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Receding Cuticles: What Exactly Do They Mean?

Peeling, cracking or receding cuticles: what causes them and how can you fix them?


Our nails are an important, albeit fragile, part of our bodies. Whether you wear your fingernails long or short, plain or polished, they should be a part of your skincare regime and looked after with regular treatment. This is not least because our nails are a key indicator of our body’s overall physical health; lumps, bumps, white marks or rosy tinges could all be signs of problems in anything from the liver to the lungs or heart.

Read up on what changes to your nail texture may mean here.

Read up on what changes to your nail colour may mean here.

But, what about your cuticles? Receding cuticles are actually fairly common because our cuticles are very fragile and sensitive. They can get dry, damaged and infected really easily.

So, what does it mean when our cuticles are receding, peeling or cracking and how can we help our precious (and important!) cuticles bounce back?

What are cuticles?

Cuticle are the layer of clear skin that runs along the bottom edge of each finger and toe nail. It’s also referred to as the nail bed. The cuticle acts as a barrier to bacteria as the nail grows out from the nail root.

What causes peeling, cracking and receding cuticles?

The drying out of the skin is usually the most common cause of poor cuticle health. This can be triggered by:

  • Cold weather
  • Over washing the hands
  • Not using moisturiser
  • Over using hand sanitiser
  • Over using harsh nail polish or remover

Other causes of peeling, cracking and receding cuticles can be:

  • nail/cuticle biting/ripping/tearing
  • malnutrition
  • eczema
  • your medication

If your cuticle health is causing you a lot of concern and you’re worried that eczema, poor nutrition, your meds or excessive habitual biting could be the cause, check in with your doctor.

If you have been persevering with peeling, cracking or receding cuticles for a while without attempting treatment this can sometimes lead to infection. If the area around your cuticles becomes red, swells, you develop pus-filled blisters, your nail shape/texture changes, your nail detaches, and/or is painful, you should probably get your digits looked over by the doc!

How to treat peeling, cracking and receding cuticles

Suit Up With Serum

Start using a serum to treat the nails and their bed directly and regularly. Cel’s 100% cruelty-free and hypoallergenic Nail Formula is perfect for rejuvenating the nails and cuticles from the outside in. Cel’s Nail Formula is loaded with natural ingredients proven to hydrate and nourish the nail bed.

Enhanced with Gardenia and Prunus Mume Extract, these organic flower extracts have a calming, repairing effect on the nail bed, and promote the formation of collagen which increases nail growth. Prunus Mume also boasts impressive anti-aging and antibacterial properties, healing any fungal infections and protecting the nail against further damage. Ingredients also include Bisabolol which is extracted from the Chrysanthemum flower. This ingredient has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects that help protect and heal the nail from any infection. Cel’s Nail Formula doesn’t include any harsh chemicals or skin irritating fragrances and is scientifically formulated to repair and recuperate the nail and cuticle from any damage.

Twice a day, simply use the specialised applicator to spread the formula evenly onto fingernails and/or toenails. Massage lightly for a few seconds until absorbed. Your nails and cuticles will thank you for it!

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is so versatile it dominates both the cooking and health and beauty industries. We’d be surprised if you didn’t have a vat of it on your beauty shelf or in your kitchen cupboard already!

You can help remedy cracked cuticles with coconut oil by applying it right to the base of nails as often as you like.

Keeping your cuticles moist like this with serum or a quick dab of coconut oil will help preserve your manicure too! Read up on the many other uses of coconut oil here.

Get Manicure Savvy

If you go to a nail salon, it’s important to take your business to a reputable one so you know your nails and cuticles are in safe hands.

In terms of cutting the cuticles, which manicurists usually include in their service, it’s worth knowing that both The Mayo Clinic and The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) actually advise against cutting them back. Remember, cuticles protect our nails and nail bed from bacteria and infection so when we remove them we’re making our fingers more vulnerable to unwanted germs!

You can ask your manicurist to just push them back and trim any hangnails or loose skin, if this is a concern to you. If you’re still OK with having your cuticles cut, by attending a properly licensed salon with professional, licensed technicians this will help ensure that the tools used on your nails are properly sterilised and clean at the very least. This will reduce the risk of infection and permanently damaging the cuticles.

Avoid Harsh Products

Try not to use hand sanitiser unless completely necessary, as the alcohol in the product dries out the skin, nails and cuticles which can cause them to peel, crack and recede if over exposed. Regularly exposing your hands and nails to hard soaps can also have a similar effect. Try to use serum, oil or hand cream often, particularly after washing and drying the hands, to maintain hydration levels in the nails, cuticles and skin.

If you’re using nail polish remover, make sure to clean and rehydrate with serum or oil afterward, before reapplying polish. Nail polish remover is full of harsh chemicals that can dry out and damage nails, skin and cuticles too.

Don’t bite, tear, pick, bite or rip your cuticles

If you’re ripping, tearing, picking or biting your cuticles or skin around the nail, it’s time to research how to kick the habit, as this will just permanently damage your nail health forever or cause infection.

If it’s compulsive (an uncontrollable urge), it actually has a medical term: dermatophagia, and it may be worth chatting to your doctor about obtaining diagnosis and assessing your treatment options.

Final thoughts on receding cuticles

Keeping your nails and cuticles well hydrated is quite clearly the best way to prevent cuticles from receding, peeling or cracking so start including your nails and hands in your skincare regime today!



Sarah Milton


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