On the list of nail beauty blunders, cutting neglected cuticles ranks at the top. “The cuticle prevents the root of your nail from being damaged by water, bacteria and fungus,” says Dr. Benjamin Barankin, founder of the Toronto Dermatology Centre. Pruning cuticles overzealously can leave fingers open to infection and looking more ragged than ever. “If you’re not trained, you may have a tendency to cut int living skin, and that skin will generally peel back. This can create scar tissue,” warns celebrity manicurist Roxanne Valinoti, education training manager for Creative Nail Design (CND). Luckily, if you keep your cuticles well cared for and in check, you’ll never need to cut. (Though it’s fine to clip the rare hangnail.) In the shower, once the water has softened skin, gently push back cuticles with a washcloth. Slough off dead skin cells and rough spots on hands and feet with a grainy scrub or an exfoliating cream with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). While rich hand moisturizers are crucial for keeping skin soft, they typically won’t absorb down to the nail plates, says Valinoti. Instead, nourish brittle nails with oil, which can even penetrate through polish. You can also add a drop of oil on top of freshly painted fingers; the barrier helps prevent smudging as they dry.
FLARE picks: Manicure/Pedicure by OPI Lemon Tonic Scrub (left), $18. Fruits & Passion Foot Care Foaming Exfoliant, $15.50. Avon Nail Experts Vitamin C Cuticle Gel, $7. CND SolarOli, $14.50.