by ZOE FOSTER
Stop letting them trim your cuticles at the nail bar.
And I don’t even have a really gory, nail-was-infected-and-the-size-of-an-adult-rabbit-and-I-had-to-have-it-cut-off story to lead in with, I just realised that it was one of those beauty things that didn’t make enough of a visual or emotional (yes, eyebrow appointments are emotional for me, don’t judge) difference to warrant the potential nail-gets-infected-and-is-the-size-of-an-adult-rabbit risks and the annoyance of regularly wounded cuticles from overzealous manicurists, not to mention cuticles that seemed to grow faster than fungi and are tougher than beef jerky.
Ask yourself: how many times has it really f*cking hurt when someone has taken to my poor, unsuspecting little cuticles with their snippy, bitey little scissors and not paid attention, or been too boisterous, and I’ve ended up with a whopping great cut?
Or, you’ve noticed, and you should notice this, that their trimmer has not come from a sterilised bag or steriliser machine, and that makes you nervous, because unclean equipment is how you get shitty, painful, antibiotics-required infections, when they break the seal of the cuticle, and disrupt the very important barrier that exists to stop bacteria getting in from said unclean equipment, and protect the nail bed and surrounding skin from infection.
Like the one I got on my toe once from a cavalier pedicurist, which really pissed me off because I was off to Thailand for an adventure the next day, and had this big red toe that hurt so much I couldn’t wear most of my shoes, nor could I drink sugary cheap cocktails by the pool because of the antibiotics. (And yes. I am aware of precisely which world that brand of problem resides.)
But also there’s the fact that when you get them trimmed constantly, they grow back in fury, and so you’re back in there a week later with worse cuticles than you ever recall having in your whole life, needing them trimmed again.
‘I don’t remember ever having such bushy cuticles,’ you think to yourself, forgetting that bushy usually refers to matters of hair. ‘Also, they’re so DRY these days. Why is that? Am I, could it be, is it possible that they are actually making my cuticles WORSE with all this cutting and so on?’
In a word: yes.
It is much better to simply have those cuticles pushed back. You still get the neat look, but you avoid that perennial cycle of needing them trimmed again, as well as the (probably more important) risk of infection and cuts.
I remember interviewing Sydney nail messiah Christina Fitzgerald years ago, and she told me that a truly beautiful, healthy, natural nail requires no cuticle trimming, because if you properly look after your nails, massage in cuticle oil at night, buff them, moisturise them, always wear base coat, have polish-free-weeks to let them “breathe” and gently push back your cuticles with an orange stick or some such tool, the cuticles won’t even be visible, and they certainly won’t be tough and thick and jagged. And you won’t even need nail polish, or want it, because your nails will be so dang beautiful.
Obviously, as a 24 year-old beauty editor with a draw full of shiny nail polishes and multiple nail trends to try and report on, I smiled and ignored every word she said. But now I get it. And I’m on board.
If you really do prefer the cuticle-free look and won’t give this push-them- down approach, make sure your manicurist uses fresh, sterilised tools and only trims what needs to be done, not the whole nail for the sake of it. You’re probably safer in a beauty salon or spa than a furiously busy nail bar turning over 160 manicures and pedicures in a day, but then again, my Thai Toe came from a beauty salon, so that just proves it can happen anywhere, really.
Yours in unabashed fear mongering,
Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.
Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.
How are your cuticles looking?