is to protect the nail," explains Jin Soon Choi, expert manicurist and founer of JINsoon. It's important to keep the cuticle healthy and intact, which can mean removing the excess build-up of skin that occurs. Enter cuticle removers. "These products remove that thin layer of dead skin by dissolving it or physically getting rid of it," Choi says.
Are cuticle removers safe?
Cuticle removers can be very effective, but be mindful of how long you leave on a gel or liquid cuticle remover, as "it can dry up, which could make it harder to remove the cuticle and increase the risk of potentially damaging nails or irritating the skin," Choi explains.
What's the best way to remove cuticles?
Lucky for us, there are a variety of different products and tools out there to remove cuticles. Here are your options, according to Choi:
- Cuticle pusher, oil, and trimming. This is the combination that nail salons typically use.
- Cuticle removers. These are products that typically sit on the skin to slough off dead skin without needing the help of manual tools or trimming.
- DIY it. If you want to go the natural route, Choi suggests soaking hands in warm milk to help soften the cuticle before pushing back with the proper tool.
While the jury is still out on whether whether dissolving, trimming, or cutting cuticles is best, Choi recommends pushing them back after using a cuticle oil to hydrate them. "When you push back cuticles thoroughly, there is no need to cut them ... and you are still able to maintain the nail's integrity," she says. Check out our picks below for the best cuticle removers you can buy, including gels, pushers, trimmers, formulas that work for feet, and more, according to nail experts and shoppers.
Just like the skin on your face and body, your cuticles need exfoliation, too. This powerful CND cuticle remover uses alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which Choi says are the best ingredients to look for in a cuticle remover, to slough off the dead skin. Plus, it helps to prevent hangnails — win, win. One Ulta reviewer called this product "a game changer" and said "I'm really bad about leaving reviews, but this product is so amazing, I had to."
- Exfoliates dead skin
- Prevents hangnails
- Good value
Boasting over 9,000 ratings on Amazon, this Blue Cross cuticle remover is a top seller for good reason. "This product does exactly what it's supposed to and I was able to remove dead skin around the cuticle area and under the toenail using a cuticle pusher with such ease,"a reviewer shared. "I highly recommend it." You only need to use a tiny bit at time, making this bargain bottle last a very long time.
- A little goes a long way
- Can drip, so use sparingly
This Sally Hansen gel cuticle remover formula does just what its name says: It gets rid of ragged cuticles in just 15 seconds. But while the quick remover works its magic, it also soothes skin with calming aloe and chamomile. "It's very efficient and easy to use," a reviewer reports.
- Good value
- Gentle formula
ProLinc's cuticle remover is a speedy product that's dissolves dry cuticles in seconds. Plus, it's safe for all nail types, including acrylics and gel users. "It takes the cuticle and obliterates it," an Amazon reviewer marveled. Just be mindful to watch the clock — it's a strong formula so doesn't need to be left on for long to work.
- Good Value
- Works on all nails, including acrylics and gels
- Powerful formula so avoid leaving on too long
Shine bright like a diamond with Jin Soon's double-ended cuticle tool. It has ultra-fine diamond particles that adhere to the stainless steel base which helps the pusher easily exfoliate excess cuticles and smooth uneven ridges. Plus, the two angles and lengths giving you options based on your nail shape and size.
- Easy to use
This Elon cuticle oil, top-rated at Dermstore, soothes and conditions cuticles with almond oil and vitamins B5 and E. Plus, it smells incredible. "I just use it once a day before bed and it soaks in quick and doesn't leave hands greasy," a reviewer said.
- Absorbs quickly
- Moisturizes cuticles
- Smells great
Another double-duty tool, this budget-friendly stick from Flowery features a pusher on one side and a nail cleaner on the other. One Ulta reviewer shared that it "works perfectly!" and is "heavy duty and durable".
- Easy to clean
This stainless steel Amazon top-seller from Boxgrove Beauty cuts off dead skin near the cuticles without causing nicks or cuts. It's designed to be ergonomic, giving you more control on hard-to-reach spots. One Amazon reviewer commented on how easy it is to use: "They are light but sturdy and feel very good in my hand."
- Easy to use and clean
- Good value
Created by celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann, this potent gel cuticle remover uses potassium hydroxide to soften dead skin and lanolin oil to keep the cuticle area hydrated. It's "great for both manicure and pedicure" and "this is the best cuticle remover...will never use anything else," two Dillards reviewers raved.
- Softens skin
This luxurious L'Occitane cuticle oil that softens even the toughest skin, like on your feet, and strengthens both nails and toenails. It contains 30% shea oil to deeply moisturize cuticles and make nails shiny. "The applicator brush is super easy to apply just enough oil without wasting any, the tube is small enough to keep one in your purse, and it works quickly on dry, cracked cuticles," a Sephora reviewer shared.
- Easy to use
- No mess
- Not for heavy-duty cuticle removal