Cuticles are the thin layer of skin that appears at the base of the fingernails and toenails. Doctors, according to Discovery Health, believe that cutting cuticles increases the chances of inflammation and infection -- known as paronychia -- in the nail bed. Beauticians, however, believe that pushing cuticles back will make the nail appear longer. Manicurists stand by the belief that cuticle maintenance has a practical effect: proper cuticle maintenance prevents hangnails. Whether you side with science or with beauty, careful maintenance of cuticles is essential to healthy nails.
Clean your nails with nail polish remover. Remove the excess polish remover with a gentle scrub of soap and water.
Apply cuticle oil or lotion to fingernail beds to soften skin. Allow the nails a few minutes to absorb the oil from the cuticle oil or lotion. Allow the nails to dry.
Push back the cuticles gently using a fingernail scraper, cuticle pusher or orange stick. Starting from the base of the nail, move around the nail, then proceed to the sides of the nails.
Cut the excess cuticles from the nail bed using cuticle scissors. Clean the undersides of each fingernail using the opposite, pointed end of the cuticle remover to remove any dead skin or dirt.
Buff your nails using a nail buffer. Buffing nails helps to remove excess natural oils and allows nail polish to last longer. Buff gently, as you want to be sure you do not chip or split the nail.
Wash hands to remove all the oils and excess cuticles. Then dry nails thoroughly.
Apply a layer of cuticle oil to protect the nails from infection, and allow the nails to dry.
Sterilise your cuticle pusher and cuticle scissors after you use them. You might decide to invest in an electric cuticle file, which works gently on nails. The gadget can be used to clean up the cuticle or simply be used as a file. The electric cuticle file often has a diamond tip.
Do not cut cuticles unless they are loose or risk an infection. Also, make sure you do not cut cuticles too deeply into the nail bed; this may also lead to an infection.